Course Review- Lewes Golf Club (http://www.lewesgolfclub.co.uk/)
Conditions: Clear, Calm, Warm.
Green Fee: £15.00
Range: Practice Facility (I think range balls also available- can anyone confirm?)
After being treated to another fantastic week of summer weather, I decided to venture out to Lewes Golf Club for a twilight round on Saturday afternoon, for what would be my first time visiting the course. I managed to book my tee time through their handy online booking system, and the round set me back £15, which is good value in my book!
Lewes Golf Club is situated high up on the downs overlooking the town, and can be quite hard to find (in my opinion) if you do not know where it is. Situated up the tiny single track road that is Chapel Hill, the course definitely feels like one that the locals are trying to keep for themselves!
Once arrived, you notice that despite driving up one of the steepest access roads to a golf course that I have seen, the course continues to rise up into the downs. I checked in with the pro before heading out, who said the course was fairly quiet, which I was surprised at given the weather and the very reasonably priced twilight green fee.
I still remain unclear with regards to the full extent of the practice facilities, but there is definitely a net and practice putting green which I used before going out, as well as a small practice ground tucked away down beside the 18th. The practice green was rolling fast and true, and was a good insight as to what to expect during the round.
As mentioned earlier, the first thing you notice once on the first tee is that somehow, the course continues to rise up the Downs. The first hole starts with an uphill dogleg right par 4 of around 330 yards from the yellow tees, with the fairway sloping from right to left- not setting up well for the draw! A reasonably struck hybrid to start the day has me clinging on to the left side of the fairway after roll, with 125 yards to the flag. Straight uphill to a two-tier green (which isn’t all that easy to see from the fairway), I strike a crisp 9 iron up the hill, which manages to work its way to the rear upper tier, 15ft from where the flag is conveniently located. My first good attempt at birdie of the day slides by, and I tap in for my regulation par.
A stroll back down the hill to the 2nd tee means the next tee shot is again straight up the hill on this 370 yard par 4, slightly blind, but assisted by a marker post in the middle of the fairway. A perfectly positioned drive with my 4 wood directly at said marker post, leaving only 123 yards in. This time, opting for pitching wedge, I again safely find the putting surface before 2 putting for par.
The 3rd is a tricky hole for those who haven’t played the course before. From the tee, this 310 yard par 4 looks like it is going to be large dogleg with the slope, but it actually plays fairly straight. Two cross bunkers about 180-190 yards off the tee are most definitely in play, but are not overly visible from the tee. Needless to say, I managed to find one of them with my 6 iron ‘for safety’, before having to splash out due to a high lip and a decent amount of sand. A short wedge approach to the green should have set me up for nothing worse than a bogey, however my 77 yard approach rolled over the back and dropped off slightly down a slope. This added complexity to the next shot, which I was unable to get close enough proximity to the hole, and I ended up 2 putting for double bogey.
The 4th is a short uphill par 3 of only 127 yards from the yellow tees, and is definitely a hole that you can score nearly any number! Just a pitching wedge from the tee for me, which finds the rear fringe, leaving a putt back down the hill. I misread the speed of the putt and run it way past the hole. Coming back up the slope, I leave my putt short, before missing the mid range putt and tapping in for a poor 5.
The 5th is a picturesque par 4 with views over the rolling South Downs away to the right of the fairway. With the fairway sloping severely from left to right towards the valley and the hole only being 335 yards, I try and hit my 7 wood down the left hand side to shape back to the middle, unfortunately I turn it over a little too much and land in the left rough, where unfortunately was where it stuck! The green is cut into the slope, and with a short iron in hand I fancied my chances of finding the green. Unfortunately, my approach landed on the downslope just left of the green, shooting through the back. I used the same slope to my advantage with my next shot, playing my pitch into the bank before it rolled back down onto the green to leave myself 10ft for my par. The putt slid just by and I tapped in for my bogey.
6 is another short uphill par three, of similar yardage to the 4th. Having gone long on the previous par 3, I clubbed down to my gap wedge. Safely finding the green, this time a judged the first putt better, and then tapped in for par.
The 7th follows a similar trend to the 5th hole, with the fairway sloping largely from left to right, but this hole is extended to a par 5 at just over 500 yards. With a 4 wood off the tee for safety, I again find the left rough and stay in it. It isn’t all bad news as the ball sat up lovely, and I found a surprisingly flat lie which always helps the swing! At approximately 260 yards out, I boldly opt for only a 7 wood, hoping to get the ball up in the air and get some assistance from the slight tailwind, before getting some more help from the firm fairways that slope gently down towards the hole. I nearly pull off the plan, turning it over slightly too much and finishing just left of the green, after getting a kick left to avoid the greenside bunker. A nicely played pitch over the bunker leaves me 8ft for my birdie, but another makeable putt missed and I tap in for back to back pars. It is very easy to get distracted from the golf for a few minutes whilst on the 7th green and walking towards the 8th tee with near 360° views across the downs and the Weald.
The 8th is the hardest hole on the course at stroke index one. Playing 368 yards back uphill to one of the highest points on the course, and into the wind, it is important to get a good drive away. A 4 wood off the tee to try and find the fairway without getting distracted from the views is the plan, and is executed, despite catching it slightly low on the face, which probably helped to keep it below the wind a little. With 170 yards or so into the green, I try to force a 5 iron uphill into the wind, as a felt hybrid would be too much club. After the deliberation over what club to hit, I end up catching my 5 iron heavy, leaving myself 50 yards short of the green. A solid pitch up the slope over the greenside bunker unfortunately runs through the green, but a nice lag putt from the fringe sees me tapping in for bogey.
The 9th is another hole where a course map or yardage book would be handy! A 515 yard par 5 from the yellows I found it unclear as to what line to hit from the tee, but after having consulted my laser rangefinder, I decided to hit driver and try and get myself in the best position possible. Considering it was it was its first outing today, it behaved, finding the centre of the fairway just short of the down slope. 240 yards out, downhill, I couldn’t resist having a go at the green, but ended up snap hooking it down the hill to the left, narrowly avoiding the long rough on the far side of the 10th fairway (about 90 yards left of the green!). With an interesting approach back to the green, I hit what I thought was a decent lofted wedge onto the green, but unfortunately it just ran through the far side and onto the fringe, and a chance to save par. Unfortunately that chance doesn’t last long, misreading both the line and the speed with not only my putt from the fringe, but also my first putt once on the green, leaving myself a tricky attempt for bogey. I was unable to convert the bogey attempt and have to settle for double, to close out the front 9 at 44 (+8).
The back 9 starts with a short par 4 back up the hill. I opt for driver off the tee after the last tee shot, but end up catching it low on the face pushing it just right of the fairway, with the upslope taking all of the distance out of it. Still with around 130 yards uphill to the green, I opt for a 9 iron, and my shot bounces about 1 yard left of where I would get a friendly bounce from the bank left of the green, and instead stays perched on top leaving myself short sided. A brave putt from on top of the hill, using the rough on the down slope of the bank to slow the ball down, nestles closely to the hole for a tap in par.
The 11th is an uphill dogleg right par 4, where longer hitters can cut the corner and go towards the sunken green, for me, I opt to attempt to play a safe shot with a 6 iron off the tee to leave myself a wedge or short iron into the green. I push my tee shot a little and end up close to the small trees without a direct line to the flag. From the right of the fairway, the slope feeds from the left and also downhill towards the green, so a low punch out left is the play. I manage to advance my punch shot forward enough and far enough left to catch the slope and feed the ball round and down onto the green, finishing pin high 20 foot left of the flag. The birdie attempt was good, but unfortunately just burnt the edge, leaving a short put back for a well recovered par from the trees.
The 12th tee is quite a walk away, but it well worth it, with fantastic views over the 180 yard par 3 and the countryside beyond. The hole itself is a tricky par 3, the longest on the course, with a steep drop off just left of the green. The ideal shot into the green is a high, soft landing fade, but without that in my locker I’m left trying to find the green with a straight 6 iron. I turn the ball over a touch and end up rolling off the left hand side of the green to the rough about 5ft below the putting surface. A delicate flop up onto the green sets up the par putt, but another slides by and another bogey ends up on the card.
13 is another attractive hole, with possibly my favourite view on the course. However once you start to look at the hole rather than the view, you realise just how tight the landing area is for the tee shot is. At only 348 yards from the yellow tee, the hole isn’t too long, and the line from the tee narrows the further the drive goes. I took a 4 wood from the tee, reaching the narrowest point, but hitting through the safe landing area into the trees guarding the left side of the fairway. After taking a drop out of the trees, a pitching wedge into the green bounced through the back, before I fail to manage to get my pitch close enough to the hole to save bogey, instead two putting for a 6.
The 14th is another par 4 back up the hill, and time to get the driver back out the bag. A high block to the right back over onto the 13th fairway makes for a challenging approach to the green, but a high, soft landing 9 iron up the hill lands on and holds the putting surface. Unfortunately I don’t back up the approach with the putting, taking 3 to get home for bogey.
I’m sure 15 is a lovely hole when played as intended, however a snap hooked drive not over one fairway, but two, has me playing the hole from an entirely different perspective. A punch out of the hedge before a 5 iron in the general direction of where I think the green is, leaves me with a 20 yard pitch over the greenside bunker to be on in 4. Safely on, 2 putts later I’m taking double without spending much time on the hole itself! There are also lovely views from this green too!
A walk back to the par 5, 16th tee, located right of the 15th fairway has you wondering where this hole goles! With the absence of a course map or yardage booklet, all you can do is aim for the marker post, which involves hitting over the 15th, and hope! A dogleg right of 492 yards, with the approach downhill, this is a reachable in two par 5 for some of the longer hitters. I opt to punch my second shot down the fairway with a hybrid hoping to leave a simple wedge into the green, but again turn it over a little too much and find the left rough. Approaching the green with a lofted wedge, I safely find it, but my 4th 3 putt of the day sees me make bogey.
17 should be a fairly simple par 3 back up the hill, of just shy of 150 yards, however a heavy 8 iron that I was trying to force comes up short, before again I fail to find the green with the simple pitch, before 2 putting for double.
The 18th is another attractive hole from the tee, back towards the clubhouse and the countryside beyond, and only marginally let down due to the fact it runs alongside the driving range (which is all out of bounds). Some of this out of bounds is protected by big gorse bushes which you don’t want to go near, but either way it is likely to cost you a shot, as I found out the hard way by putting my drive into the middle of the of them! A drop from there has me hitting my 3rd as my approach shot into a green overlooked by the clubhouse and its patrons. Added pressure to find the green since I had an audience led to a sensible approach towards the green, finding the left fringe. In an effort to keep the onlooking spectators happy, I had a run at the putt for par from the fringe, but unfortunately saw it break away from the hole towards the tier on the green, where half of the crowd were willing it to go down and half for it to stay up! Luckily it stayed up, and I had 10ft uphill for my bogey. Silence amongst the crowd as I hit a solid putt, finding the centre of the cup which led to cheers from the crowd to finish off the day with a 5, and close out the back 9 with a 45 (+10), for a grand total of 89 (+18).
In summary, Lewes Golf Club is a really interesting course with a great mix of holes, backed up by fantastic views over the surrounding countryside of the South Downs and the Weald. The course was in really good condition, and for a £15 twilight rate at weekends, I really cannot fault it. I imagine the course can play pretty tough in winter as it really is exposed from all directions in some places, but in the summer this is a benefit, providing fantastic views on most holes. I really loved the stretch of holes 7 through 9 overlooking the Weald, as well as the beautiful par 3 12th and the challenging par 4 13th, I look forward to returning to see how a bit of course knowledge pays off around here!
–The Sussex Golfer