Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club was originally nominated by Brian and was added to the your gems section of the Top 100 website in February 2006. Since then, the Martello course at the historic Felixstowe Ferry (established in 1880 and one of England’s oldest golf clubs), moved straight out of your gems and into our Suffolk Best in County rankings. Brian’s original nomination article follows:
“I have played some great golf courses over the years but my personal “Home of Golf” is not St Andrews, it’s Felixstowe Ferry. I’ve lived in Essex all my life and it’s a complete joy to head off to the seaside to escape the clay and play a top quality links course. My wife already knows that when I kick the bucket I’d like my ashes to be scattered here because Felixstowe is where my heart is.”
“I have the tenderest and most sentimental association with Felixstowe,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “because it was there that I began to play golf. I did not see it again for a painfully long number of years, and my recollections of it were those of a small boy of eight or nine years old. The small boy wore a flannel shirt, brown holland knickerbockers, and bare legs, from which the sun had removed nearly all vestiges of skin. He used to dodge in and out of the crowd, hurriedly playing a hole here and there, and then waiting for unsympathetic grown-ups in red coats to pass him. Willie Fernie was the professional there in those days, and in the zenith of his fame; it was not long before he had beaten Bob Ferguson for the championship by holing a long putt for a two at the last hole at Musselburgh. Occasionally also another great golfer, Mr. Mure Fergusson, would come down from London to shed the light of his countenance upon the course and be breathlessly admired by the small boy from a respectful distance.
As far as I can remember, my best score then was 70 for one round of the nine-hole course, and so I always pictured Felixstowe to myself as possessing longer holes and bunkers infinitely more terrible than those to be found on any other course. Felixstowe revisited appeared naturally enough to have shrunk a little; the Martello tower was not quite so tall as I had pictured it, but I still found it one of the most charming and interesting of courses. As far as I could see, the course was almost exactly the same as it always had been. The names of the holes came back to me as I played them – the ‘Gate,’ the ‘Tower,’ ‘Eastward Ho!’ ‘Bunker’s Hill,’ the ‘Point’ – with a romantic thrill.
Another interval of time elapsed and I saw Felixstowe again. Then all had been changed indeed. Nine holes had become too few for all those that wanted to play there, and, although the ground has now made a wonderful recovery, the War and the troops had left their traces. So the whole course has been entirely changed and has become eighteen holes. It must have been rather an ungrateful task to alter what was so lovable and so historic, but Dr Mackenzie did it very well. The course now consists of three different sections. There is the old ground of the pure seaside character, close to the sea, where are still to be found old-fashioned, keen seaside greens. There is the ground to the left of the road to Bawdsey Ferry, which is heavier, but partially sandy, and there is the ground on top of the cliff behind the clubhouse, which has inland soil. Yet, oddly enough, it is when we are playing inland golf that we are most afraid of the sea, for the tenth and eleventh greens are so close to the edge of the cliff that it gives me the cold shivers to think of them. None of the old holes now remain, though some of the old greens are used.”
“But the course suffered a worse fate in 1939 when it became part of the defence system against invasion.” Wrote Donald Steel in Classic Golf Links of Great Britain & Ireland. “In 1946, there wasn’t much evidence that it had ever been a golf course but superhuman efforts (not helped by the floods of 1949) led to its re-opening in 1950 although the building of the sea wall led to the loss of a fine short hole facing out to sea. It is easy to understand how the exhibition match to mark its relaunch was a matter of great rejoicing. The latest version of the layout embraces holes on both sides of the road but the ground nearest the shore is still the best and most interesting.”
The original course that Tom Dunn designed and the 18-hole course that Alister MacKenzie laid out in 1920 (when he was partner of Colt, Alison and MacKenzie) no longer exists. The ravages of war and flood resulted in the need for yet another new course that was fashioned in 1948 by two knights of the realm, Guy Campbell and Henry Cotton.
The Martello course, as it is now known, opened in 1950, but once again found its fairways underwater in Britain's worst natural disaster, the devastating North Sea floods of January 1953. The club thankfully recovered and since then has gone from strength to strength, hosting a number of important tournaments down the years and warmly welcoming visitors to this day.
April 24, 2015