Thetford Golf Club was founded in 1912 and Charles H. Mayo designed the original 6,000-yard course. James Braid made later changes to the layout and further updates were subsequently implemented by Philip Mackenzie Ross.
“Thetford is situated in the Brecklands, an area of sandy soil, and was once far more heathland in type and more abounding with rabbits than it is today.” Wrote Peter Alliss in The Good Golf Guide. It has large areas of heather, gorse and broom but belts of trees – birch oak and pine – now separate one hole from another and have become strategic features governing the right line for the tee shot on many holes.”
According to the club history: “The course was constructed on an open sandy heath known as Thetford Warren, which as the name suggests, was land used to breed rabbits for their fur and meat. After the First World War the Forestry Commission planted extensive pine trees on the surrounding land now know as Thetford Forest. At the time it was the largest man made forest in the country. From being a heathland course it has gradually become a forest course.”
The construction of a new Thetford bypass resulted in significant changes to the course. Five original holes were lost and five new longer holes were fashioned by Cameron Sinclair and Donald Steel. Today’s layout stretches to more than 6,800 yards from the tips.
“You begin with the challenge of quite a long par three,” continues Peter Alliss, “over a valley to a terraced green. Heather is a feature here, and at many later holes. The 5th is a particularly good par four, with a tee shot played over a wide valley with tree, bunkers and an old chalk pit very much in play. The undulating green is just over the brow of a hill, and falls away to the left.”
Thetford is not as well known as some other East Anglia courses located on the North Sea coast, but it should not be missed if planning a golfing trip to this quiet corner of rural England.
For the final day of our Norfolk trip we ventured to Thetford GC. We had been trying to decide between Kings Lynn GC and Thetford and plumped for Thetford based on personal reviews we had been given. Upon hearing that the two courses were similar, we opted for Thetford on the understanding that it’s more welcoming and a fair bit cheaper - and are pleased we did so.
Thetford is a heathland style course, although the day we played the course was burnt to a cinder by the long dry spell of weather – as a result all the fairways were firm and completely brown. The greens however were absolutely fine and would hold the well-struck approach shot. The course is long, around 6,700 yds, however this is largely compensated by the relatively generous fairways. If there’s one gripe of the course, it’s the fact it becomes a little monotonous with its length – we felt it would benefit from having a couple of shorter par 4’s in its layout to offer something a little different.
That aside it’s a lovely layout, a trail-style course winding its way through the wooded, heathland terrain. Only a couple of holes run up and down and that we think always makes for a more enjoyable and varied experience. It opens with a tricky mid-iron par 3, never an easy start and another par 3 at the 3rd. Thereafter, you dive into the guts of the course, which as said is notable for its length. The course finishes with an extremely tough, slightly uphill par 4 at around 460 yds !
Everyone at the course was very welcoming to the extent we were able to play as part of the Captains Charity day despite not being affiliated to the club. Overall, it’s a course we would like to visit again in less arid conditions – however, we’d recommend playing here if you have the opportunity to do so.
I’ve never known an inland golf course play as firm and fast in March as Thetford did on my first ever visit to this lovely Norfolk venue.
Traversing superbly dry and fast draining terrain this course wends its way over beautiful heathland and through established woodland of pine, oak and birch.
It was a real joy to hit from its tight fairways on a mild East Anglian Spring day and I came away hugely impressed with not only the course but the feel of the club in general.
There are a couple of reasons it doesn’t quite fall into the top category of heathland courses in my eyes; the bunkering is quite tame and the course loses its way for a few holes around the turn; nothing disastrous but the seventh to ninth holes in particular are not up to the same high standard that the rest of the course sets.
But let’s not focus on the bad points because there’s so much to enjoy about the course and the positives far out way any negatives.
There are few forced carries, the only one I can recall comes at the 17th, and as a result this really is a course for all ages and abilities. The running game is very much alive and allows weaker players to eke out a bit more distance from the tee than they might do elsewhere whilst the firmness of the ground creates a real test for the more accomplished golfer.
Minimal fairway bunkering also allows you to get the ball in play from the tee.. that is if you avoid the gorse, broom and heather than abounds this property in the Breckland Forest.
I enjoyed my round at Thetford in the company of two members who were very pleased to belong to this fine club. There is also a lovely short game area just to the left of the 18th fairway where I’m sure many of the membership will spend time honing their pitching and chipping.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
I have to agree with most of the reviews already on this page about Thetford. Being a junior member I played in the Norfolk Boys Championship last year and with the nasty weather that was presented with us, the course was playing very well throughout the 36 holes that we all played.
It's a fabulous test of golf starting with a tricky 180 yarder par 3 down the hill where you really want to hit the green as anything off it is a challenging par. You cross a very busy road after the 2nd and 6th(?) holes which is always a negative from a golf course in my eyes. However the condition of the course is always good with matured heathland fairways and very top quality greens.
The rivalry between King's Lynn and Thetford is a tough one in my eyes for the 5th spot in Norfolk because they contrast in different ways though both being inland forest courses. I would say that Thetford always has an edge on King's Lynn for the greens however the fairways at Thetford can look less appealing than KLGC from the superb fairway irrigation they have there.
The food and facilities there are all very good with friendly catering staff to top off what will hopefully be a solid test of golf! The last hole is one of the toughest finishing holes in Norfolk in my eyes. My first time playing it I genuinely thought it was a par 5! But to sum it up, definitely worth the trip up to Thetford if your in the area!
On arrival, we headed to the pro-shop to get started, and we were directed to the changing rooms, which smelled quite a lot like a care home, but did the job.
Once we got to the tee, we found out that we’d been joined up with another group, a one-ball in this case. Whilst I understand that this is common practice at many clubs, it was a bit annoying- we hadn’t been informed of this by the proshop and there didn’t seem to be anyone else teeing off before or after us. I’ll also admit that there was a sinking feeling when we peered into his bag and saw a 7 hybrid- never an indicator of a strong playing partner.
The opening hole was a par 3 of about 175 yards, downhill. I stuffed a 4 iron to about 10 feet, and J put his tee shot pin high just off the green- we both made par. Our new friend did not- his fifth shot (the aforementioned 7 hybrid) was a 60 yard pitch (can you pitch with a 7 hybrid?) In the end it was a well-scrambled 7 for him.
Golf’s handicap system is a fantastic thing, but a combination of the 40 year age gap and hitting the ball in very different parts of the course meant that our small-talk ran out after precisely two holes. He spotted some friends on an adjacent fairway, shook our hands and headed off to join them- I can’t imagine that two 21 year olds were his idea of ideal company either.
The greens were fast, and on the day we played, the wind made downhill, downwind putts were seriously tricky to stop. A couple of rain-showers (and some quite painful hail) didn’t affect them too much, and the sandy heathland soil meant that there were no mudballs at all, which was pretty impressive considering the state of some of the other courses in the region.
We were both very impressed with the course actualy- not too flat and not too long (but at 6850 yards from the tips, not short). Wayward tee shots ended up in difficult but not impossible situations.
Standout holes included the par 4 5th- the tee shot played down a valley, and the second shot played up to an elevated, well-bunkered green, and the par 3 16th, played over heather and a horseshoe bunker.
After the round, the clubhouse offered good value bar meals (£6.40 for a bacon & cheese burger with a good portion of chips), a pretty standard selection of beers, and a coffee dispenser that looked as if it should be avoided at all costs.
For £20 through www.teeofftimes.co.uk, I would definitely return- £40 a round is a fair price for the quality of this course, so it’s an absolute bargain.