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  • Neil White

Crowborough Beacon

Its flame burned brightly for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but Crowborough Beacon’s golf course remains one of the best-kept secrets among England’s top 100.

Strangely, is not a point of interest listed on our car’s satellite navigation system and its address is Beacon Road but its entrance isn’t there.

And yet it should be trumpeted– because it has stunning holes and some of the best views of any inland course in the country.

We were pleasantly surprised that we could secure a Saturday morning tee time on such a beautiful September day but we were told half the members were away supporting their team at a prestigious county event.

After a pleasant chat in the pro’s shop and quick practice on the putting green, it was off to the first tee and the panorama across the Sussex Downs.

We were warned that there were only a couple of flat holes at Crowborough Beacon and the opener sets the trend – a downhill curving par-four. An accurate tee shot will leave a short iron approach but heather awaits those who leak drives to the left.

Across the road, the second is a belter. From the elevated tee, it bends to the right with a chasm covering the front and right entrances to the target.

Already our stamina and our knees were being tested by the dramatic undulations but there are also subtleties – notably on Crowborough Beacon’s greens where even the shortest putt needs to be paid respect.

The third – an uphill par-three - and fourth – a downhill short par-four - look benign but accuracy and fine judgment on the green will be required if good scores are to be achieved.

They were the gentle lead-in to the fifth where the adrenaline really kicks in and an oxygen cylinder would be handy.

This is a very steep par-four which demands a carry over a ravine before going sharply up to a green with a heather border to its right. This is not a hole for the unfit and Mrs W and I were blowing hard by the time we reached its peak.

This is followed by an intense par-three which curves around a crater down the left-hand side to a slippery target.

This tough stretch continues with par-five seventh with purple stuff encroaching from the right before a second over a heather-lined road.

I was thrilled with a par-four on the ninth which swings to the left around a copse before a green framed by a tree and heather on the right and bunkers on the left.

But I was on an even greater high when I nailed a birdie on the par-five tenth after a drive which bisected the trees on the left and trouble on the right and a second shot which weaved through sand traps.

My round seemed destined for glory at this stage but Crowborough Beacon had plenty of sting in its tail.

The 12th was a case in point – a long par four with an island of heather sowing a seed of doubt two-thirds of the way up the fairway.

The finest views are from the par -five 14th which is appropriately named rough.

Its drive is through an avenue of trees and over gorse while a decision has to me made over whether to try to carry an 80-yard stretch of heather on the way to a sunken green. I tried to be brave but ended up looking stupid.

It is followed by another par-four across a road and over an undulating fairway with bushes penalising those who drift to the left.

The final hole is another over heather before a long way up to a big green in front of the impressive-looking clubhouse.

By then, my hopes of a stellar round had slipped through my fingers but that will not prevent Crowborough Beacon from living in the memory.

At £65 with a county card, it was excellent value and certainly worth discovery.

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