- +44 (0)1473 728941
3 miles E of Ipswich
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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.
How do you ensure that your fairways are akin to a carpet even when they appear to be nearly burnt to a crisp during one of the hottest summers in history?
By asking players to keep their trolleys in the light rough and walk to their balls.
I have seen many patchy fairways this summer but Purdis Heath’s may not have been attractive to eyes which admire greenery but they were wonderfully consistent.
This attention to detail was one of the reasons we were able to enjoy a fabulous round at one of the most welcoming venues we have played on the top 100 quest.
We felt good about Ipswich Golf Club from the moment I called to arrange an impromptu round with Mrs W to the moment when a jovial member asked if she had beaten me after completing the 18th.
He had been part of an encouraging fourball who had cheered as they watched us roll in par putts on the eighth as they were teeing off on the 12th hole earlier in the round.
It was typical of the day – every golfer we encountered was simply lovely, either wishing us a good round or, in one case, helping me to find my ball.
Consequently, we both felt so relaxed that we scored surprisingly well on a course which has a reputation for being very tricky.
Judgment of fairway slopes and avoiding its many bunkers are the key to unlocking a course which has sharp teeth despite being shorter than many top-100 rated courses.
The course set-up is intriguing with the first nine inside the outer ring of the back nine. Thus, as soon as the player feels they are understanding the prevailing wind, they change direction.
The difficulties are clear from the opening hole – a short par-four with a fairway which banks sharply from left to right. It would not be the last time that our approaches were completely different to expected because our balls had caught a slope.
The par-five second focuses on the tee shot needing to carry heather before a straight fairway dotted with the inevitable array of bunkers.
We were warned to ring the bell upon completing the fourth – the quirkiest and possibly most enjoyable on the course – because its flag cannot be seen until the golfer is virtually on top of it.
It really is something to hit towards a post behind the green and then see the ball disappear from view. Perfect club selection is vital but near impossible to find the hidden green let alone create a birdie chance.
The fifth is a tough par-four from an elevated tee to another leaning fairway and a long approach to a green protected by sand on either side and bushes to the right. I can testify that a score here is hard-fought.
None of the Ipswich par-threes is easy but the sixth is the most difficult – an uphill 184-yarder which plays more like 200+ - with a fiendish bank to the right of the target. Mrs W nailed a three. I did not.
I was very chuffed with my drive on the downhill, narrow 300-yard ninth, avoiding trees on either side and weaving between bunkers before resting about 30 yards in front of the green.
The 12th is another quirky one. A partially blind opening shot falls into a valley before the fairway rises again past bunkers to a two-tiered putting surface.
Greens on the Heath course were mint with totally consistent pace and roll despite the summer drought. Nevertheless, subtle borrows could still cause problems.
The approach on the 13th is arguably the most mind-bending on the course as the fairway narrows between a grassy chasm on the left and bushes on the right.
There are many lovely holes but the short 15th takes some beating – over a water feature dominated by reeds with bunkers all around the target and trees and gorse waiting for those who overhit.
My only birdie of the day was on the 16th but it was of the feathery kind – a pheasant paraded on the green proudly, barely troubled by our feeble attempts for points.
James Braid famously wrote: “There should be a complete variety of holes… not just in length but in their character – the way in which they are bunkered... the kind of shot that is required…the kind of approach and so forth.
Ipswich lives up to its designer’s philosophy in every aspect and much of it is encapsulated on the final hole – a par-four demanding a carry over heather before large traps on either side of the fairway.
I had managed to avoid sand for most of the day but not here.
Having deposited my drive in one, I avoided the huge cross-fairway bunker only to find trouble at the side of the green. Mrs W had no such issues, sank the winning putt and received approval from the folk on the clubhouse’s lovely terrace.
The sun was going down on a glorious day and we had spent it on one of England’s finest courses. What else could we have wanted?
And perhaps fairways can remain carpets if you have the right type of grass.
Played August 2022. This was one of the best value rounds of golf I’ve ever had. £65 for a twilight (after 2:30pm) round on a Saturday in the height of summer is an absolute steal. This is especially true when you consider that Purdis Heath is every bit as good as some of the more lauded, and significantly pricier, heathland courses in many top 100 lists.
Tee shots require some thinking here as there are many subtle (and not so subtle) cambers in the fairways. Approach shots are challenging too, often the centre of the green is a good result (the greens were very receptive considering how little rain we have had this summer). And the bunkering is superb, both on the fairway and around the greens, framing required shots clearly.
Also, the course is fair for players of all standards. With a considered approach any player can play close to handicap here. Wayward shots will be punished, likely by a bunker, or by the heather, but you have a good chance of finding your ball and attempting a recovery shot.
I felt there were no weak holes at Purdis Heath. The course is a lot of fun to play, and I look forward to returning soon.
What a wonderful test of golf. You need to able to move the ball both ways, but you can see the challenges. Accuracy in approaches. Lovely consistent quick greens. Will definitely come back.
Being a local lad living in Ipswich I had the chance to play this a few months ago via knowing a member, I’ve played the 9 hole bixley course numerous times as I learnt the game but when I stepped on the first tee of the main course just wow! Words can’t describe how good this course is, everything is 10/10 from greens bunkers fairways teeboxes, half way toilets at 10th tee a nice little bonus. Just perfect golf settings here.
This is by far one of the best golf clubs I have ever had the pleasure of playing, the views where picturesque and unbelievable. I would be happy to pay over £100 for the pleasure to play here again.
Purdis Heath was the second outing in Suffolk, and without a doubt our favourite course on the trip. Suffolk has a few well renowned inland heathland courses but this is the best. The challenge is tough enough but it's also a fun course to play and enjoy the surroundings. The club seems to be in the middle of a heather restoration project and some works to help improve wildlife habitats around the courses, something I like too see. By the time we had completed the 3rd all of our group were commenting on the great presentation of the course, tees, greens and fairways being in top condition. Some rounds you just don't want to finish and this was certainly one of them, we all agreed we will make the effort to play again later this year.
A complete gem....we all have our own ways of rating course but going by this website ranking I would defo rate Ipswich higher than some courses above it's 48th place. It is a classic heathland course where, like many opening c100 years ago have had trees grow up and around it. Notwithstanding this, it retains it original characteristics and avoiding the heather and fantastic bunkering are the courses greatest challenge off the tee as opposed to length. The greens' complexes are excellent being gently, but not too, undulating. All in al an outstanding course that is well worth playing.
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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