Thorndon Park - Essex - England

Thorndon Park Golf Club,
Thorndon Gate,
Ingrave,
Essex,
CM13 3RH,
England


  • +44 (0) 1277 810345

  • Gary Oatham

  • Harry Colt and Charles Alison

  • Stephen Cole


Essex does not possess many courses that feature in Top 100 ranking lists, but one that does stand out is Thorndon Park Golf Club. Golfers of all standards like it here, returning regularly to be challenged, excited and frustrated with a host of tricky holes and well-guarded greens.

The club was founded in 1920 and the great Harry Colt and his partner Charles Alison designed the course. Thorndon Park is certainly another of Colt’s high quality creations and the illustrious architect can be credited for approximately 300 course designs and re-designs across the world.

Part of the South Park of Thorndon Hall was acquired for the course and the surrounding woodland has proved to be a perfect partner for the design. The turf is lush and springy making the course a lovely parkland treat. All in all this is a wonderful English setting with many rather old oak trees standing tall with elm and cedar looking on.

Hard but true greens are a strong feature and bunkering is just about right. Fairways give the impression of being spacious enough for even the longest of hitters to open their shoulders. Our favourite hole is the 3rd; a drive over the lake with a touch of draw is ideal – a classical par four that is not easily forgotten.

A round at Thorndon Park will stick in the memory for all the right reasons because it’s a great course with stacks of history and it’s always beautifully maintained. The 18th century Palladian mansion and former clubhouse has to be one of the most impresive closing hole backdrops in golf.

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Reviews for Thorndon Park

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Description: Many of the holes at Thorndon Park Golf Club are surrounded by mature oaks, some of which are more than 500 years old. Rating: 4.8 out of 6 Reviews: 10

Despite being beaten by my daughter Rachelle (aka Baby Baxter), who rubbed salt into the wounds by holing a ridiculously long putt on the 18th to receive a standing ovation from the members who were packed onto the terrace, I really enjoyed Thorndon Park when I teed it up here a couple of weeks ago.

Thorndon Park Golf Club

Don’t ask me why, but this was the first time I’d played Thorndon Park, even though I lived in Essex for a dozen years and played most courses in the county during that period. Parkland courses generally don’t receive much love in the UK but this is certainly one of the better ones. Its position in the lower quartile of the English Top 100 is bound to be questionable, especially given that there are so many other great English courses that are on the cusp of this very competitive ranking list.

I only have two criticisms and both are perennial qualms that haunt many Golden Age English courses. 1. Tree encroachment and 2. Tired bunkering. Thankfully the club is tackling both these issues under the progressive management of the new Secretary and the Course Manager and his team. The bunker renovations are underway and work will be completed in time for the club’s centenary celebrations in 2020, also many trees have already been felled.

It’s not clear what Lancelot “Capability” Brown envisaged when he remodelled the park at Thorndon Hall for the 9th Baron Petre in the 18th century, but the great landscape architect most definitely created New Hall Pond which has to be carried in a “how much dare you bite off” kind of way at the wonderful par four 3rd hole (par five for the ladies), which sweeps left around this lake.

Thorndon Park Golf Club 18th hole

As with most Harry Colt-designed courses the one shotters are very good. The greensites are thought provoking without being too wild and the pleasantly undulating topography provides more than enough engagement. I was most surprised and delighted by the lack of traffic noise – it’s a quiet spot – even though the M25 motorway and the busy A12 are close by.

I’d say Thorndon Park deserves its place in the English hundred and has the potential to cement its spot in the rankings once the bunkering and tree removal programmes are complete. Probably a 4.5 rating at the present moment is how I’d rate the course, but I’d liked it more than enough to round things up rather than down.

5 / 6
Thorndon Park
July 01, 2018


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Essex is a county with many golf courses but it is not really renowned for having any venues near the top of the pyramid when it comes to discussing the best of golf in Great Britain.

I’m ashamed to say this was my first ever round of golf in Essex but it would appear that Thorndon Park, designed by Harry Colt in 1920, is the needle in the haystack.

Hidden away on some lovely golfing turf close to Brentwood a round here delivers some of the best park golf you will find in England.

As with most courses of this nature there is a lot of sedate stuff going on but there are flashes of excellence throughout the round too which more than merit a quick detour off the M25.

Covering almost 250 acres the site is actually an ancient deer park and the rolling nature of the property provides for some fine holes at this established private-members club.

Green sites at the seventh and 17th are particularly pleasing to the eye, as well as your golfing imagination, whilst the fourth and eighth also make for wonderful approach shots. The Palladian mansion of Thorndon Hall acts as the most wonderful backdrop to the final hole and adds to the sense of nobility.

The greens, though recently hollow-tined and lightly sanded, held enough interest and despite heavy overnight rain the courses remained firm; it was noticeable that a lot of drainage work had been undertaken on the approaches to some greens. The jury obviously remains out as to how the course will play in winter but the signs are promising.

Like most inland courses there are far too many trees encroaching on several holes nowadays and whilst the course pleasingly retains good width for the most part it would be even better should a lot of the clutter be removed to highlight a variety of specimen and unusual trees. There are many examples but the rising eighth in particular would be a glorious looking par-four if there were much less timber.

All considered I enjoyed my round at Thorndon Park; it was especially nice to see the ball get such a big and high bounce on the fairways.

From a golfing perspective (heading down from the North) I’d always recommend driving round the M25 in an anti-clockwise direction towards Surrey but should you find yourself on the East side of the London Orbital I can think of few better places to play.

Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.

4 / 6
Thorndon Park
August 30, 2017


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I play most of my golf in Essex but never had the opportunity to play at Thorndon Park until recently and I can say that this is without doubt the best course in Essex I have played. In fact it would be at home in the more fashionable golfing counties of Surrey or Berkshire. We played in early April so the course was still recovering from the winter but it was still in good condition so will be even better in the summer. The fairways feel fairly generous from the tee but it was still tough to score on. The bunkering was very pleasing on the eye both from the tee and on shots into the greens. The greens were receptive but still fairly quick and true. If I lived a little closer i would find it very hard not to be a member there, looking forward to going back in the summer.
5 / 6
Thorndon Park
May 06, 2015


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A thoroughly pleasant place to play golf. The club is approached down a long wooded driveway which gives a clue as to what follows.The course starts gently with a fairly tame, and relatively open par 4 first hole. This is followed by the first of the par 3’s, and then a lovely par 4 where the braver your tee shot, the further it must carry over water. A decent tee shot leaves a relatively short approach, albeit to an undulating green which can easily kick off a poorly struck shot. A very good hole.The 4th is a relatively short par 4, but made significantly harder than expected by only being able to hit a long / mid iron from the tee because of a water hazard. This leaves a lovely, but tough approach with little margin for error from around 150 years or so.The 5th, 6th and 7th are pleasant rather than memorable holes, but there then follows a run of beautiful tree lined holes – perhaps the best stretch of the course. The 8th is a long par 4 requiring two very precise shots to a tight fairway and then a raised green. The 9th is the first of the par 5s, starting from a lovely raised tee high in the trees and winding through to a narrow green set near the clubhouse. The 10th and 11th also have a feeling of isolation before this feeling is interrupted with the short, uphill 12th. However this is immediately followed by the lovely 13th. Again isolated in the trees the drive is one of the highlights from the raised tee. The 15th is perhaps the best of the par 3’s over water, and is followed by a tight, but reachable par 5. 17 and 18 are two more challenging par 4’s of around 400 yards, both requiring pinpoint approaches to undulating greens.The course was in immaculate early season condition with all aspects of the course being in great shape. The greens were very firm and fast and it took a good shot to hold them (as it should be).It really is a lovely setting with a feeling of spaciousness on each hole and well worth a visit. The clubhouse is well equipped and sits nicely overlooking the 18th green. The only slight disappointment is that it is no longer the old mansion that is used as the clubhouse (this stunning building set directly behind the 1st tee / 18th green now being privately owned and not connected to the golf club). Despite that minor issue, a round at Thorndon Park really does make for a lovely day out.
4 / 6
Thorndon Park
May 04, 2015


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Played 11/11/14 although the course was a little wet in places,overall it is a excellent Colt course,a top surrey course in Essex,if that helps if you've not played. A pleasant clubhouse with very friendly staff and helpful office for our society.The course itself has some truly very good holes,we felt the front 9 a sterner test than the back 9,or at least our cards reflected that.Well worth a visit,nothing in Essex is as good as this club.Play if you can
5 / 6
Thorndon Park
November 12, 2014


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Twelve years between my rounds here, most recent one only last month and I have to say I was very impressed indeed. This is an obvious private members club but visiting golfers can expect a warm welcome. Many really good holes on the course and easy to write about nearly of them; I’ll pick my highlights….Driving on the par-4 3rd is great fun and with the lake directly in front off the tee you have to decide how much to cut off. I think the par-4 4th is my favourite on the front nine, under 400 yards but a thoughtful tee shot is required as the fairway runs into a ditch at about 240 yards – an approach to an offset green with six bunkers complete this hole – tip is to aim left of the green, it will feed down. The 12th hole is a slightly uphill par-3 at around 155 yards, not a lot to it but a very nice looking short hole. Many times I have said that all courses must deliver a great 17th hole – well this course does just that; around 410 yards with bunkers at landing point left and right and the lake that was in play on the 3rd is back in view too, this time on the right side and then the approach has got to be exact, with a deep bunker and a large oak tree defending. The walk up the 18th hole gives the best look of Thorndon Hall, used many times by the club over the years although not now but still a great looking building. Recommended and deservedly #1 in the Essex rankings – if I lived nearer, I would consider membership.
5 / 6
Thorndon Park
September 15, 2013


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Played the course on a sweltering September afternoon. I played the front 9 with two very friendly members who were very helpful with their local knowledge and green reading. The course is immaculately kept and on each hole you get the impression that you have the course to yourself. Beautifully tree-lined and much more undulating than it initially seems; the course is fantastic. I think it is unfairly kept out of the top100 of England as it is just as pretty as Wentworth's West Course and yet much more enjoyable to play. Will definitely be back again. Joe
5 / 6
Thorndon Park
September 05, 2013


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A testing course with lightning fast greens perfectly presented and looking fine at height of summer before this dry spell, Club secretary organized a buggy for my wife and I and we enjoyed our day. A pint on the patio was a fitting end to the golf day. It was somewhat marred by goods bought from the shop and subsequent unhappy an dealing with the assistant appears its discount golf store your dealing with and not the golf club. Shame about that. Overall though a good day out recommended
6 / 6
Thorndon Park
July 17, 2013


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Best course in Essex perhaps, Orsett is my favourite but Thorndon Park is not far behind.
4 / 6
Thorndon Park
August 16, 2011


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Knowing a member, I have played Thorndon Park a number of times at different times of the year and in different weather conditions and it has always been a great test of golf, is always in good condition (although in high summer there can be very dry/rough areas off of the fairway), and always has some of the best greens you'll find anywhere. The course was built through an old deer forest and benefits from wonderful drainage and excellent use of the terrain, with many holes being tree-lined. For me the pick of the holes are the 3rd, 7th. 8th, 13th and 17th but really there are very few weak holes. Watch out for the approach on the 18th as the clubhouse patio is only a few yards to the right of the green...many a member scattering shot has clattered amongst the tables and chairs!! Somewhat old school and therefore playing as a visitor will be pricey, but the members are friendly and as Essex is not renowned for it's quality courses I do recommend it if you are in the area.
5 / 6
Thorndon Park
September 10, 2004


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Tom
March 24, 2009
I can only agree with these comments - they have done a lot of work tidying up the trees and rough since i was there last - very pleasing to the eye. The greens are superb and while it is not long it is a think golfers course. I once played 100 holes in a day here and was quite happy with 498 shots!