Course Review- Dyke Golf Club (http://www.dykegolf.com/)
Conditions: Mostly Sunny, Warm, Light Breeze.
Green Fee: £20.00 (Booked through Teeofftimes.com)
Range: Practice Facility, Short Game Area, Practice nets.
Doubling up on golf this weekend (and new courses!), following on from the previous day’s round at Pyecombe Golf Club, I headed up to Dyke Golf Club early on a Sunday afternoon to make the most of the calm and warm conditions that we were experiencing at the time. I pre-booked my tee time through Teeofftimes.com for £20 plus their £1 booking fee, although Dyke Golf Club do also have their own online booking system (which I must add works well) which I have since used. As with other courses in the area, I have had glimpses before playing, this time when visiting Devil’s Dyke on several occasions.
Dyke Golf Club is one of four courses located immediately north of Brighton & Hove, nestled away on top of the South Downs. Being outside of the city itself, it is very easy to access from quite a number of places in Sussex via both the A23 and A27. The course, as previously mentioned, is located close to Devil’s Dyke, which I also strongly recommend checking out if it is your first time to the area.
The clubhouse and car park are located at the highest points on the course, which makes a nice change knowing that the first hole isn’t going to be a walk straight up a hill! The clubhouse towers over the course and the practice facilities, and offers great views out over the city itself, but also the sea on a clear day. Upon arrival, I checked in with the Pro, and as per the previous day, was also able to pick up another course guide for my collection, before heading to the practice green to get the pace of the greens before teeing off. I like to have a decent warm up before playing where possible, so on my way up to the course, I had stopped off at the driving range at West Hove Golf Club, although Dyke Golf Club does have a couple of practice nets and a practice ground with multiple teeing areas, as well as a separate short game area, and large practice putting green.
The 1st hole starts fairly friendly, with a short par 5 that was playing downhill and downwind for me on the day, with the main hazard being the Out of Bounds down the right, where the practice ground is located. I miss the fairway which sweeps from the left, placing my drive down the right hand side, but not getting the required draw back to find the fairway.With a decent lie in the rough, I hit a hybrid just short left of the green, leaving myself a good pitch up the heart of the green, and a chance for birdie. I hit a good pitch, but leave just a little bit too much work to do for the birdie putt, which slides by before I tap in for my par.
The 2nd is another par 5, of similar length to the 1st, but possibly playing slightly more downhill. I get a good drive away, but a little bit too much draw has me finding the first cut on the left side, just off the fairway. After waiting for the green to clear, I attempt to play a 5 iron into the green, but a little pull means I find the bunker front left of the green. A clean shot out the bunker just rolls through the green and onto the fringe, from which I have a birdie attempt. A little bit too much pace on the putt means the ball doesn’t take the break as hoped, and again I’m tapping in for my par 5.
The 3rd is an interesting hole, and for one which I am glad I had the course guide! A short dogleg right of only 320 yards, where the marker post is situated very close to what looks like the right hand side (immediately behind a large pot bunker some 180 yards off the tee. The course guide suggests that members approach the hole playing to a telegraph pole in the distance in order to avoid the bunker, and this is what I am to do, opting for a 5 iron. Turning it over slightly, I find the left rough, but get lucky with the lie. An 8 iron into the green, drawn off the right hand side, finds me safely on, but with not much chance for a birdie. A solid lag putt sees me in with no troubles for my par.
The 4th unusually is a 3rd par 5; not many courses have 3 in total let alone 3 in the first 4 holes! Another one that is reachable in two should you get a good drive away, this sweeping dogleg right hole demands some precision off the tee, with a couple of large fairway bunkers waiting to catch any errant shots. I safely find the middle of the fairway with a large drive, aided by the firm and fast fairways, leaving me around 220 yards to the flag, located at the back of the green. With a sweetly struck hybrid, I find the front edge of the green under regulation, but with the depth of the green to traverse still. A poor attempt at the eagle putt leaves me 15 foot short and with a lot of work to do for birdie. I fail to convert being in a great position in 2 and leave feeling disappointed after tapping in for my par.
Even par through 4 holes, but feeling as though I could be a couple better off, I approach the 5th, the first par 3 of the course. The hole is aptly named ‘The Valley’, a nod to the hollow in the land that you must carry with your tee shot in order to reach a small and well guarded green, with a large drop off to the right, also guarded by 3 large bunkers, 1 to the left, and two below the level of the surface to the right. With an 8 iron in hand with the tee forward I try to draw one in from the right in order to get the required distance, but just leave it slightly out there, catching a piece of the bank right of the green before bouncing into one of the eagerly waiting bunkers.The ball collects at the back of bunker, not leaving a lot of room to get the club down behind the ball to lift it out on a bed of sand. As expected the ball comes out cleanly, flying over the green into the bushes. A penalty drop 3rd, has me pitching my 4th down onto the green. Or at least that was the intention… Catching it slightly thin, the ball runs through the green and you guessed it, back into the same bunker I was in. With my 5th, I was determined not to repeat the same mistake as last time, so digging deep for the ball, I swung hard, but a combination of too much sand and the steep bank in front of me sees the ball drop back in. Finally out safely with my 6th, but still only finding the rear fringe, I finally find the putting surface with my 7th, a putt from the fringe that races away down the slope some 15 foot past the hole. Coming back up the hill, I do not give it enough pace, and leave it some 3 foot short. To make matters worse, I miss a short one and tap in for a 10, and I’ve gone from E through 4 to +7 through 5 – card ruined!
Luckily there is a short walk between the 5th green and the 6th tee, which allows me to try to regain focus after the previous hole. There is no respite however, with the 6th being the stroke index 1 hole simply called ‘Hill’. Facing you at the tee is a large slope upwards, similar to the 11th at Pyecombe the day before. Again, without the course guide for assistance, I would be none the wiser. I hit a solid enough drive down the left hand side, finding the first cut some 200 yards out. With the ball above my feet, I compound the previous hole’s errors with a pull hook into some deep rough. Having eventually found my ball, I pitch out of the long rough only to find the bunker, which is located just short of being greenside. Splashing out, I have enough distance to get out, but not to find the putting surface, coming up short. A bump and run onto the green rolls out a little further than expected, and 2 putts later and I’m marking a 7 on the card.
The 7th is named ‘Cross Bunker’ after the 4 bunkers that intersect the fairway between 185 yards and 224 yards off the yellow tee. WIth my draw, I expected to aim at the right bunkers and carry the left, but again I fail to execute the plan and end up hitting it dead straight over the right hand bunkers, finding the first cut right of the fairway. With just a lofted wedge into the pin tucked over the front bunker, I safely find the middle of the green, with a little downhill sliding putt for birdie. Again, I get caught out by the pace of the green, sliding it by on the high side, before tapping in the comeback for par.
8 is the second par 3 on the course, a short and simple hole of less than 140 yards from the yellows, playing even less on the day I played. With the front surrounded by bunkers, you have to be dialed in with your yardage to find the green safely. In-between clubs I opt for the more lofted, trying to force a pitching wedge. In hindsight, a smooth 9 might have worked out better, having caught the wedge very heavy and finishing short of even the bunkers short of the green. A simple pitch into the green just rolls off onto the fringe on the short side of the hole, leaving a reasonably makeable putt for par from the fringe. Another one slides by and another dropped shot for me, finishing off with a bogey 4.
9 is a mid length par 4, heading back towards the clubhouse. The fairway sweeps ever so slightly around to the left from the tee, setting up for a draw off the right hand side, however 4 bunkers await down the left hand side between 179 and 234 yards out from the yellows. I hang my drive out to the right, failing to bring it back towards the fairway, but narrowly avoiding tree trouble after getting caught up in the rough. With my second, the clubhead snags and turns the face over, pulling my approach shot to the left of the long green, which is guarded again by two bunkers to the front. From the left rough, I try to get cute with the pitch over the front left bunker which is guarding the pin, but don’t get enough on it and end up in the sand. A nice out from the bunker unfortunately rolls on a little too far, leaving too much work to do for my bogey, tapping in for my 6 to close out the front 9 in 50 (+13), which was especially disappointing given the first 4 holes.
The 10th starts the back nine with a similar hole to the 1st, which it runs parallel to, but being 100 yards shorter is only a par 4. Again, blocking my driver down the right, I miss the fairway, but manage to get lucky and still have a line into the green, where the pin is located towards the back. I hit my approach straight up the heart of the green with a 6 iron from the rough, but with a lack of enough spin, the ball rolls through and onto the far fringe. Finally, I manage to get one to drop, holeing my putt from the fringe for a birdie 3.
11, like the 2nd, is a downhill par 5 of similar proportions, again with a blind tee shot. The tee box offers views over Brighton & Hove, and on this occasion the line I decided on for my shot was the i360, with a slight draw. I succeed with finding my target line and desired shot, finding the centre of the fairway some 250 yards out. From a downhill lie, I try to force a 5 iron, hoping that the firm fairways and downhill slope would run my ball down just short of the green somewhere, but end up pushing it out right, just passed the bunker 50 yards short of the green. A pitch on to the green and a solid 2 putt sees me make par to continue the solid start to the back 9.
12 is a dogleg left par 4, sweeping back up the hill towards a raised green after the hole turns to the left. I proceed to make the hole play significantly longer than the yardage of 362 yards on the card, by cutting a 4 wood by accident into the right rough. Again luck is on my side as I find my ball in an area of shorter grass that had been used as an access track for maintenance vehicles, therefore had a shot at the green. With a 5 iron uphill, I again left my shot out right, finding the first cut to the right of the green, short sided by the bunker on the right. Again, trying to be too cute (you would have thought I had learnt my lesson on 9!), I put my pitch into the bunker. Safely out and onto the green with my 4th, still with plenty of work to do, I hit a solid lag putt to ensure I don’t score worse than a double bogey 6.
The 13th hole is another par 4 dogleg left, named ‘Plateau’ after the flat area that balls finding the fairway should feed down to. The tee shot is attractive, with the fairway being below the height of the tiered tee boxes, and the fairway sloping away from the doglegs. . I am let through on the tee by a 4 some, so added pressure as always when being let through. I hit a bad one with my driver, over cooking the draw and finding tree trouble down the left. Again, luckily I manage to find it, but not lucky enough to be in a position to be able to play it, finding my ball situated at the bottom of a tree with low branches. Dropping for my second, I manage to get up and over the corner of the trees, but my ball bounded through the green and into the 1st cut behind the green. A duffed chip with my 4th, followed by a decent pitch sees me close in 5, holing a 6 footer for my double bogey 6. Safety first off the tee next time I think is the lesson here!
The 14th is a mid length, uphill par 3 playing 150 yards from the yellow tees. A little over optimistic with my club selection of 9i sees me coming up about a club short, failing to account for the uphill slope. Desperate to avoid chunking another chip, I do the opposite this time, thinning it through the green and onto the far fringe. With the putter, I don’t manage to get close enough to the hole to make a 4, tapping in for a 3rd consecutive double.
Looking back from the 15th tee towards the 14th green is a nice view of the green complex. I sometimes look at holes from different angles and wonder why the course is laid out the way in it! Distraction over, I need to get my card back in shape after the last three holes, and that starts on 15. An uphill dogleg left, where you can make the hole play considerably shorter by cutting off the corner, a good drive finds the fairway a decent way up the slope. With just a lofted wedge in my hand, I should have done better, but again over clubbing and running through the back and onto the fringe. I give the birdie putt a decent run, but comes up just short meaning an easy conversion for my par to break the trend.
The 16th is a fantastic long par 4, similar in design to the 3rd, but 50 yards shorter hence the reduction in par.The tee shot requires a slight fade to follow the curves of the fairway, or a straight shot catching the slope, however my draw doesn’t help me a great deal here, bouncing hard on the fairway and behind some hedges on the left hand side. Mostly cut off, but with a line to the right hand bunker, I decide that the sand isn’t too bad a place to leave my second shot. Nailing a 5 iron and turning it over sufficiently means I do better than finding the greenside bunker, instead rolling all the way through the long, 2 tiered green. The previously mentioned point adds a significant amount of difficulty to the next shot, with the pin being just below the tier. No room for duffed chips or one coming out a bit hot here. A reasonably played bump and run to the top of the slope has me safely on in 3 with a decent putt at par, but another slides by on the low side, before rounding off for my bogey 5.
17 is possibly my favourite hole on the course, named after the local geographical attraction- the Devil’s Dyke. The longest par 3 on the course at 192 yards from the yellow tees, a substantial amount of which is carry over a gorse filled hollow, to a green which is set from front left to back right, surrounded by mounds and protected by two bunkers to the front. With a 5 iron, I hit a high towering draw, but again with firm greens I do not have the ability to hold the green, rolling through and onto the rear fringe. I couldn’t have hit one much better I felt, so was happy with the end result. With a downhill putt from the fringe, the ball rolled out some 4 foot further passed the pin than I would like, but I make the one coming back up the hill for my par.
The 18th and finishing hole is slightly disappointing (not only because the round is over), but it is also a fairly straightforward short par 4. As I’m not protecting a score I take driver off the tee, but catch it a little high on the face, popping it up around 200 yards down the right hand side of the fairway. Another short wedge into the green sliding off and onto the fringe, I am again lagging my ball close and finishing off for a par 4 to close out my round with a 41 (+6) on the back, for a 91 (+19) overall.
In summary, Dyke Golf Club for me is the pick of the bunch of the courses located immediately north of Brighton & Hove. A course that I feel I have the potential to score well on with its string of reachable par 5’s (most playing downhill and with the prevailing wind), it is also thoroughly enjoyable and maintained well. Backed up by a large clubhouse, decent practice facilities and well stocked Pro Shop, it really is a step above those in the immediate vicinity. As with some of the other courses on the Downs, I’m interesting to see how they play in Winter with the rain and wind howling, but on a warm sunny summer’s day, the course plays firm and fast, and the views are superb. My favourite holes are the Par 5 1st, Par 5 4th, Par 3 5th (despite my 10), Par 4 10th, Par 4 16th and last but not least (probably my favourite!) the Par 3 17th. I have since returned a further two times such for my enjoyment of the course and the service provided by all here.
–The Sussex Golfer