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Sean_A

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CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land New
« on: August 16, 2017, 06:15:18 AM »
Crowborough lies 35 miles south of London in the High Weald of East Sussex.  There are essentially three zones to the land squeezed between the North and South Downs which is called the Weald.  For the purposes of golf it is the sandy soil of the High Weald which affords the best opportunities to build a memorable course.  Indeed, not far to the northwest is the famed Royal Ashdown Forest GC which enjoys much the same soil and hilly terrain.  Darwin described the terrain for both courses as “...an undulating stretch of heathery country broken here and there by gullies and ravines...”   That description remains apt, but I suspect far more trees litter the property today than in Darwin’s time!  Many trees and bracken will need to be removed to encourage heather restoration.   

Crowborough Beacon opened for play in 1895 as a nine hole course.  It is believed Dr A MacKenzie completed major improvement works to the course sometime in the early to mid 1920s.  As many as eight holes were altered and I wonder if the current 3rd and 4th holes were included.  The club believes not much has been altered in the past 90 years, but it is clear some bunkers have been removed.  The course is routed over Crowborough Common which is owned and managed by the club.  There is no right to roam freely over the common, but there are almost as many paths as fairways! 

There is quite a discrepancy between the nines with the front 9 being far away the better half and we get a taste of this quality on the 2nd.  Playing downhill and turning nearly 90 degrees right then over a gulley, this tricky hole must take its toll quite often. 


The short 3rd.


The 4th looks as if it is meant to play from near the 2nd tee.  This angle is quite awkward as the far side of the fairway is very reachable and so is the green.


Things start to go pear shaped on the awful 5th.  Looking back at the tee playing over low ground.


That said, the short 6th may be the best hole on the course....if the right bunker was re-instated.


The par five 7th is awkward in that the landing zones for the tee and second shots aren't fully visible.  The terrain pushes left, yet the hole moves slightly right.  When the hole was finished I thought it was very good...I didn't think so when playing the hole!  More evidence of bunker removal.




The course hibernates for several holes until we reach the 12th.  There is nasty pit blocking most of the fairway around 230 yards from the tee...a feature which is often used at Ashdown Forest, but in front of greens.  I spose good hitters will simply carry the trouble, many will have to judge the lay-up.




A par 3 follows.  The 14th isn't special except for the heather beaking the fairway in two and the run-way green.


A strong left to right cant is featured on 15.  I can only imagine how difficult that drive would be in keen conditions.  Playing over Slaughteham Ghyll, a curiously named stream, the 16th is a hole which modern equipment has spoiled.  These days its a bit of a dull down n' upper.  Playing uphill, the 17th is a decent par 3 which in no way prepares us for the monster home hole.   Uphill and 436 yards, this hole isn't so much good as a good walk spoiled. 

It doesn't happen very often, but I am afraid Crowborough Beacon wasn't in the least to my liking.  My over-riding impression is that I walked up and down hills for 4 hours with scant reward for my efforts.  Most of the holes are not even close to achieving distinction.  Crowborough Beacon, a common course on common land.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 16, 2020, 02:36:08 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Michael Whitaker

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2017, 07:15:48 AM »
Sean,


I have to agree with just about all of your assessment. The walk was very much up & down without benefit... and, my calves are still suffering from the required effort! There were a couple of holes that were puzzling, at best, in their design. I'm glad we visited Crowborough as it helps you appreciate a really good design when you see the difference.


Your appreciation for the sixth still baffles me a bit, but to each his own. I thought the ravine filled with bracken might as well be a water hazzard, with the "death penalty" the only option for missing left. I also thought the opening to the green was too severe and completely understand the removal of the fronting bunker as I'm sure the members wanted some reasonable chance to chase one in from the right.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2017, 07:23:01 AM by Michael Whitaker »
"Solving the paradox of proportionality is the heart of golf architecture."  - Tom Doak (11/20/05)

Scott Warren

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2017, 07:19:01 AM »
Wowee!  :o


That's a very certain review. I would have thought CB was the kind of course you'd have enjoyed, Sean.




Emil Weber

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2017, 08:07:39 AM »
Sean,
thanks for the tour! It can be refreshing when courses are critically reviewed, as opposed to always seeing only positive aspects. Slightly OT, but for the sake of discussion: I remember well when a few years ago, I randomly picked up a Gault Milleau and checked the review for a local restaurant which got bashed in there. I knew though that it's a very local, interesting, organic, "no bullshit" restaurant and thought it was an absolute shame to talk disrespectfully of what may not be 3* cuisine, but good & honest food. Different case here and absolutely not meant to be an offense, but the same could be said for golf courses. It looks like CB is on pretty fine land, doesn't possess obvious design sins, the sun shining, your clubs with you - perhaps no need to dislike the course?
The approach on hole 2 looks very interesting, but 90° doglegs can obviously be very awkward. As for hole 4, why is the angle awkward in your eyes? From the photo it looks like the slight angle being the only thing that makes the tee shot any interesting. 12 and 14 look like fine holes to me. Shouldn't a slightly downhill shot over heather with green sloing away (and right to left?) be quite in the GCAer's favour?
Cheers,
Emil

Giles Payne

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 08:38:04 AM »
I agree with your take on it Shaun.


I felt that as well as being an uninspiring layout, the course was let down by its conditioning. The greens seemed to be in need of several years of dethatching and large parts of the course showed signs of very damp vegetation. The course is at the top of the weald and I would not have thought that achieving adequate drainage would be too problematic.

Andy Levett

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2017, 12:27:32 PM »
I thought there was a decent course trying to get out from under all the vegetation.
Compare the 1937 pic (left) from the club's website of the 5th Sean disliked so much with the one from the present day.




The sixth could be a terrific par 3 if there was the possibility for a heroic recovery from a miss short rather than the certainty of a lost ball due to all the bracken and other rubbish.
Similarly, the trees on the corner of the 2nd have transformed a Cape carry over heather into a near 90 degree dogleg with limited options.
Many inland courses from the era can be quite a tough walk, perhaps archies back then were more tolerant of a little climbing if the pay-off was bold landforms not easily created with the machinery available to them back then?

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2017, 01:30:36 PM »
Emil

The 4th cants down the hill, but turns left.  It just looks like it was meant to be played to from near the 2nd green.  I could well be wrong though.

I disliked the combo of the hilly terrain and indifferent design.  I don't think CB is an awful course, just not one worth traveling any distance to play.  As my recommendations are based on travel time/hassle, CB just doesn't make the mark.  I am not a huge fan of nearby Ashdown Forest, but it knocks the stuffing out of CB and that is over very similar terrain.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark_Rowlinson

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2017, 01:43:10 PM »
Sean,


I'm disappointed that you liked CB less than I did, but I played it years ago when I had less of an appreciation of GCA. In those days I didn't object to the hill climbing - no doubt I would agree with you more today. I think it was partly the setting that did it for me. It is a very special place (and clubhouse) and the Conan Doyle connection adds something for me. I love the way the course keeps crossing roads and tracks - like Liphook and Hankley (Hilversum, too, for that matter). You meet people out on their horses or walking their dogs.


But, back to the course. I'm sorry you didn't appreciate the 2nd. It must have sprouted trees since my day. It used to be one of the best par 4s of all. I'm also sorry you didn't appreciate the 6th. It's a famed hole and one sees why. I couldn't play it today, but I used to be able to, a long iron slightly right of centre simply to avoid all that rubbish low down on the left. I played the hole twice and on both occasions got a par, so I have no complaints about its fairness or otherwise.


I do appreciate what you do in these reports and it is not for me to shoot you down. Keep up the good work!

mike_malone

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2017, 08:36:08 PM »
 I think playing Knole Park the day before was an apt comparison. Both courses went up and down the hills. Both were less ambitious in architecture and conditioning than Swinley Forest the day before.
Crowborough was substantially less appealing to me and my traveling companion than Knole.
For me it was the annoying evergreens which choked a few holes and the conditions on the greens.
AKA Mayday

James Brown

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2017, 10:03:38 PM »
Looks pretty darn nice to me.  But maybe I have low standards.  I walks amongst that kid of ground looks really enjoyable. 

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2017, 02:40:00 AM »
Sean,


I'm disappointed that you liked CB less than I did, but I played it years ago when I had less of an appreciation of GCA. In those days I didn't object to the hill climbing - no doubt I would agree with you more today. I think it was partly the setting that did it for me. It is a very special place (and clubhouse) and the Conan Doyle connection adds something for me. I love the way the course keeps crossing roads and tracks - like Liphook and Hankley (Hilversum, too, for that matter). You meet people out on their horses or walking their dogs.


But, back to the course. I'm sorry you didn't appreciate the 2nd. It must have sprouted trees since my day. It used to be one of the best par 4s of all. I'm also sorry you didn't appreciate the 6th. It's a famed hole and one sees why. I couldn't play it today, but I used to be able to, a long iron slightly right of centre simply to avoid all that rubbish low down on the left. I played the hole twice and on both occasions got a par, so I have no complaints about its fairness or otherwise.


I do appreciate what you do in these reports and it is not for me to shoot you down. Keep up the good work!

Mark

2 & 6 were two holes I did like!  Both could be improved with tree removal and bunker replacement, but they are still good holes. 

Whitty

I don't know what it is you expect from a par 3.  The 6th offers two thrilling options...how often can that be said for short holes?

Andy

I agree the 5th looks loads better with trees removed.  But it is really the upslope on the far side of the valley which I don't like.  This is another hole where the flat belly who can carry the ball 260+ has a huge advantage....I have grown less keen on this sort of obvious advantage architecture.  I understand when the hole was built nearly everybody suffered the same fate of the steeply uphill approach, so perhaps technology has dimmed the merits of the hole somewhat.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Mark Pearce

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2017, 03:10:38 AM »
Someone in our group commented that a flat belly would probably just drive the green on 5, possibly with a 3 wood, so it's an entirely different hole for them than those of us who land it just short or just past the road.  Anyway, it's a horrible slog of a hole to walk.  A contender for the worst hole I have played this year.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

James Boon

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Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2017, 06:58:01 PM »
It would appear I liked Crowborough more than most of you on the recent visit? Sure its not the greatest and I like Sean's expression for the stretch from 8 to 11 that it "hibernates" but there was some very good golf out there on tricky terrain.


I see most dont like the uphill 5th. Ben, Robin and I decided to play it from the white tees. Further back but higher up, so wonder if it felt less of a slog not playing from down the bottom which is where I think the yellow tees were?


Cheers,


James
2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: CROWBOROUGH BEACON GC: A Common Course On Common Land
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2017, 03:19:40 AM »
Boonie

We weren't in a position to move forward on 5 because of the carry. Did your lot clear the hill?

I didn't dislike CB, but I didn't think it was as good as many more convenient courses around Brum that I would rather play.  Its a question of hassle.  Would I recommend someone spend 5 hours on the road to play CB...no.  CB is a local course like the vast majority of courses on the planet....its alright...serves a purpose, but don't take a day off work  8).

Ciao

New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

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