During my recent trip to England I visited the county of Suffolk. Not normally associated with great golf, Suffolk has a lot to offer, with beautiful countryside, quaint little villages and great local cuisine.
Located on Englands east coast, Suffolk is bordered to the south by Essex, Norfolk to the north and Cambridgeshire to the west. To the east is the North Sea and the Netherlands. Suffolk is easily reached by air, road and sea, with Stenaline operating two daily services from the Hoek van Holland to Harwich. By air Stansted, Norwich and London Southend Airport all offer good connections to the region. And lastly Ipswich is about a two hour drive from the Eurotunnel.
We traveled by ferry which was a very relax way to go, with most of the trip happening when you're asleep. After boarding around 8pm it gave us just enough time to enjoy a bite to eat and a drink in the bar, which closed at 11pm. We retired to bed and a good nights sleep, which is smart since the ferry arrives in Harwich at 6:30 in the morning. Early, but perfect for a full day of golf.
First up on our agenda was Woodbridge Golf Club. A heathland course on a wooded and undulating site. Highlighted by some wonderful par threes the course requires precise shotmaking to avoid the trouble lurking outside the fairway. Like many of the courses in the area Woodbridge has an extra 9 hole course (Forrest Course) which is a fabulous extra to round off a day.
The afternoon round was at Felixstowe Golf Club, which is Suffolk’s only links course. Famous for its association with the legendary golf writer Bernard Darwin (nephew of Charles Darwin) who learnt to play the game over the Felixstowe course. The club was founded in 1880 and the course has two distinct characters. On the eastern side of the Ferry Road, which is the main road that splits the course in two, are the links holes and on the western side the holes are more parkland in style.
The links holes are fabulous, but the hole I found particularly memorable was the par three 12th which is played over the main road. The hole takes some nerve to play, especially with an approaching school bus in sight. Upstairs in the clubhouse are several self- catering apartments for hire which are perfect for small groups.
Day two started out with Ipswich Golf Club, a classic heathland course built over rolling Suffolk countryside. The club was founded in 1895 and played over the Rushmere Heath until 1926 when the club moved to the current location on Purdis Heath. The new course was designed by the legendary James Braid, who not only won the Open Championship 5 times but also designed over 200 courses in Britain and Ireland. Ipswich Golf Club is reminiscent of the great Surrey & Berkshire heathland courses with similar elevation changes and abundance of heather. There are too many good holes to mention, but the two that stand out in my memory are the par four 4th hole with its blind 2nd shot played downhill into a valley with the green at the bottom. And the 125 meter par three 15th hole which crosses the same valley but from the other side. (see photo above)
The 2nd round of the day was at Aldeburgh Golf Club, a traditional members club with a two ball only policy. Located just 1 km from the sea, the course is classified as maritime heathland. The original club was founded in 1884, but many people had their hand in designing the course including Willie Park jnr, JH Taylor and later Harry Colt with Hugh Alison. The course plays very much like a links, and features beautiful fescue & bent grass fairways and greens that play firm & fast all year round. Most holes are lined with gorse bushes but the playing corridors are fairly wide. When attacked from the proper angles, the greens are challenging but manageable. At 5943 meters and par 68 with no par 5’s it is a stern test and in fact is a great place for match-play where par doesn’t really matter.
Day 3 began with Thorpness Golf Club & Hotel. Not as undulating as the other heathland courses in the area, Thorpness provides a wonderful journey through the Suffolk landscape. Keep your ball in play and you will love this delightful course also designed by James Braid.
Thorpness also has lovely lodge style accommodation that is ideal for a short break and perfectly situated to play the best courses in the region. The club’s restaurant & bar has great food on offer and a very cosy atmosphere to boot.
Last on our trip was Aldeburgh Golf Club's ‘River Course’, a shorter 9 hole course, ideal for some extra golf after already having played 18 holes or as a warm up before hitting the main course. Either way, it’s a relaxed place to enjoy a quick 9 holes and enjoy the stunning views over the river Alde.
After three wonderful days of golf we made our way back to the ferry that leaves Harwich at 11pm. The next morning we arrived back in Hoek van Holland at 8am.