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Royal Ashdown Forest

Royal Ashdown Forest: A true test of golf for 130 years

There are two glorious courses at Royal Ashdown Forest, with the Old Course having been challenging golfers of all levels for more than 130 years.

 

A round at Royal Ashdown Forest Old is like taking a trip back in time. A time when courses were uncovered rather than created, and when the game was more about skill than power.

Yet despite the fact there is not a single artificial feature to be found – including bunkers – and even though, by modern terms, the yardage of under 6,500 is modest, you will need more than a 460-cc driver to tame this classic old course.

Located in East Sussex less than half an hour’s drive from Gatwick, the idyllic rural environment calls to mind an England you might have thought no longer existed.

Peaceful, unhurried and mellifluous, expect a day of refined golfing pleasures as you sweep down the entrance road towards the snug old clubhouse.

Ashdown feels like your new favourite course from the moment you spy its firm sand-based fairways that are invariably tree-lined though never intimidatingly so. That said, scoring can be deceptively difficult.

But while other courses intimidate with their 450-yard-plus two-shotters, here you are unlikely to see the double-bogey coming much before it is written on your scorecard.

All you need to know about Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club

History

WR Lee designed the original layout of the Old Course, and Harry Hunter made changes in 1892 before he and Jack Rowe (the Ashdown professional for 55 years from 1892 to 1947) made further alterations in 1897.

The last significant changes were made in 1922, again by Rowe. Archdeacon Scott was the local clergyman who was helpful in negotiating with the Lord of the Manor if common land was to be played on.

Work began in January of the next year with the course created and opened for play before summer had arrived. Royal status arrived courtesy of Queen Victoria within five years.

Because it is part of Ashdown Forest, the land is protected by acts of Parliament lasting to this day, meaning that even if anyone wanted to change the Old Course they would be unable to do so.

And while we will never know what it might have become had, for example, the great revisionist himself, James Braid, been called in, what is left now remains a wonderful and natural test.

The club’s motto is Per Tot Discrimina Totum, a phrase taken from Virgil’s Aeneid and meaning ‘through various hazards’. While the task at hand can hardly compare to the classical proportions of that awaiting Aeneas and his men in founding Rome, you can assume that playing well here will involve mastery of most shots in your armoury.

Apart, that is, from the sand wedge.

What makes Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club special?

It is a peculiarity of Ashdown that there is not a single bunker.

You might think this would make for rather featureless entries to greens and easy chipping but nothing could be further from the truth. The targets are often small, contoured and surrounded by humps and hollows. Variety is the key.

For example, the 6th, not much longer than a football pitch, but with its slim, raised green framed on three sides by a stream, is the shortest par three, while another, the 11th, is twice as long.

And by then the course has climbed onto elevated, open ground, from where the eponymous forest that is forever linked with AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories can be seen from on high.

Every hole is different in character to the last. What each has in common is natural appeal.

Where is it?

Royal Ashdown Forest is about 3 miles south east of East Grinstead in East Sussex, 30 miles south of London.

Get in touch

For more information about the club and course, visit Royal Ashdown Forest’s website or call them on 01342 822018.

Have you ever played at Royal Ashdown Forest? What did you think of the course? Let us know with a post on X/Twitter!

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