The Takeaway: Could be the most challenging par 68 on planet earth. Harry Colt's first design features rippled fairways, engaging terrain, and punishing rough to deal with while playing one of the better collections of par 4s you can find. Grade A-
Designer: Harry S. Colt 1894 (Tom Simpson 1932 and Guy Campbell 1938)
Cost: £175 Click for current rates
Phone Number: +44 1797 225241
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Rye Golf Club (Old)'s official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - Camber Road, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7QS – UNITED KINGDOM
What to Expect: The famous Harry S. Colt's very first design, Rye is a golf club built around match play. In fact, the predominant form of play is foursomes (alternate shot) with three and fourball games generally not permitted at all. During a foursome match you'll generally find the tee player's teammates birddogging on dunes in order to keep an eye on shots that can be blind from further back. It keeps the pace rolling faster than two players hitting their own balls all round long. Tee times are not assigned and you better get around the course in less than 3.5 hours to maintain the standards of the club. The course plays to a par of 68 and stands as one of the most demanding sub-70 par courses in the world. In fact, the slope value on the scorecard is notoriously low at Rye and plays a good 20 points more difficult than the number indicates. The opening par five is the only three-shotter on the course and is the first of three average holes before the course really takes off and starts delivering some top shelf hole designs. The dunes throughout create both character in the layout and creates terrain that is ideal for a links course. The sea comes into view a handful of times throughout the round, but it is the less heralded Jubilee course that is granted the land along the beach and thus the superior interaction with the salt water. Dress codes can be strict at old school clubs in the UK, and Rye is no different. If you want to play in shorts, they must be tailored and your socks will need to be knee length with a turnover top and white in color. Ultimately, the Old course at Rye is a delightfully difficult course to tee it up on with a firm grasp on the traditions of yesteryear.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 13th Hole – 433 Yard Par 4 – As is often the case in Europe and rarely the case in America, Rye's best and most memorable hole features a blind shot. A superb Alps design, the semi-blind tee shot plays to a fairway angling up and to the left away from the player before setting up the approach shot over the Alps. A black and white aiming pole on top of the hill and placed between the two fairway bunkers marks the line to the green. The putting surface is devoid of bunker protection so there is extra forgiveness offered on this totally blind approach set at the base of the dune that runs west to east. Since foursomes (alternate shot) is the common format played at Rye, it is common to see teammates run to the top of the Alps to watch the approach shots come into the green.
Best Par 3: 7th Hole – 158 Yards – Playing southeast off the tee with the prevailing wind helping carry the ball, the 7th is an attractive hole with two bunkers protecting the front and while the sloping edges defend the rest of the putting surface. The green has twice as much depth as it does width, so accuracy is key when riding the wind and if you can land it a few paces onto the putting surface you'll be in good shape to attack most hole placements. Missing the green here doesn't have many savory outcomes, so do everything to find the putting surface with your first swing.
Best Par 4: 6th Hole – 468 Yards – The most memorable tee shot on the course is clearly the one found here on the lengthy 6th hole. Drives must clear the large dune looming in front of players which effectively creates a blind shot which is aided only by the lone aiming pole on the hill. Much more forgiveness is offered on the left side of the pole, particularly downwind, as the fairway angles down and away to the left after cresting the high point of the dune. A 350 yard poke could find the fairway bunker on the far side of the short grass, but that won't be a factor for most players unless the course is playing particularly firm. The approach shot plays to a circular green and needs to thread the four teardrop bunkers protecting the front corners of the putting surface. Ascending up the dune and discovering your ball on the fairway well below you is an unmatched thrill on the front nine.
Best Par 5: 1st Hole – 482 Yards – This is the first course I recall playing where the opening hole was a par five, and it would end up being the only three-shotter on the course. Measuring out under 500 and playing downwind on a firm and fast course, it feels more like a strong par four than it does a par five. As such, the opening hole doubles as one of the best birdie opportunities on the course and one you should take advantage of because plenty of bogies await. The bunkerless hole features thick foliage down the left side that can quickly lead to a lost ball on the opening tee, so favoring the right side near the dune line is the desirable play. The inviting opening to the green should promote confidence and aggressive play, so don't hesitate to get after it and go under par on this opener.
Birdie Time: 9th Hole – 301 Yard Par 4 – Though it plays back into the prevailing wind, a par four tipping out at 301 yard should still have players licking their chops for an opportunity to card a birdie. This hole boasts a design feature that I really like; a fairway that turns one way with terrain that wants to work your ball the opposite way. In the case of the 9th hole, the fairway turns right while the terrain falls off to the left; so taking a line dead at the flag is generally a prudent approach. If you can reach the green you will obviously be richly rewarded, but even coming up short should leave you in good shape as your ball tumbles to the left and leaves a straight uphill chip at the green. The setting and setup of this hole is top notch and a brilliant way to conclude the front nine.
Bogey Beware: 15th Hole – 464 Yard Par 4 – 464 grueling yards into the prevailing wind and a fairway as choppy as the Atlantic Ocean awaits on the 15th at Rye. The wide bunker-free fairway should instill some confidence, but with an even lie nowhere in sight and trouble framing each side of the short grass, confidence can fade quickly standing on the tee. Confusion continues to flow at the golfer as they decide how to attack the approach; do you fly it in and risk catching a downslope on one of the "waves" in front of the green or do you play a low runner in hopes of judging the firmness correctly? Regardless of how you tackle this whole, walking away with a 5 bares no shame.