Lost LITTLESTONE Golf Club
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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. Situated on fine, well draining land, Littlestone has hosted many women’s championships including most recently in 2005, the 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 four occasions. In a twist of fate, Littlestone hosted The President’s Putter in 1963 when Rye’s links were covered in snow.
Holes to Note:
The 6th is the first of several good short holes. If playing down the prevailing wind it can be all a golfer can handle to hold the green.
The 8th takes us to the far end of the property to a well guarded green. 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.
One will soon discover that the reason the back nine is so much more difficult than the front is due to the constant pressure of crosswinds. From the 9th, the course essentially zigzags back and forth for seven holes. With the wind off the right the 9th is a cracking long par 3. There is just enough room to squeeze by bunkers up the right.
#10 works gracefully around a large dune protecting slightly sunken green.
Finally, at the 16th the cross wind abates. All the golfer faces now is a headwind! Most golfers would have already cracked under the strain. For those who persevere two of the best holes in links golf await. The long two-shot 16th was the model for CB Macdonald’s Channel Hole (Lido’s 4th – which no longer exists). Sadly, the hole as originally conceived no longer exists, yet what remains is a very good by any standard. The fairway bends left around a red herring bunker then heads uphill over cranky ground to a plateau green. #17 is equally as difficult as the previous hole. Playing to a plateau green some 175 yards away can seem like a bus ride at times, but MacKenzie’s creation has stood the test of time.
For those who make the trip to Littlestone, they will be well rewarded with a difficult, but fine day of golf. It can also be noted that three holes are All England candidates; 9, 16 & 17.
Not more than a 20 minute drive is one of the truly iconic links of England; Rye GC.