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Littlehampton

Yardage
6226
Par
70
SSS
70
Built
1889
Architect(s)
JH Taylor, Frederic G. Hawtree, Tom Mackenzie
Nature:
Hoylakesque, predominantly flat links with interesting green complexes and fine grasses.
Location/Address:
West Sussex coast near Arundel. Postcode: BN17 5DL
http://www.littlehamptongolf.co.uk
Secretary
Ian Evans
Telephone
01903 726629
Professional
Stuart Fallow
Green Keeper
Chris Read
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Well behaved dogs welcome
Open Meetings:
'125' Open - July
Fees in 1960s
37p
Fees today
£38

Review

Having been born only ten miles from Littlehampton, one of my earliest recollections is of being driven over the South Downs and singing “I can see the sea, round pegs and square holes, I can see the sea” as Climping beach flashed into view between the trees on the road down to historic Arundel. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

Littlehampton clubhouse

Climping beach continues to give enormous pleasure to thousands of day trippers just a lob wedge from one of Sussex’s oldest and finest golf courses, laid out across classic, flat, links terrain behind the dunes that separate it from the beach. In fact it is Sussex’s fifth oldest club, with Royal Eastbourne, Brighton & Hove, Seaford (East Blatchington) and Royal Ashdown Forest being opened just ahead of it in 1887/8. 

For the first nineteen years of the Club’s existence, the course was only reachable by ferry across the river Arun, but with the attraction of the finest links turf available for golf, a good trade was willingly made by the visiting golfer to a couple of enterprising boatmen. Golfers were weighed down with less equipment in those days which perhaps helped towards an efficient use of space in the small clinker row-boats as they crossed England’s second fastest flowing river! 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

JH Taylor, 5x Open Champion

The course was extended to eighteen holes in 1893 by JH Taylor (a member of the famous triumvirate with James Braid and Harry Vardon who dominated professional play in the Edwardian golf boom period up to the First World War). 

JH Taylor at that time was a leading member of the ‘penal’ design school where the emphasis lay in having ramparts of bunkering across fairways to catch the ‘foozled’ shot. 

It was not until John Low and the other ‘gentlemen’ golf architects developed the ‘strategic’ design school from the mid 1890s that we saw the Scottish links style of edge-of-fairway bunkering being used, particularly for inland courses in England. 

Frederic G. Hawtree (Martin’s grand-father) was involved in remodelling and extending the course in 1924.

Much like Littlestone in Kent, the penal bunkering at Littlehampton has been replaced over the years with ‘minimal’ bunkering to trap the not quite perfect shot of the scratch player rather than the ‘topped’ one of the high handicapper. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

The drive at the second

The preceding remark is in no way to suggest this 6226 yard course (par 70, SSS 70) is not well trapped and following the Second World War, when the course became dotted with concrete bunkers of a different defensive kind, £10,000 was spent on its renovation. We have today an overall design that is now of classic strategic nature, with help from the well-regarded golf course designer Tom Mackenzie in recent years. 

Indeed not only is the bunkering well placed but with Gordon Irvine MG Consulting helping to advise on greenkeeping, the mowing has been improved in front of the bunkering and around the greens, so balls are gathered into the bunkers and away from the greens across smooth run-offs. 

This is a course with a set of excellent greens and green surrounds and shapes that help to make the course fight above it weight.

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

The fourth green

They are varied and interesting and the ongoing work to restore the size of the putting surfaces is re-discovering long lost pin positions. They are perhaps not of the outstanding quality of, for example another Sussex course Rye, but they are most certainly high quality. 

These enhancements allows true bump-and-run shots to be the preferred retrieval shot around the greens and only at the damper end of the inland side of the course, where there are a few holes towards the end of the round on marshier ground, would one wish to use a lob wedge. 

Like many clubs flush with money from the 1980/90s years of golf prosperity, Littlehampton was mesmerised by the ‘green is great’ concept, sold so well by the chemical fertiliser companies and backed up by American target-golf  broadcast on TV. Annual meadow grass (Poa Annua) took over and not only was grass coverage lost in the drought periods but the greens became receptive, thereby reducing the playing challenge. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

Drive bunker on twelth hole

It is with enormous relief that, having played the course recently, I can report that the Club has become part of the ‘Modern Retro-Trend’ to return to the running game and away from target golf. 

The greens, following five years of the appropriate austere greenkeeping maintenance, now possess a majority of fine grasses with fescues predominant on the holes near the coastal dunes while more browntop bent grasses are replacing the Poa annua on the marshier land. 

The slap of ropes against the masts of sailing dinghies moored along the river Arun behind the new club house, built in 1986 to replace a previous one lost to fire, gives a pleasant nautical feel to this open, spacious course that has trees along its western boundary. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

The second green

It has, as Sir Peter Allen said in his 1973 well regarded book “Play the best courses in the British Isles”, a feel of Hoylake about it. He records it as: “a flat piece of grassland with its parallel mown fairways, grassy rough and a few undulating greens, and away in the distance a line of sandhills which hold much promise.” 

A more than usually testing first hole (420 yards) into the prevailing wind to a raised long green starts the round well. This is followed by a very fine, short, par four with its plateau green tucked into the dunes at hole two (366 yards), requiring an approach that is below the side-wind that will whip your ball across the green but played sufficiently high as to clear the two left hand bunkers that are actually a greater distance short of the green than they appear to the eye. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

The seventh hole

There are five par threes, the first three being of about 180 yards and the other two each of some 150 yards. One could not call them overly distinguished, though they all require well-struck shots onto firm greens and cunning is required for par to be achieved. They certainly provide much fun for the bump-and-run shot played over their sleek surroundings. 

From the second to the tenth one is steadily working one’s way out the far end of the course with just the fifth hole turning backwards. These holes are on true, gravelly-based links land and though Climping beach, with its youngsters building sand castles, is really only viewed well from the seventh tee, the views remain delightful inland across the flood plain to Arundel Castle, the home of the Duke of Norfolk, the country’s most senior lay Roman Catholic, camped on the high and beautiful South Downs. 

The ninth (one of six par fours of less than 380 yards), as with the seventh, requires one to keep out of a dominating drive-bunker and has an approach shot along the dunes to a well guarded green. 

Littlehampton golf club, JH Taylor, fred hawtree, tom mackenzie, finest course review

The eighteenth green

A couple of the course’s best par fours are twelve (410 yards) and thirteen (374 yards) with a stream lurking down their left hand flank that then turns and runs down the right hand side of fourteen (390 yards) and fifteen (340 yards). This last hole is played round the westerly edge’s trees, that do not do a lot of good for the grasses on the tees and greens at this point in the round, shielding the sun and wind, and restricting the drying out of the ground. 

A par five seventeenth played back into the wind and a 400-yarder eighteenth with a fine green complex under the gaze of the clubhouse balcony, completes one’s round across flat, fast, running ground. 

With Rye to the East, Hayling to the West and West Sussex GC just inland over the South Downs, Littlehampton is in a location with high quality competition. 

Now the Club is supporting its able young greenkeeper in bringing back the running game, this is a course that is well worth visiting either on a glorious sunny summer day or on a windy winter day. It will guarantee that you need to use a large variety of shots to varied and well maintained greens. 

 

Reviewed by Lorne Smith  2014  

Reader Comments

On January 20th, 2014 Robin Brown Said:

A very enjoyable destination.I would class the front 9 as true links and good to hear about encouraging bump and run shots. One of few links options in Sussex and should be enjoyed.