Golf is a sport that could have been invented for social distancing.  So, it’s no coincidence that up and down the country it has been booming in the plague year of 2020.  

That is certainly so for local golf clubs at Beauport Park and Sedlescombe. Both are under recent changes of management, and for the incoming operators the stop-start changes of Covid-19 regulation this year will have been challenging at best. The sport was halted altogether for seven weeks between March and May; resumed, albeit largely shorn of hospitality aspects, for five and a half months till November; halted for a second lockdown of four weeks; resumed again this month.

But both clubs have been taking the opportunity, in different ways, to improve their offering for the eventual return to more normal conditions.

Ninth hole at Beauport Park
PICTURE: Mihnea Chiuia

Beauport improvements

At Beauport, the bar and other hospitality facilities were already inoperative after the collapse of the previous management, and remain in need of wholesale renovation. However, the tending of the playing surface of the course, both greens and fairways, has benefited from modernised equipment and improvements to drainage. With both membership and green fees lower than for any other course in Hastings or Rother, and enthusiastic welcome given to pay-as-you play visitors, footfall on the main course, on the driving range and on the pitch-and-putt facility has increased substantially. 

While Sedlescombe is not a ‘members’ club’ in terms of ownership, there is a settled policy that ‘members come first’

Three miles away cross-country, the Sedlescombe club had already embarked on a major facelift when Covid struck, with clubhouse facilities being expanded to include a hospitality terrace where the topmost putting green used to be, and development of a new chipping area.  The course too, though always well-maintained, has been upgraded with new ditches and tees installed and the lay-out has been imaginatively re-ordered.

9th becomes 18th

When it was first designed 30 years ago, the course offered nine holes only. The 9th hole, a dog-leg par four, requiring a long downhill drive followed by a pitch over two small lakes to the green, was the most scenic. But when the course was expanded to 18 holes in the following decade, this signature hole came halfway through a full round, while the 18th hole, a dog-leg par five, left players departing the final green with a 300-yard haul back home amidst vehicular traffic. Now the 9th has become the new 18th, the new 9th (previously the 15th) is reached at the far corner, and players are no longer offered the option of nine holes only. If this is a problem for older players, for juniors, or just for those who have less than four-hour time windows to play a full round, there is the option of a 12-hole round or, alternatively, diversion to the excellent nine-hole par-3 course alongside.

Paul Nessling, new head pro (see adjacent feature), says that around 200 new members have joined the Sedlescombe club since May and, while it is not a ‘members’ club’ in terms of ownership, there is a settled policy that “members come first”. Members are offered priority tee-off times, regular demo days for new equipment and favourable pricing (matching online competition) in the pro shop.

The ambition of the new owners, Phil and Leigh Copolo, who took over just a year ago, is to make the club “the best in the area”.  A major tournament, the Sussex PGA, is due to be held there for the first time in June 2021.  

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