G. Stuart Ogilvie designed the purpose built holiday resort of Thorpeness and the village was constructed between 1910 and 1930. James Braid laid out the first 10 holes at Thorpeness Golf Club in 1922 and 8 further holes were added the following year when the club was instituted.
The course is laid out on predominantly sandy soil so, in a similar vein to nearby Aldeburgh, is a natural maritime heathland course with crisp turf, heather, gorse and seaside winds. Thorpeness is located a mere 400 yards from the North Sea so expect a stiff challenge when there is a freshening breeze.
Thorpeness Golf Club has played host to many county and regional events over the years and is considered by many golfers as a serious test despite its modest length – a little more than 6,500 yards from the back tees.
A gentle opening par four eases you in to the round, but the fun really starts at the 2nd, a lovely par three that requires and accurate iron shot to a heavily bunkered and narrow green. The club’s signature hole arrives at the 3rd. The hole sweeps around a tributary of the Thorpeness Meare – an artificial lake used for fishing and boating, a haven for wildfowl. The Meare is out of bounds; so don’t stray too far left!
The club is certainly not resting on its laurels, undertaking a significant bunker renovation programme over the winter months of 2010/11. These improvements were put to the test when Thorpeness, alongside Aldeburgh, co-hosted the 2012 English Seniors Championship, which was won by Alan Squires of Oldham Golf Club.
When we turned up at Thorpeness we had a really good feeling about the place. The sun was shining the welcome was good and the course has a feeling of space.
On the course however, at the time we played, the condition of the course was not good, by the time we got out to 10 (2 hours and 50 minutes after teeing off) we were playing on dead grass. It was a shame that the conditioning of the course and speed of play were poor. We both commented when standing on the 9th tee waiting yet again to tee off, that had we have played first thing, on a sunny day in May, when there had been more rain and the course was greener that we would probably have enjoyed it a lot more. I also appreciate some people may read this and wonder what we expect as a two ball on a Saturday and I would agree to some level, however there is never an acceptable reason to wait 20 minutes half way up a par 4 to play your approach shot, which we did on the 6th.
The course does have some good holes and some really tough holes. 3 is very tough, 6, 8 and 9 are really nice holes. Thorpeness also has a very nice finishing hole.
If you are looking for a quick round then I suspect mid-week and early is the way to go. I think there is quite a gulf in class between this and Aldeburgh, Ipswich and Woodbridge which were the other courses we played.
We played Thorpeness as our first stop on a recent 'Suffolk Coastal" tour and to be fair we were a little disappointed. It's a very good course with many really strong holes which reward straight hitting especially from the tee. However on this day the condition of the course was a little below what we had experienced on previous visits. I would definitely recommend playing this course when visiting this part of the country.
I played this coastal heathland course in March, at a time when we had experienced so much rain you were more likely to see Noah’s Arc on my local Hertfordshire courses than any golfers.
No such problems at Thorpeness, the course was in excellent condition - firm fairways and greens throughout which made such a welcome change.
The tree and gorse lined James Braid design will make you think on almost every tee, especially when you factor in the well placed bunkers. The greens are worth a mention too, some of the putts must be frightening in the summer months.
I felt the back 9 was stronger than the front, with the par 4 13th, playing straight into the wind on the day a real challenge.
I particularly enjoyed the par 5 14th, a dog leg to the left offering a real risk/reward 2nd shot to a green tucked away behind trees and protected by well placed bunkers.
The 15th was another good dog leg, requiring a very good drive to cut the corner if you want to avoid a very long iron approach for your 2nd shot.
Finishing up on 18 towards the house in the sky and the windmill this was certainly a great place to play winter golf, and I will be back to try it in the summer too!
In my experience the vast majority of coastal golf courses that are situated close to the sea, but are not on linksland, usually fail to deliver and I ultimately come away disappointed. Thorpeness, however, is a clear exception to the rule.
This popular James Braid layout, located less than half a mile from the beach, exudes many of the elements associated with seaside golf yet retains its own identity with a pleasing mix of heath, gorse, pine and silver birch.
Undoubtedly the biggest asset of Thorpeness is the quick drying sandy soil that the 18 holes are laid out over which creates firm and fast playing conditions. Traversing relatively flat terrain the fairways promote the ground game and it was a pure joy to see the ball rolling so well in the early season on a recent visit.
The Club put it best when they say, “Nature blessed Thorpeness with more than just beauty. It sits in a mild micro climate, enjoying one of the lowest rates of rainfall in the UK and an average of three hours extra sunshine per week than the rest of the UK. This perfect golfing climate means the golf course hardly ever closes and maintains the highest quality playing conditions year round.”
There is a very consistent and traditional feel to the course with each hole flowing nicely into the next. The fairway bunkering is particularly strong with decisions to be made on several of the tees because most of the traps are close to where you would ideally like to be for your approach shot!
Suffolk is often an area that goes under the radar when discussing the best of golf in England but courses such as Thorpeness – one of the best in the county – make this a fantastic destination for a few days golfing; the group that let me through on the 16th were certainly enjoying their three-day stay. And whilst I didn’t get to sample it on this occasion there is accommodation on site which makes it a perfect venue for a short break amongst a small group of friends or for larger societies.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
One of a number of James Braid courses in the top end of the Suffolk rankings and it’s an enjoyable affair and quite unique with great golfers’ accommodation which we love. We stay here every year and enjoy the experience and the value for money. It’s not quite in the league of Purdis, Woodbridge or Worlington,but it’s not far off.