Aldeburgh is a traditional golf club located near the sea, complete with white mast for flags, which you notice immediately when you arrive. The clubhouse has recently been refurbished and combines modern lounge and dining areas with more traditional oak-panelled rooms, which somehow works very well. Next to the clubhouse is a small but well-stocked pro shop and visitors receive a very warm welcome.
Although there is no range, there is a chipping and pitching area and 2 warm-up nets; a larger practice area is located some way from the clubhouse. You get a sense of what you are in for as soon as you get onto the putting green, which is hard and fast and from the first tee you see down three fairways: the 1st, 2nd and 9th which are all lined with gorse. Although it is officially a heathland course, it plays much more like a links than anything in Surrey or beyond and you would be hard pushed to feel which of it or Formby is the links course. The challenge ahead is reinforced by a look at the scorecard - it has a par of 68 but the SSS is 72 off whites. It may look short to the untrained eye, but make no mistake, this is a very tough golf course requiring good course management and all the clubs in the bag.
The first seven holes play over a hill on the western side of the property and uses it well with the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th playing up and down the hill and the 3rd, 5th and 6th playing across it. This makes for a good variety of holes and great views. The 4th is the signature hole, a stunning Par 3 that plays uphill to extremely long kidney-shaped green with a large bunker wrapping around the front and right hand side, lined with railway sleepers. Take a 3 and run.
The 9th is a shortish par 4, playing back to the clubhouse from an elevated tee, with pot bunkers down both sides, pinching in. The safe play is a mid/long iron taking no risk with the bunkers followed by a short iron. However, greed can really wreck your card here.
The back nine also has a little less elevation but I found it much tougher with the gorse seeming to creep closer towards the fairways. Like the front nine an iron or hybrid off the tee will serve you well on half the holes, including the 12th, a 300-yard gem of a hole. I also really like the 13th, a dog-leg left into the south-eastern corner of the property. The hole makes you want to take an aggressive line down the left side of the hole, flying the bunker protecting that side and hoping you don’t run out into another bunker 280yds away on the outside of the dog-leg. However, you really need to play to the right with a shorter club to open up the hole. Beware the run-off at the back-right of the green which is easy to take 3 or more from.
The course closes with some tough holes including the brutally-long Par 3 15th which requires an arrow-straight long-iron or fairway wood uphill, avoiding gorse and a deep bunker to the right. I am told this, and many other holes, have been made easier by taking the gorse back away from the green but it certainly felt claustrophobic to me.
To play well at Aldeburgh you really need you wits about you. The hardness of the ground requires you to play up to 3 clubs less than the yardage, landing it short of the green and letting it run onto the green. It is essential to plot your way round and accept some bad breaks or shots as it is a lot harder than it looks. If you do, and you enjoy links golf, Aldeburgh is a real treat and I highly recommend making the trip to play it. With the excellent Woodbridge 15 miles away I will be back to this region soon.
Date: April 30, 2019