Ashdown West is an amalgamation of the previously known West Course at Royal Ashdown Forest and its home society called Anderida Golfers. Anderida was founded in 1985 as the Ashdown Golf Society and was based at the Ashdown Hotel adjacent to the course. In 2003 they became recognised by England Golf. The society was made up of keen golfers who enjoyed the company of others for informal and competitive golf. The West Course was their home. In 2016 it was decided that Anderida would join Royal Ashdown to create Ashdown West, an informal club that offers the ethos of fun found within Anderida with the quality of the West Course (as recognised by Golf World) to the public at large with the best value golf in the area.
The West was once the longest ladies’ golf course in England. It was originally founded as the Ashdown Forest & Tunbridge Wells Ladies’ Golf Club in 1889, barely six months after the formation of the main club and was only the second of its type to be formed in Great Britain, after Sunningdale Ladies.
Upon the outbreak of the First World War, a huge training camp was established at Tompsetts Bank, at the top of Chapel Lane. The camp would process more than 30,000 men over the four years and prepare them for the battlefields of the Somme, Ypres and beyond. The then Ladies Course was restricted to only a few holes covering the area that is now the location of the holes 2-6.
The 500 horses and men were controlled from an HQ in Sycamore Cottage, Tompsetts Bank. They had to be trained for trench warfare and naturally ribbons of deep trenches sprang up across the Ashdown Forest. The scars from horse artillery movements ruined what would now be the 17th and 18th holes; these areas were abandoned until long after the war had ended.
Trenches were dug and huts erected on the land between the 7th and 15th holes, the results of which can still be seen today with the contouring of the land. In 1926, a stone monument was erected behind the 13th green in memory of the some 4,000 men from the camp who were killed in action. The War Memorial is still in situ and is appreciated by walkers and golfers to this day.
In 1932 the course was lengthened to 18 holes, the same year that the ladies’ club was awarded Royal status in its own right. Since then it has gone through a number of alterations and now welcomes players of both sexes yet still remains of sufficient quality to be awarded Golf World magazine’s prestigious accolade as the UK’s best course under 6,000 yards in 2013.
Former Ashdown member, golf architect and writer, Frank Pennink wrote of Ashdown West, “There are some really splendid holes and not a single poor one. To find a green demands often an exacting accuracy, but a green missed, a ball is generally easy to find, though not necessarily easy to put close to the hole.”
When Bernard Darwin first played the West, he forecast that the finishing hole would “Become famous, or even, in some jaundiced eyes, infamous, for it is a terrifying and magnificent hole. The obvious comparison is to some of the holes at Carnoustie, and particularly, perhaps, to the seventeenth. Just as the Barry Burn winds like a snake hither and thither, so does the pretty little stream at Ashdown lie in wait for us everywhere”.