Ipswich Golf Club at Purdis Heath is a delightful place, oozing style, peacefulness and tranquillity. You would never believe you are just a couple of miles outside the busy town centre. In fact, you could easily assume that you're at one of Surrey's best sand belt courses.
The club was originally founded in 1895 and in those days the members played on Rushmere Heath – a delightful spot – now the home of Rushmere Golf Club. In 1926, they decided to move and acquired more than 200 acres of ideal golfing land. “James Braid designed this course and in 1928, at the age of twenty-one, I joined Braid with J. H. Taylor and Abe Mitchell at the opening of the course and clubhouse,” wrote Sir Henry Cotton in his guide to Golf in the British Isles: “The clubhouse was built as a large country house so that in case the golf project did not succeed, the property could easily be sold – such was the uncertainty about the growth of golf when I came into the game!”
In a similar way to Muirfield, Ipswich is laid out in two broad loops but the difference is that the loops run in different directions to those at Muirfield. Here at Purdis Heath, the outward nine is on the inside running anticlockwise and the inward nine wraps around the outside running in a clockwise direction. This classic design ensures that the elements hit you from all directions. Additionally, Braid made full use of the natural contours of the land by laying the course out on the high ground around two lakes. The construction of the course was actually contracted out to F.G. Hawtree and J.H. Taylor.
Undoubtedly Ipswich is a first class golf course, which changes character seasonally. The autumn colours are sensational and in spring, with the rhododendrons in full bloom, there's no better place to be. There are many fine holes, but one of our favourites is the charming 15th, a short par three where the tee shot must carry across water to a green, which is savagely protected by bunkers and flanked by trees on both sides.
In addition to the Purdis Heath course, Ipswich has a delightful 9-hole short course called Bixley, which was opened by Sir Henry Cotton on the 40th anniversary of the opening of the main course. The new course was intended to relieve the Purdis Heath course and give beginners the chance to learn. “My only possible criticism of the new nine-hole course is that it is too tough for most players, although great fun for a real golfer to play,” wrote Sir Henry Cotton.
We think Purdis Heath is one of the best, and certainly one of the most underrated courses in the land. It's quite staggering that a course of such quality has never been voted onto a GB&I Top 100 list. A nine-hole warm-up on the Bixley course before tackling Purdis Heath after lunch cannot be bettered anywhere in the whole of East Anglia.
Purdis Heath is an impressive site for golf, allowing for plenty of flat holes, dramatic holes, plus views across the central lake. Apart from one hole it feels a lot more isolated than the Ipswich suburbs.
It is a flat start, that reminded me of the early holes at Panmure. The long downhill par 4 4th is then the quirkiest heathland hole I’ve played – a blind approach down an unwalkable slope to a small green. It’s not the ‘fairest’ of holes but I like that this remains whilst other blind holes have disappeared (as mentioned in the article on this site).
From there is gets more hilly and feels more like a Berkshire heathland but with its own twist. There’s not much heather in play but I found it a tough test, a lot of fairway bunkers border the right-side of fairways for us slicers. The short par 4 10th was a pleasant respite, played between cross bunkers to a keyhole shaped green. There are enough bunkers in play that the pro shop gives you a rake head to fit to your clubs, a nice touch in these times.
The 13th also has trouble with a deep, Addington style pit short-left. All the elevation changes and danger make the flat 18th seem a slight anti-climax, a victim of the flatter land in that area. It’s by no means a bad hole, there are just a lot of top notch ones before it.
Overall I don’t rate it as a fun course, more a testing one that feels longer because you can’t hit driver off many tees. Not unless you have your A-game, anyway. It’s worth the travel to Suffolk, and works as a centrepiece for a good value trip to a fairly unheralded golf county.
A wonderfully aesthetic golf course with good variety of holes and some of the best bunkering throughout the course both from a visual and strategic standpoint, I have experienced. Excellent set of par 3s of which the 10th hole (168 yards) I felt was the most impressive with greenside bunkers on the right side flowing from back right to front centre in a diagonal trajectory. Possibly some of the trees that have been deliberately planted in the last 30 years have grown to an extent that is detrimental to the course's heathland core. 2 design characteristics which are like that are relevant to the course is a straightforward opening hole (short par 4, which gets people off the tee and immediately in play), and views of the hole from the vast majority of the tees, this latter is achieved effectively notwithstanding the topography is generally quite undulating. All in all, the course can challenge some of the mid ranked Surrey courses and perhaps with a fair wind, could crack the top 100 in GB&I.
During my journey through the Top 100 Golf Courses in England, there have been a few courses I have walked away from thinking “Wow, that was an unexpected Gem!” Parkstone being the one that sticks in the mind the most. Enter Ipswich!
Ipswich (Purdis Heath) is a stunning inland heathland course set in the heart of Suffolk. Measuring 6,439 yards, it uses its natural rolling terrain to carve out one of the most aesthetically pleasing courses I have played on these shores. The course layout is hugely imaginative, meaning you are rarely playing in the same direction and approach shots are as likely to be uphill as they are downhill.
The greens are carpet-like and surrounded by some of the best bunkers I have played. Filled with sand and fescue lined. Heather and woodland carve out most of the holes, with each offering its own individual test. A player who can shape the ball both ways will score well here.
So why isn’t this course more highly regarded? Well, I’d have to assume it comes down to location. If this course sat within the Surrey sand belt it would surely have more acclaim.
There would be too many holes for me to single out, but the Par 3’s are all superb one shotters, the 187y 6th being my personal favourite.
I was pleased to see in the most recent set of rankings that Aldeburgh and Ipswich swapped places for Suffolk’s number one course, as, although wildly different courses, in my opinion Ipswich offers more variety and is a lot more fun to play.
This is a course I am thoroughly looking forward to returning to.
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I played Ipswich on Monday February 10th in the high winds of Storm Dennis. I enjoyed the course but a few holes that you need to have played before especially the 4th. I agree the 15th is a nice par 3. I enjoyed the par 10th I hit my tee shot to 18 inches. Although it was a heath land course I felt the fairways were not the same as the likes of Enville, Beau Desert and Woodbridge. Would gladly play it again. Although I prefer Woodbridge and have rated it higher. I thought there were more memorable holes.
Located in a region where it doesn't get the credit it truly deserves. Pick it up and place it down in Surrey it most certainly wouldn't look out of place.
Purdis Heath has to be one of my favourites, a truly beautiful course with some truly rewarding sights to see. The condition of the course is good and it's my style of golf course. I think the 15th has to be one of my favourites, a lovely little par 3 from an elevated tee, not an easy par but it does feel rewarding to achieve!
There aren't many courses I would recommend taking the effort to come and play but Purdis Heath is certainly one!
As far as popular golfing destinations go, Suffolk unfairly flies under the radar. As a consequence, surprisingly few golfers have been to or are even aware of the Purdis Heath course at Ipswich Golf Club. This is something that needs turning on its head as there’s some quality heathland golf in this region and Purdis Heath sits at the top of the tree. I say heathland golf, but Purdis Heath actually plays as a parkland-heathland hybrid due to its treelined fairways; a more modest version of Wentworth wouldn’t be a too unfair comparison. From the tunnel entrance through the stylish powder-pink clubhouse that provides passage to the first tee to the course’s manicured fairways and Martin Hawtree inspired renovated bunkers, this is quite the chic golf club.
The course is interestingly routed with holes that wend their way around the large Decoy Pond before doubling back upon itself. Some of the holes are nothing short of outstanding and with this originally being a James Braid design, his courses always offer something unique. His gift to Ipswich Golf Club is the unconventional par four 4th hole that features a blind drop-shot down a bank to the green that characterises Braid’s design creativity, so be sure to check the position of the pin using the illustration on the tee before playing this hole. The opening and closing few holes are polished golf holes, but it’s the middle section of the course where Purdis Heath hides its delights. The 6th is a gorgeous par three to an elevated green and comes sandwiched between two of the toughest holes on the course. The 9th provides a chance to recover with a birdie opportunity as this beauty of a short par four is played amongst some tall, elegant pines whilst the 10th is the prettiest of par threes, circled again by trees, but you’ll need to avoid the sharp, treacherous drop to the left of the green. The backdrop to the long 11th is sadly blighted by static cabins but the wonderful second shot to the rising uphill 12th presents itself as a glorious golf hole as you play up and over bunkers embedded into the face of the climb.
Having played Woodbridge in the morning, I found the course lacking the turf conditions of its near neighbour or similarly Aldeburgh up the coast, but that’s undoubtedly an unfair comparison given the extraordinary sandy sites that those two courses are blessed with. I also felt that whilst the bunkering was stunningly presented, it came across slightly clean and generic, a little templated if you will, but it still makes for spectacular visuals. I’m admittedly guilty of nitpicking of the highest order with these last two comments though given that my overriding opinion of Purdis Heath is that this is a very high quality course, justly deserving of its England top 50 status.
I played Purdis Heath on a hot thursday in April and i was extremely impressed. In fact, as soon as we entered through the gates, we knew we would be in for a treat as the view of the water and the course on the other side was awesome. The course is fantastic and I’ve played a lot of courses on the surrey sand belt and it is right up there with the best of them. I reckon if Ipswich was in surrey the ranking of this golf course would be way higher as it is truly magnificent but suffers from its location being quite out the way.
It is a tough course and you will need your A game in order to score well round Purdis Heath due to every hole being extremely tree lined and covered with heather on either side of the fairway. The holes are very memorable as they all have their own unique identity and character, with so many favourites its hard to choose one hole in particular. I would say that the par 3s were my favourites as all of those were great holes with heather running all the way down of 3, bunkers littered down the long 6th, a lovely tree lined 10th hole and a hard shot over the water on 15. What i felt made the course even better was the great condition of the bunkers, they were filled with sand and really well maintained and looked awesome on the golf course which added to the great look of it.
Overall i would say this golf course should be ranked higher in England as it truly is a gem and I will definitely being going back there in the future to play there again!
The Purdis Heath layout at Ipswich Golf Club is an intimate heathland course played over rolling terrain and through beautiful, tranquil woodland in the heart of Suffolk.
It’s very easy on the eye and recent bunker renovations have elevated this course to one that is now knocking on the door of the country’s elite inland venues. As to whether it will gain entrance is an altogether different question.
Some may suggest its location doesn’t do it any favours and the old adage that “If it was on the Surrey sandbelt….” may have an element of truth in it but that never really washes with me. I’m more inclined to reason that if a course is good enough it will be recognised as such regardless of where it is situated.
In my opinion if Ipswich can’t quite be talked about in the same breath as the Surrey and Berkshire powerhouses (not that this unpretentious club claims to be) it isn’t too far away and is clearly going in the right direction.
It should also be noted that there is a second course, the 9-hole Bixley, which although I didn’t get to see on my flying visit is reported to be of a similar ilk to its big brother and well worth playing if one has the time.
Back to the main course and each hole is different; the natural contours of the truly majestic property were used exceptionally well by James Braid in 1926 to create a highly enjoyable golfing experience. There are a number of wonderful green locations; some perched up high, others etched seamlessly into the hillside and of course the memorable sunken green at the fourth. Ipswich mixes it up very well and oozes character.
The heavily bunkered course is routed quite superbly and is one of those where you truly get lost. After half-a-dozen holes you could have asked me to point in the direction of the clubhouse and I wouldn’t have had a clue. In fact it wasn’t until looking at the overhead plan of the course after the round that I realised the 10th green is actually quite close to the clubhouse; I would have otherwise guessed that we were at the farthest point away from it! The back nine then wraps itself around the inner front-nine in what is roughly a U-shape for the entire layout.
There are clearly some extremely fine holes but it just doesn’t quite have that killer instinct which I personally look for in a truly top class golf course. The 18 holes as a collective are far from easy but the fast running nature of the firm fairways along with the downhill changes in elevation on some of the longer two-shotters do make it play shorter than the already modest yardage of 6,439 (par 71) suggests. I’m certainly not an advocate of adding length to courses but it did feel at times that it just need to pack that extra punch.
To say it’s more a case of style over substance at Purdis Heath is admittedly harsh, and is not quite what I’m getting at, but the missing ingredient is definitely a bit of bite. I’m sure others, who’ve played the course more times than me, will disagree but I can only speak from experience.
Regardless of this minor niggle I thoroughly enjoyed playing here on what is undoubtedly a much unheralded course and one that is clearly on the rise. Expect to hear more about Ipswich Golf Club in the future. Much more.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I played Purdis again on our annual visit in October and I’m most impressed by the bunker renovations which have improved the course significantly. For me Ipswich is now underrated and should site alongside the likes of the Addington and West Hill. I liked it before the renovations and now I love it. It’s not quite in the top league but it’s not far off.