SOUTHWICK PARK GC REVIEW
Michael Rees - Chief Features Writer - Thursday, 27 December, 2012
A hugely successful operation that began the ultimate downfall of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.
The idea of using the land around Southwick House for recreational purposes was first mooted in 1965, the Royal Navy already had golf courses in Hong Kong and Singapore, but it was not until 1974 that Hampshire County Council gave formal approval to the Admiralty Board to proceed with the construction of a golf course on the Hundred Acres, following an application by the Royal Navy Golf Society.
Money for the project was donated by the Wardrooms of the Fleet, the Royal Navy Golf Society and The Sailor's Fund to help develop the golf course for the naval recreation club.
The clubhouse appeared first. It was opened in September 1976 by Admiral Lewin.
After a sustained period of work, the course itself was finally opened on 1st April 1977, a course to compliment the Hampshire golfing scene designed by golf course architect Charles Lawrie, who also designed the Dukes and Duchess courses at Woburn.
Prior to the construction, the land had been used as a dairy farm, so it was no surprise that the cream came to the top.
When the club opened the joining fee was £ 55, the same as the Annual Subscription.
From the beginning there was a strong naval influence, the first club Captain was Commander B C Froyston, and those links remain to this day, serving naval personnel can still play the course at beneficial rates, a privilege earned and fully justified.
There have been some very famous sailors who have graced the greens, including royalty, for Prince Andrew, a keen golfer, played on several occasions when he was serving.
Although the history is very important, it is in today's climate that the club continues to flourish. Since those heady days in 1977, the course has matured and developed into one of the finest in Hampshire.
It is not long at just under 6000 yards, but with a par of 69 and with a premium placed on good course management, it requires to be played strategically to score well, for there are several card wreckers in the eighteen holes. Head Greenkeeper Nick Beadle and his team ensure that the course is in good condition throughout the year, with a well deserved reputation for good fast greens.
The improvements in the course have been the consequence of well directed long term planning, thanks to a committee with foresight and influenced by a sound management. However, change also requires the active participation of the membership, and they have embraced the changes with enthusiasm.
The club has set out to encourage younger members, with relaxation of dress rules. It was pointed out to me recently that we no longer play in Jackets, ties and plus fours with hickory clubs, it is just the clubhouse that has lagged behind in the changes, a view difficult to refute.
Especially when here it has been accomplished so successfully.
Southwick Park is out to test you from the first hole, a longish par 4, with Out of Bounds, bunkers and an open ditch just short of the green, and a par will be welcome opener.
The short second was toughened with the addition of a new bunker on the right of the green , so the third will offer a little relief, downhill to a narrow green it is still a birdie opportunity.
The fourth is the signature hole, Wallington is a tough par 4, which doglegs left, has OOB left and the River Wallington running across just short of the green, a green which is noted for three putt victims.
The fifth and sixth should help the card, before the 7th, aptly christened Lily Pond, a testing short hole with a pond to the front, followed by a deep grassy hollow which appears to make the hole shorter, and Southwick Lake to the right, two chances to find a watery grave.
The 8th follows the contour of the lake, and as the name implies the chance to watch the grebe diving as you walk along, following the curve gently round to the right, a drive which avoids the bunkers will leave a good approach to the two tiered green.
The drive is of paramount importance on the last of the front nine, a dogleg left with a stream and a narrow approach through the gap in the trees, a par is a good reward on one of the best holes on the course.
The completion of the front nine, a mixture of birdie chances, picturesque par threes that can cause havoc, and an absence of par fives, most unusual in the modern era, but nine holes that will leave a smile if the handicap has been beaten.
Start the back nine with a Gamble, for that is the title of the 10th, a seemingly innocuous hole that oft causes havoc, for the decision is whether to attempt the carry over the ditch, prudence suggests otherwise, and a lay up is favourite.
So to the first par five, and a tough challenge into the prevailing wind - a par will be a good entry on the card, for the green has a narrow entrance, and is tricky to read.
After the short par three 12th and the second par five, it is time for the Lakeside, not difficult to see how this hole got its name, for the lake runs all along the side of fairway, which has drops in elevation, before the green and the huge horseshoe shaped bunker, a sign of good luck, apt if you miss getting into it.
The 15th is a hole that is easy to remember, a short hole with a tiered green and a backdrop of the old Priory ruins, too long and the OOB lies in waiting.
The finishing stretch will test the mettle, over the terrace on the 16th, to a green which offers an excellent view of Southwick House, then a tough long par three, before the finishing hole Royal Oak.
A drive through two huge trees into the dip, then a far from easy approach, particularly from a sloping lie, and a par finish will be a good result.
A course that is a good examination, where course strategy will yield good results and the driver is often better left in the bag.
On a June day, with a blue sky and the sun glistening on the lake, enjoyment is a given status, even if the course has been the winner.
The odd birdie soothes the ire after visiting the water.
It is good to report that the investment in the course has paid real dividends.
The planning of the improvements and the enthusiasm of all the team have concentrated the attention on getting the very best course possible.
It is in first class condition, with fine greens, and it is no surprise that it is a favoured venue for societies and visiting golfers.
Manager Steve Searle has played a major role in ensuring that the welcome and enjoyment adds to the day.
A full diary, with many returning groups, is always testimony not only to a good course, but a friendly environment.
In the current climate it has been a challenge not only to attract visitors, but also new members.
Innovative strategies and ideas have yielded very positive results, in particular the new Flexible membership has attracted members of all age groups.
A basic fee of £ 250, provides full membership (less for Service Personnel), then it is ten pounds per round to play.
There is no joining fee, and it is possible to play at any time Monday to Friday, and after 10.00 on Saturday and Sunday.
There is no restriction to playing competitions, and a handicap can be established and maintained.
A real flexible friend, and one that has brought in over sixty new members. Ring to savour a courtesy round and see at first hand the quality of the venue.
The club professional is Eddy Rawlings, not only a very successful player, but a teacher with world wide experience at the highest level.
He has worked with David Leadbeater and Gregor Jamieson in the States, and top names in the UK. He brings a wealth of knowledge for the benefit of the members, and with a superb driving range and an ever popular short course set up, all the ingredients are in place for some serious game improvement.
Eddy also serves as the county coach, instructing at the Hampshire School of Excellence.
The clubhouse has that homely feel as soon as you enter, and with items of interest all around it is the ideal time to savour the surroundings as you enjoy the refreshment after the round.
Black & white photographs of the late King George and Queen Elizabeth golfing in Scotland, and more recent ones of Prince Andrew adorn the walls, and the view looking out across to Portsdown Hill and the surrounding countryside is superb.
It is always a pleasure to visit and play Southwick Park, and manager Steve Searle will be happy to receive enquiries at any time.
For the computer addicts, there is a first class website with all the information, and a full hole by hole description of all the delights waiting the golfer. A personal favourite that is always enjoyable.
Telephone 02392 380131