Golf Life: Hidden Depths

PUBLISHED: 13:40 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:12 20 February 2013

Golf Life: Hidden Depths

Golf Life: Hidden Depths

Clive Agran is touring Sussex golf courses. This month it is the turn of the famous West Sussex club, near Pulborough

A GLORIOUS heathland course at the foot of the South Downs comes as something of a pleasant surprise to first-time visitors to West Sussex Golf Club. Built on sand, it drains wonderfully well and is eminently playable throughout the winter.

With pines, silver birch and a rich assortment of towering trees set well back from the fairways, Pulborough, as it is popularly known, creates the misleading impression that its quite wide and open. Heather, which dazzles at the height of summer, is the often hidden danger that puts a premium on accuracy. Tangle with it at your peril.

Not long by modern standards, the course is entitled to defend itself and, as well as the menacing heather, there are numerous bunkers. Filled with fine white sand extracted from a pit close to the second tee, they are best avoided. Although theres not much water, a large lake dominates the 226-yard, par-three 6th, which frequently features in favourite hole collections.

Opened in April 1931 by multiple ladies champion Joyce Wethered, who became a member, the course was the brainchild of Commander George Hillyard, a Wimbledon finalist in 1889 whose house is close to the 6th and 7th holes. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, was the clubs first President. Sussex and England cricket captain, AER Gilligan was the second and another England cricket captain, Peter May, was a member.

The splendid and comfortable clubhouse was originally designed and built so that, if the course proved to be a failure, it could be converted into a private dwelling. The closest it came was during the Second World War when it was occupied by the Canadian Air Force and the practice ground became a busy air-strip.

Very traditional, West Sussex is a two-ball club where only singles and foursomes can be played. Visitors are most welcome every day except Friday, which is reserved for members.

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