The changing coastal winds that make Whitstable and Seasalter’s nine holes a challenging round whatever time of year have swept into the 19th in the shape of a stylish and spacious new clubhouse.
The bungalow-style predecessor, extended over the decades, has made way for a distinguished, energy efficient building housing a fine bar, spacious lounge, restaurant and events facilities plus premier quality changing rooms from Crown Sports Lockers that all serve to heighten the golfing experience for all standards of player.
Whitstable lies on the north-east coast of Kent, just along from Reculver village, where the Barnes Wallis `Bouncing Bomb` was tested before 617 Squadron dropped it on Germany’s Ruhr reservoir dams in the WW11 Dambusters raid.
The town’s renowned Native Oysters, collected since Roman times from beds lying beyond tidal low water mark, graced many a fine restaurant, while the Saxons produced salt here.
Once a manor owned by the church, Seasalter suburb lies at the west end of the town, lending its name to the golf club, which opened in 1911 and quickly drew local attraction.
Many a golfer may think low scoring looks easy at Whitstable and Seasalter, which plays to 5,300 yards over 18 holes. However, this well-bunkered links course, proves as tricky a prospect as many longer, more closely sand-trapped ones, thanks to blustery winds and the accuracy required to shoot the flags.
Lack of greens hazards makes it extremely difficult to judge the strength required for any approach shot, the club declares, while the springiness of the fairways makes the course play far longer than the card would indicate.
“There is little run on the drive except in the driest weather during summer,” the club website states, adding: “Accuracy is of far greater importance at Seasalter than mere strength.”
This is a busy, friendly private members club, currently running nearly 400 members, who can enjoy a spread of golfing activity. Ladies play on Tuesday mornings, with social golf on Thursdays.
There’s an active Mid Weekers schedule, Sunday competitions and plenty of opportunity for the burgeoning juniors section on summer Monday evenings, social golf on Tuesday evenings during BST and club matches, not to mention the captains’ charities. Over-60s members qualify for the Old Salts, who play on Thursday mornings and a club team competes in the Kent Veterans League.
After a four-year project, begun following sale of a tiny parcel of land to facilitate planning permission to complete the initiative, the clubhouse opened last February to wide acclaim for its architectural merit, before Covid lockdown cruelly slammed the doors shut.
The clubhouse design was by Keith Cattrell in conjunction with the club, and was progressed to the construction phase under quantity surveyors Cyril Orchard Group.
“The club appointed our building surveying department to carry out the contract administrator’s role of the construction phase to completion,” says Cyril Orchard project lead Phil Reddecliffe, “working with contractors Abbotts Construction.
“The clever, stylish design features a large glazed frontage facing west and overlooking the course,” he continues. “The result is that the building maximises natural light levels, even through the winter months. High ceilings, including in the changing rooms, also contribute to the spacious feeling throughout.”
Choice of locker supplier fell to clubhouse Project Director Malcolm Kent.
“We browsed various websites and contacted a local furniture maker for samples but these were not to our liking,” Malcolm explains. “Crown looked the standout supplier and we invited the company in to work directly with us.
“Selecting the appropriate number of lockers for both the men’s and ladies changing rooms was a key requirement to enable us to reduce our waiting list – so too was not compromising the size of each locker.”
Made in Britain manufacturer Crown Sports Lockers has been fitting out private proprietary golf clubs for nearly 30 years and selects timber only from sustainably managed sources (it is FSC certified), a commitment that chimes with the Whitstable clubhouse’s green credentials.
Matching full height light oak lockers feature in both changing rooms all handcrafted in-house within Crown’s state of the art factory, the shaker style locker doors are assembled with selected solid oak and oak veneer timber with flush veneer central door panels within a solid timber joinery frames. The locker bodies are manufactured using Egger 18mm oak woodgrain MFC board with ABS edging. Standard key-operated cam locking delivers a smoothly streamlined finish and appearance.
Each locker includes an internal holdall compartment above the main hanging space and shoe storage below to fully meet golfers storage needs, as does integral upholstered locker seating and robe-hanging space – the female changing also fitted with two central freestanding benches and robe hanging.
“Crown proved to be very helpful throughout the whole process,” Malcolm notes. “Their drawings were first class and they were always available by phone to answer any queries we had prior to build.”
On a slightly tongue in cheek note, when lockdown and tiered restrictions lift, Whitstable & Seasalter’s changing rooms may also fulfil another, wholly different critical function – one reflecting the demands of modern living.
Club rules forbid use of mobile phone calls in the clubhouse, on the patio facing the 1st/10th tee and 9th green, and out on course.
“Silent browsing of texts and emails is permitted within the clubhouse,” the rules state, however those with the urge to talk into their mobiles may seek the haven of the changing rooms, where they can indulge their habit.
Modernising Whitstable & Seasalter is timely indeed, taking advantage of the transformation of this stretch of Kent coastline to attract an increasingly affluent catchment, who can pit their golfing wits against a compact though challenging course overlooking the sea.
“We attract members from quite a distance away,” Andy confirms, “and the closure of a local course also helped us swell numbers.”
Landscaping the clubhouse perimeter will complete the redevelopment, Andy says. Now attention turns to the course itself, which was recovered from salt marsh near the coast more than a century ago.
“The course boundary lies only 40 yards from the sea and at high tide you can hear the waves crashing on to the shore near the colourful beach huts that back on to the course.”
A raised footpath runs across the course, linking the beach to the town, Andy reveals, while the main train line to London passes along its perimeter.
“We’d love to develop the course as the fairway soil is pretty much that from 100 years ago. Fortunately we have plenty of drainage and ditches to channel water away and keep the course playable.”
“Crown proved very helpful from the initial contact to project signoff. The quality of the lockers and the expertise of the fitters were both excellent. From start to finish the company was a pleasure to work with.
Whitstable & Seasalter Golf Club
My signature hole
Club communications director Andy Selwood is a longstanding member of the club. “I’ve been playing here for 20 years now, after moving up from Cornwall originally, then London, he explains.
“The Par 4 fifth hole at 446 yards is long for a nine-hole course and the hardest on the course. It shares its green with the 6th, the shortest hole, and the double green is the most contoured on the course, with a large hogsback spine, splitting it into the two separate sides of this hole, with its many humps and hollows.”