One fine summer's day in 1926, the legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin sat on the terrace at Crowborough Beacon Golf Club and penned these simple words.
"The first thing that will strike the golfer who comes fresh to Crowborough is the wonderful view. I do not suppose there is a wider or more beautiful one in all England"
High praise indeed... Darwin continues...
"A great expanse of wooded, waving country rolls away to the blue line of the South Downs where on the horizon lies Eastbourne & Beachy Head, and westward towards Brighton and Worthing. On a clear day we may even see the sea, and with field glasses, the ships upon it. With the pink of the heather and the yellow of the gorse, and the green of the fairways winding up and downhill between them, it is one of the loveliest places to be seen anywhere"
These words will remind anybody who has had an enjoyable visit to Crowborough Beacon and, no matter how long ago, of the magnificent view from the terrace, or is it a balcony (as Darwin himself pondered ?!) some 725' above sea level. Darwin went on to describe the fine golf course...
"I only know one other course like it, the neighbouring Royal Ashdown Forest. Both are on an undulating stretch of heathery country, broken here and there by gullies and ravines with sometimes a stream running along the bottom. The ground slopes here and there rather steeply, which makes for fine, bold, picturesque shots from high tees. It also calls for accurate shot-making since the slopes "draw" the ball more than the stranger suspects, and the ball hit light-heartedly down the middle of the fairway, without sufficient calculation, is apt to end in the heather."
"The turf is admirable and there are no fierce slopes, but the forest has some subtle, elusive quality which makes a green look flat when it is not. There are all sorts of teasing and interesting little runs and borrows which are at first hard to see. The local player has an instinctive knowledge of them but the stranger will soon learn them, possibly by a round or two of rather daunting experience. But there is no doubt that the ball will go in if it be truly and bravely struck. The holes are extraordinarily characteristic and easy to remember, all of them possess some dramatic and memorable feature."
The ingenious Dr. Alister Mackenzie, famous for his work at Augusta, and other notable great courses of the world, added his distinctive stamp to an already outstanding stretch of land. Now, some 80 years later and well over a century since its inception, Crowborough Beacon has changed little and remains a truly fine golf course in a magnificent location.
As the history tells the student of the game of golf, many famous characters have played here down the ages. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle moved from his beloved Hindhead to become Captain of Crowborough in 1910. Many members of Parliament took the train down from Westminster to take in the bracing air on the links at Crowborough, "the Highlands of the South" some called it indeed the 6th hole is named "The Speaker" after Speaker Gully.
So as you draw near to the end of your round, which may be as memorable as Darwin's clearly was in 1926, you may recall these words which remain equally true to this day...
"The 16th brings an opportunity to the long bold driver who can hold his ball well up to the left. It also brings terror to him who tops for there is a gully to carry, and at the bottom of the gully, a stream called Slaughterham Ghyll, the scene of a once famous and bloody fight, so I am told, between the Revenue men and the smugglers. Finally, the home hole, a really difficult finishing hole with its carry over heather from the tee, and its narrow opening between bunkers, through which the perfectly struck second shot must be steered. And so we are at home again with the restful terrace – or is it a balcony (!) – close by, waiting to receive us and enjoy the view, as beautiful as ever."
The legendary Henry Cotton is captured, elegantly in time on the famous 5th hole, so reminiscent of the great 13th at Royal Ashdown just a few miles across the forest.
And of course other characters have trod the firm fairways over the years...