West is best

East Sussex National (West)

East Sussex National Golf Club (West)

Date Reviewed
July 6, 2021
Reviewed by Ed Battye
East Sussex National is a big hotel, spa and golf complex near Uckfield in, er... well as you might be able to guess.... East Sussex.

The resort boasts two golf courses; the East and West both designed by Robert E Cupp, an American course architect and opened for play in 1990.

Neither tend to rank particularly highly in any of the magazine lists and whilst modern, championship style golf courses are not really my thing I believe they are perhaps treated a little harshly when looking at some of the competition they currently lag behind.

Choose your set of tees wisely and you will have a challenging and enjoyable round of golf on either course, both of which are par 72. The likes of ViJay Singh, Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie have all walked the fairways and whilst these legends will no doubt have played from the 7,000+ yard 'Gold' tees you may wish to tackle the more manageable Blues (6,700) or even Whites (6,000).

I walked both courses on the same day and whilst it is not an easy stroll it was still quite manageable, however, both courses are really set up for carts with paths lining each hole along with the occasional buggy turning circle! This just goes with the territory. The terrain is rolling countryside (with lovely views over the South Downs) so whilst there are a couple of climbs there is nothing too severe. The longest, most annoying walk is on the West when you must cross under the A26 to get from the 6th to the 7th and then back again from the 14th to the 15th.

The East is very much a course set-up for tournament play with stadium mounding, large greens, longish green-to-tee walks, multiple tee boxes and is laid out in two returning loops of nine. Amongst many other professional events it has hosted The European Open in the past and you will need to bring your A-game to score well. It is fairly generous from the tee, particularly the front-nine, and there are some chances to make birdies but overall it is a stern test. Water becomes an increasing hazard as we move into the superior back-nine and by the time we reach the 16th and 17th it is very much the main focus of our attention.

The course starts with a jolt too in the form of a very penal hole where one must carry a pond on the approach to a green which appears wider than it is deep. The hole is not too long but I fear most average golfers may not get off to the best start. Elsewhere, I was fond of the par-five 7th which has a nice green complex and it was also pleasing to see a driveable par-four - the 6th plays a maximum of 329 yards with forward tees at 311 and 270 and the tiny green is nicely in keeping with this length of hole.

On the back nine the 10th (another par five) is a strong hole as is the long 14th with a centreline bunker to negotiate at some point of your journey on this 569-yarder. It's unusual for par-fives to be my favourite holes on a golf course but on the East they are certainly the holes that provide the most interest.

The West is a more scenic and intimate affair - if you can call a 7,100-yard layout intimate - and has a much more interesting routing and prettier surroundings as we depart the clubhouse at the first and don't see it again until we finish. It is the better of the two courses but thanks to the impressive back-nine on the East there is not a great deal in it. The stand out holes mostly come on the back nine here too with the 10th and 12th both tough cookies to crack. The latter was an extremely difficult par-five when I visited as it played into a strong head wind.

Other holes of note were the 1st which uses a tree quite well to manufacture a dog-leg, the dramatic par-three 13th and the two-shot 14th with danger lurking down the right side of the green making it a really risking shot into the green. The 18th is also a nice looking hole which descends down a tree-lined fairway and closes in front of the hotel and clubhouse.

Heavy overnight rain had left the courses a little worse for wear when I played them and I can imagine the course may suffer during wetter months but get it on a good day and I don't think you will be disappointed with the condition. The greens, tees and rest of the course (apart from the fairways) were in tip-top condition.

Overall I came away from East Sussex pleasantly surprised with both courses and the competitively priced green-fees are also very welcome to see.

There are vibes of Celtic Manor, St. Mellion, The Belfry, Forest of Arden, Slaley Hall, The Oxfordshire and many other resort and spa venues. As I said at the beginning this is not where I personally choose to play the majority of my golf but for the corporate and society golfer or those looking for a well-priced UK break then East Sussex National should certainly be a consideration, in fact one I would recommend. I tend to focus just on the golf but there is also a swimming pool, spa, restaurants and plenty of business facilities on site too which may sway your decision.

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