Amongst many other things this idiosyncratic venue also boasts two distinct golf courses; the Downs and the Park.
The much praised Members' Downs Course plays up towards the racecourse, initially through dramatic valleyed fairways before climbing even higher where the remainder of the course is mostly perched on the South Downs giving golfers incredible views over Chichester in the near distance and the Isle of Wight and sparkling Solent beyond.
Although one of the oldest golf courses in Sussex, designed in 1914 by the legendary James Braid, it has a rather modern feel to it. This is presumably the result of recent renovations that have retained the essential character of Braid’s concept whilst providing a challenge for the present day game.
It’s a big course for sure; demanding yet fair with almost a pro-tournament feel to it. We played it off the ‘Silver’ 7,102 tips and after a spell of heavy rain the going was good-to-soft, heavy in places. I’m led to believe that this downland course usually consists of fast-running fairways but on our visit it played every pace of its seven kilometre layout with very little run on the ball. That said, the course stood up remarkably well to the biblical rain that had drenched the course only a couple of hours before we teed off and I suspect the following day it would have played much firmer when other venues would still be closed.
The Downs is also a tough hike with several lengthy walks from green to tee so be prepared for this if carrying otherwise I would strongly suggest taking one of the funky custom-made ‘Woody’ buggies, based on the 1934 designed Brakenvan. The walk from the first green to the second tee is longer than the 202-yard par-three opener itself and this is probably the same for getting to the seventh tee following the 329-yard sixth! Making your way to the next tee on some of the early holes involves big climbs up the hillside too although the fantastic elevated drives that you play are definitely worth it; just make sure you get your breath back first.
The course features several fine holes and not a poor one amongst the entire eighteen. The second is a real stunner with a fairway that ends abruptly before you play to a green that although well below you is actually raised significantly from its surrounds. The third is a beautiful sweeping hole although a tree some 60-yards in front of the tee spoils it visually and could easily curtail a drive before it’s reached the top of its apex. Four and five continue through the valley and are both excellent and although I wasn’t personally a fan of the sixth it does offer up the chance of a rare birdie.
The course takes on an entirely different dimension from the seventh. The property is now much more open and there’s a lovely expansive feel to the subsequent holes before you return to lower ground to play the formidable 17th – a long par-three over water – and the demanding finishing hole; a 471-yard two-shotter!
The seventh is a wonderful sweeping hole played to a particularly small green especially considering the length of the hole. It is quickly followed by the impressive par-three eighth before holes nine and ten return us back to where we began via a couple of parallel two-shotters.
The course now ventures off into a loop where some of the holes are played in a different direction to what has gone before and the changes in elevation are particular pronounced through this excellent part of the property where there is a real variety in the type of holes we play. The 16th ends our interaction with the rolling downland as we gradually descend at this 599-yard par five.
This beautiful course has hosted golfing greats such as former Golf At Goodwood Ambassador Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Colin Montgomerie to name a few. You may need a members invite to play here but if that becomes a possibility I would suggest you grab it with both hands.
Following a 4:00am alarm call we’d already driven for more than six hours and covered over 350 road miles before boarding a ferry at Oban sailing to Lochboisdale.
The Halifax Golf Club, often better known as Ogden, is a course that divides opinion.