Six founding members met on 8 January 1889 to form what was originally known as The Waveney Valley Golf Club, with entrance fees set at ten shillings and sixpence for the first fifty members and eleven shillings for the others. A 9-hole course was quickly brought into play but two years after the club’s formation James Braid was called in to double the size of the layout.
Authors John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming in their book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses take up the story in this edited extract: “the original course was nine holes, designed by Willie Fernie. During the years 1889-1900, one new hole was created, a long hole was split into two the second time around, and seven alternative tees were built.
Following the arrival of Braid, nine of the ten greens remained and he added another nine. In a general reconstruction adding some 700 yards, he kept six of the original names, dispensed with three, and the club invented twelve more. Of these, seven are in use today. Gorse partly determined the layout of the course, though today’s course is more compact as the gorse has been severely cut back.
The terrain is basically heathland, rising and falling gently though, occasionally, suddenly, there is a ravine. Some of the greens are set in fascinating positions and add an extra degree of difficulty to a very interesting, old-fashioned course.”
The modest 6,000-yard, par 69 course at Bungay & Waveney Valley Golf Club, established in 1889, is yet another Suffolk treat in a county that continually delivers fine inland golf.
Bungay doesn’t quite have the beauty of Purdis Heath, the scale of Aldeburgh nor the intimacy of Woodbridge yet the compact site on Bungay Common is ideal for golf; the turf is good and the natural contours of the terrain are superb. Add in the James Braid influence and these two ingredients will inevitably produce an exciting round of golf.
The routing of the course is charming as the two nines intermingle wonderfully and it is the tumultuous area around the green sites at the second, ninth, 11th and 12th which holds everything together remarkably well. Three of the greens at these holes are perched on table top plateaus whilst the 11th is nestled in a dell at the end of a cascading fairway. The course sits in a horseshoe-shaped loop formed by the River Waveney and covers just 84 acres.
More good and very interesting green locations can be found throughout the round with the sunken putting surfaces at the 10th and 17th the most memorable, partly because of the heavy contouring. However, the penultimate hole, the sole par five on the property, is one of many excellent holes from start to finish and not just around the greens.
Playing from the tight, dappled heathland fairways was a joy and whilst the greens weren’t overly quick (it was late October) they ran true and there were some delightful borrows to contend with. The natural sandy soil provides excellent drainage and ensures the course is playable all year round.
Not everything is perfect at Bungay and there are a few dud holes but overall this course is more than worth the journey into the heart of Suffolk to sample this heathland delight.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.