The clubhouse has a certain kerb appeal with the illusion of a large rear garden.
It was often the case that clubs were decimated by the loss of members in WWI.
Nearly lost in time, it is difficult to believe that Littlestone was once a premier club in England. At one time, then Prime Minister, HH Asquith served as Club Captain while the Leader of the Opposition, A Balfour was the Club President! HS Colt and the glamorous one club golfer come magician, Gloria Minoprio (whose famous outfit worn at the 1933 English Ladies Amateur is exhibited at the British Golf Museum) were on the club rolls. Not far from Romney Marsh, the course isn’t likely to be stumbled upon. The club and village take their name from stone markers placed to help navigate the Rother Estuary; Greatstone and Littlestone. Though one wouldn’t immediately guess it, Littlestone rests on reclaimed land which is now squeezed between housing. The course, originally built in 1888 to the design of Laidlaw Purves (who also designed the original course at Royal St Georges), grew with the coastal village which was founded as a resort for the well to do. Littlestone-on-Sea has an air of faded wealth and the attractive beach-front houses serve as a reminder of Victorian and Edwardian times when the area flourished.
In addition to Mr Purves, James Braid, Alister MacKenzie, Frank Pennink, Donald Steel and Peter Alliss all had a hand in the development of the course. It is clear that the pre- WWII bunker scheme has been drastically altered. Perhaps as many as 50 bunkers were removed and the variation in size greatly reduced. I wouldn't advocate for more bunkers, but I think varying sizes would help distinguish the holes from each other. One other aspect worth mentioning is the location of the 16th tee has been altered, making the left fairway bunker a red herring for all but the longest of hitters.
Situated on fine, well draining land, Littlestone has hosted many women’s championships including the 2005 British Ladies Amateur. In the past 30 or so years, the challenge Littlestone presents has been recognized by the R&A. Consequently, the course was selected as a site for Final Open Qualifying on several occasions. In a twist of fate, Littlestone hosted The President’s Putter in 1963 when Rye’s links were covered in snow.
The first is a fair enough starter, drivable, but dangerous for the player coming straight from the bar. I say dangerous because of the often cruel rough surrounding the fairways and some greens. Like many clubs, English Nature prohibits cutting rough in various places, however, I find it hard to believe the club actually cuts to the full extent allowed. This is a great shame because the design deserves to be fully appreciated.
The second also plays downwind. A burn and large dune cross the fairway. At one time the second was blind, but Dr Mac had the idea of cutting a gap of which I am indifferent. For mine, the course picks up on the third. The fairway is perhaps a bit narrow for a blind drive, but the second requires a precise long iron/wood.
#4 turns back toward the house and can play into a fierce wind. There is nothing terribly dramatic about the hole, but it isn't any the worse for that. A look at the green from the 5th tee. The links has an austere beauty which belies its location.
If one gets a good drive away, the three-shot fifth is reachable in two, but fairway bunkers are lurking for all manner of drives. The fine set of short holes opens its account on the 6th. Beyond the right bunker the green narrows down to make a rear hole location tough to access.
The next is another reachable in two par five. Dead straight, the 8th takes us to the far end of the property. If one senses that he had better make his score on these first eight holes he would be correct. Littlestone can play very tough from here to the house. Similar to Rye in spots, the fairway cut lines could do with some attention.
With the wind off the right, the ninth is cracking par 3.
A closer look at the precisely placed bunkers leaving just enough room to squeeze between.
More to follow.