Course Review- Ifield Golf and Country Club (http://www.ifieldgolf.com/)
Conditions: Mostly Sunny, Mild
Green Fee: £24.00
Range: Short Game Area, Practice nets.
August is here and the good weather has managed to return since I last played, with some beautiful sunshine and gentle breezes providing near optimum golfing conditions. I’d be trying another new course this weekend- Ifield Golf and Country Club near Crawley. Due to its proximity to the M23, the course is fairly easy to access from various points in Sussex, for example only just over 30 minutes from Brighton & Hove.
Upon arrival, I checked in at the pro shop, before heading to the practice nets to get a little bit of a warm up in, and the putting green to hit a few putts before heading out to the 1st tee. I paid a twilight green fee in the summer of £24, which is comparable to many other courses in the area.
The first hole is a slight dogleg left par 5, and is a fairly gentle opening start to the course. Having been founded in 1927, there are many fairly mature trees lining the hole, but the fairway is wide enough that it doesn’t feel too daunting for the first tee shot of the day. With my driver, I ended up hooking it left finishing behind on of the mature trees, not leaving any other option than to punch out and advance the ball 45 yards or so. Still well over 200 yards into the green, I opted for my 4 wood, striking it cleanly with a perfect slight draw and finding an unlikely green in regulation. Still with a lot of work to do, I manage to hit a decent first lag putt, and tap in for my par.
The 2nd hole is a sharp dogleg right par 4, turning nearly 90 degrees at around the 200 yard mark off the tee. I opt to play it to the corner with my hybrid, but whilst trying to prevent turning the ball over away from the dogleg, I end up pushing my tee shot directly into the tree protecting the corner. After the dogleg, the the fairway rises steeply up towards a shallow green, that is protected by a couple of deep bunkers to the front. With some sort of a line, I manage to punch a 9 iron out from underneath the tree, leaving a 50 yard pitch to the green. Up and onto the green with my pitch, but not close enough to give a decent chance at scrambling a par sees me two putting for bogey.
On to the 3rd, a really nice downhill par 4 of 384 yards from the yellow tees that sweeps around to the right. Due to my typical shot shape (and mistake on #1), I decide to use my 4 wood to try and take the trees down the left out of play, and hit a nice drive down the right side of the fairway, which just feeds into the first cut with the slope. With 150 yards or so into the front of the green, I possibly under club into the green with it being downhill, and only come up to the front edge with the pin back of centre.The first putt left a little bit to do, but a solid 10 foot putt sees me making my second par of the round.
The 4th is the first par 3 on the course, an attractive short hole of 151 yards, over a small pond to a green surrounded by multiple bunkers. A nicely struck 7 iron into a slight breeze (clubbing up to avoid coming up short again like the previous hole) sees me finding the right side of the putting surface 15 foot right of the flag. I manage to put a decent roll on the ball and see it track into the centre of the cup for a birdie 2.
The 5th hole is hole is the longest par 4 on the front nine, 418 yards, playing straight back up hill. A great tee shot with my 4 wood finds the centre of the fairway, but with still 200 yards uphill to go, I still need to hit a 7 wood into the green. A bit of a snap hook sees me in tree trouble short left of the green, only leaving a pitch out. To add insult to injury I duff my next pitch, before over committing to the next one, going through the green and onto the rear fringe, nestling up against the slope at the back of the green. Putting from the fringe, I fail to get the ball close enough, and end up two putting for a poor 7. A disappointing triple from the middle of the fairway.
The second par three on the front nine comes at the 6th. A beautiful little par 3 of only 134 yards, surrounded by trees. A nice little 9 iron finds the centre of the green, below the hole. A good run at the birdie putt slides just by, and I make the come back for a par.
The 7th is a really interesting short par 4 of only 302 yards. Off the tee you have a couple of options, either layup around the 180 yard mark leaving a wedge from the fairway to the green, or longer hitters can ignore the fact that the fairway runs out at 190 yards or so, and take on an approach from a shorter distance, but from the hollow distinctly below the 2 tier green. I opted for the first option with just a 6 iron off the tee, just missing the fairway to the left. With just a short wedge into the green, I end up on the wrong tier after catching my shot slightly heavy. A tough putt with significant break, I completely misjudge it and end up under-reading the break and staying on the bottom tier. I do not make the same mistake with the second putt, nearly getting it to the hole, but end up tapping in for a 3 putt bogey 5.
The 8th is a short par 5, and time to let rip with the driver. With a much better swing than on the first, I get a good drive away, down the middle of the fairway finishing right by the marker post. With 200 yards into the green, a well struck hybrid finds the putting surface, under regulation. With a rare eagle putt, I have a go (you have to don’t you?) but narrowly miss, but end up going 6 foot by. I made sure with the second putt though, dropping the ball perfectly in the centre of the cup for another birdie.
The front 9 finishes with the tough but picturesque, 229 yard downhill par 3. With a small lake directly in front of the tee for visual distraction, care needs to be taken to ensure a solid contact off the tee. I opted for hybrid, finishing right of the green, in between two greenside bunkers, leaving a decent chance at an up and down. A decent pitch, but not perfect sees me leaving 8 foot for par, but this one gets away and I have to settle for a bogey 4, to close out the front 9 in 39 (+4).
The back 9 runs around the outer perimeter of the golf course, and starts with the par 4, 343 yard 10th. With a fairway that rises up hill to a crest, before heading back down towards the green, club selection off the tee is key. With out of bounds down the left, and the lake in front of the 9th tee down the right hand side, emphasis is also placed on a straight shot. I opt for 4 wood off the tee, but turn it over a little too much, and end up flirting with OB so much that I need to take an unplayable due to lack of a stance. With my 3rd from under the overhanging trees, I had to flight the ball down, but managed to get far too much forward momentum on the shot, with the ball running through the green. My pitch back onto the green with my 4th leaves a lot to be desired, but a solid lag putt sees me only coming away with double.
Things do not start off any better on the 11th, a long 410 yard par 4, where I opted for driver and very quickly regretted it, snap hooking my tee shot left OB. With my 3rd off the tee, I opt for 4 wood this time and strike it down the middle. From 186 yards with my second I narrowly miss the green with a 5 iron, coming up just short left. A distinctly average chip again leaves plenty of work to do, but a solid two putt means that it is back to back doubles.
The 12th is a short par 4 at only 303 yards, and not much of any worry to protect the par on this hole. A well struck 4 wood actually finds itself going just through the fairway on this slight right to left dogleg, but with only 77 yards into the green, I do not have too much trouble finding the putting surface with a lofted wedge for my second. With a decent attempt at birdie, similar to the length of putt that I holed for my 2 on the 4th, I read the right to left break well, but just too much pace has it lip out on the high side, leaving a two foot tap in for my par.
13 is the first par 3 on the back 9, this time a 164 yard uphill shot, to a green surrounded by 5 bunkers. A well struck 7 iron, but perhaps one club too few sees me finding the front fringe. With a fairly straight putt, I felt like I had a good chance at holing it, but I come up just short and again have to settle for an easy par.
The 14th is a fairly straightforward par 4 from the yellow tees, but a whopping 80 yards further back to the whites helps make it the stroke index 5 hole from the competition tees. From the yellows, it only plays 334 yards, So I take a hybrid and make sure I find the centre of the fairway. A short wedge into the green sees me make my first real mistake since the 12th, finding the greenside bunker with a poor approach. Safely out and onto the green, a standard two putt sees me dropping a shot and making a bogey 5.
The 15th is the stroke index 1 hole on the course, a whopping 451 yard par 4, that looks fairly tight from the tee due to the mature trees either side of the hole. I opt for driver, which turned out fairly quickly to be a mistake. Shamefully I barely manage to advance the ball much over 100 yards, so I am automatically on the back foot. A well struck hybrid with my second gets me back in better shape, but still with 140 yards to the green, I get a little bit greedy and take the wrong club and end up chunking it whilst trying to hit it too hard. I compound the errors further mis-clubbing with only a wedge in hand and going through the back of the green. Chipping from just over the back of the green, a solid chip sets up a 6 foot putt for a 6, which I successfully manage to make.
16 is a 3rd consecutive par 4, playing 386 yards from the yellows. A 4 wood off the tee, caught a little bit thin just misses the left side of the fairway, leaving 180 yards into the green. A well struck 5 iron finds the putting surface, but definitely more in 2 putt region than 1! As expected, the first putt doesn’t have much of a chance, but is solid enough to convert the par.
17 is a tricky par 3, despite being the shortest hole on the back 9, there is little room for error. With OB down the left, and a bunker guarding the green both front left and right, and also a pond just right of the green, an accurate tee shot is required. I opted for a hard 8 iron, and hit it solid enough, but didn’t quite draw the ball back enough to find the putting surface, carrying the front bunker, and very narrowly avoiding the pond, finishing up in the long rough just outside of the hazard. Worried about the OB behind, I fail to commit and do not manage to get my chip out and onto the green, leaving it on the fringe short of the hole. A good lag putt from the fringe followed by a tap in sees me making my bogey 4.
18 is pretty much an exact mirror image of the first, a par 5 playing just over 500 yards from the yellow tees, but this time dog legs around to the right. I try to get a bit greedy with my tee shot, trying to hit a big draw with my driver starting the ball over the first hole, but I catch it a bit low on the face and catch one of the trees 70 yards infront of the tee, kicking down dead left, leaving a lot of work to do. From here, I manage to add insult to injury my hooking my next shot whilst trying to get back into position OB left. After my drop, two solid hybrids sees me 25 yards short of the green in 5. A decent pitch and putt and I make a scrappy 7 to finish my round, coming back in 45 (+10) to finish with an 84 (+14).
In summary, Ifield Golf and Country Club is a good parkland layout with a well bunkered, but fairly open design, despite a fair amount of mature trees. The course was in good condition, but there a very few holes that offer anything extraordinary. That isn’t to say that Ifield Golf & Country Club is a bad course, but I feel that there are alternate options at a similar or lower price point that offer a more memorable and complete experience. I feel that the front 9 is the stronger 9, with the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th being good golf holes, but the only real stand out hole for me on the back 9 was the 15th.
–The Sussex Golfer