East of England – Best in County Rankings 2019
We reach the halfway stage of our biennial re-ranking process for England with this news release for the East of the country, encompassing the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. The results of these reappraisals will contribute towards the upcoming evaluations for our England and Great Britain & Ireland listings.
The East region extends to more than 7,300 square miles and the six million people living within the six counties are spread out across a broad landscape with little variation in elevation. We showcase ninety courses, maintaining at least a Top 10 chart for each county. Although there are no Open venues or world-ranked layouts in the area, there’s lots of good golf to be found at the 250 or so clubs operating here.
To prove the point, thirteen courses are currently ranked inside our Top 100 for England, which makes the East region one of the strongest nationally. So, without any further introduction, let’s see how the numbers stack up.
The John O’Gaunt course at John O’Gaunt Golf Club remains the No. 1 track in Bedfordshire. Designed just after World War II by Fred W. Hawtree, the John O’Gaunt layout is the longer and tougher of two 18-hole courses at the best parkland venue in the county.
John O'Gaunt Golf Club - 18th hole John O'Gaunt course
The club hosted the Amateur Seniors Championship in 1988 and 2003 and Final Qualifying for the Women’s British Open was held here in 2016.
|1||John O'Gaunt (John O'Gaunt)||No change|
|2||Dunstable Downs||No change|
|4||Aspley Guise & Woburn Sands||Down 1|
|5||Bedfordshire (Championship)||Up 1|
|6||Bedford & County||Down 2|
|7||South Beds (Galley Hill)||No change|
|8||John O'Gaunt (Carthagena)||Up 1|
|9||Leighton Buzzard||Down 1|
The Old course at Gog Magog Golf Club is still the undisputed No. 1 golfing layout in Cambridgeshire. Established in 1899 as a 9-hole track, it was quickly doubled in size before both Willie Park Junior and John Abercromby left their stamp on the course that’s in play today.
Gog Magog Golf Club - Old course
“The overall layout of the old course is great,” wrote one reviewer earlier this year. “It weaves in and amongst the neighbouring Wandlebury course and it has been in great condition the few times I have played… although there isn’t much other quality in this county, it’s still worth a visit.”
|1||Gog Magog (Old)||No change|
|2||Saffron Walden||No change|
|3||Gog Magog (Wandlebury)||No change|
|4||Links Newmarket||No change|
|5||Ely City||No change|
|6||St Ives||Up 3|
|7||Brampton Park||Down 1|
|8||Elton Furze||Down 1|
|9||Nene Park (Thorpe Wood)||Down 1|
|10||St Neots||No change|
The Top 20 chart for Essex is still headed by Thorndon Park, an early 1920s layout from the respected design company of Harry Colt and Hugh Alison. The club has been renovating bunkers and removing trees in an effort to generally improve playing conditions and this upgrade work should be finished in good time to celebrate the club’s centenary next year.
Thorndon Park Golf Club
The most significant upward move is made by Toot Hill, a 1990s production from local architect Martin Gillett, rising four spots to number 10. In the bottom half of the Essex table, there are new entries for Theydon Bois Golf Club (#17) in Epping Forest, which dates back to 1897, and for the Heron and Hawk nines at South Essex Golf & Country Club (#18), located right next to Thorndon Park.
|1||Thorndon Park||No change|
|7||Canons Brook||Up 2|
|8||West Essex||Up 2|
|10||Toot Hill||Up 4|
|12||Thorpe Hall||Up 3|
|13||Boyce Hill||Down 1|
|14||Frinton (Havers)||Down 8|
|16||Stoke by Nayland (Gainsborough)||No change|
|17||Theydon Bois||New entry|
|18||South Essex (Heron & Hawk)||New entry|
|19||Five Lakes (Lakes)||No change|
The Grove in Chandler’s Cross has warded off a strong challenge from Hadley Wood to maintain its No.1 position in Hertfordshire. First opened for play at the start of the new millennium, the course has developed into one of the best golfing layouts inside the M25 as vouched for only last week by a review from yet another satisfied pay and play golfer:
“You need to remember that this is Watford so the land isn’t exactly spectacular. The architect, Kyle Phillips, has done a wonderful job and there are many exciting holes, twists and turns, and interesting green complexes… The conditioning of the fairways and greens has always been excellent and is a real trademark of The Grove. The turf can get a bit soggy but again this is in not links land, but North London clay beneath.”
Three century-old layouts make noteworthy 3-place advances in the new Hertfordshire listings:
Porters Park (#8) at Radlett, which Cuthbert Butchart had a hand in designing; the Willie Park Junior-designed Knebworth (#15) outside Stevenage; and the old Harry Colt West course at Moor Park (#17) in Rickmansworth.
Porters Park Golf Club
A little further down the table, Verulam, Samuel Ryder's home club in St Albans, which James Braid expanded to an 18-hole track back in 1912, climbs a commendable four places to number 22.
|1||The Grove||No change|
|2||Hadley Wood||Up 2|
|5||Moor Park (High)||No change|
|7||Sandy Lodge||Up 1|
|8||Porters Park||Up 3|
|9||West Herts||Up 1|
|10||Hanbury Manor||Down 3|
|11||South Herts (Vardon)||Up 1|
|12||Brocket Hall (Melbourne)||Up 1|
|13||Brocket Hall (Palmerston)||Down 4|
|14||Old Fold Manor||Up 1|
|16||Dyrham Park||Down 2|
|17||Moor Park (West)||Up 3|
|18||Essendon (Old)||Down 1|
|19||Welwyn Garden City||Up 2|
|20||Brickendon Grange||Up 2|
|21||Brookmans Park||Down 5|
|23||Batchworth Park||Down 4|
|24||East Herts||Down 1|
|25||Mid Herts||No change|
|26||Bishops Stortford||Down 2|
|28||Hartsbourne (Willows & Firs)||Up 2|
|29||Essendon (New)||No change|
The top three courses retain the same chart positions they occupied when we last re-ranked the English counties two years ago so Royal West Norfolk holds on to the No. 1 slot. Our US Consultant Fergal O’Leary was here a few months ago and his review was tinged with more than a touch of envy:
“The members here are amongst the luckiest souls that play the game… certain clubs give you a glimpse of the origins of the game on a level that is rarely matched… furnishings from 1892 are still in place and things don’t change much at all as you escape from modern day… both the course and the clubhouse have stood the test of time, and are relentless with their pursuit of preserving the past. With upcoming improvements to the course on the horizon, it further puts Royal West Norfolk into a category of its own.”
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club 9th hole - photo courtesy of Kevin Murray
Another Norfolk course with a regal prefix makes significant progress in our revised standings and it’s Royal Norwich, rising five rungs on the ladder to No. 4. The club has just moved from its old location close to the city centre to a new site where Ross McMurray from European Golf Design has mapped out a new 24-hole complex, with Ian Poulter officially opening the course at Weston Park just last month.
Royal Norwich Golf Club 3rd hole at Weston Park
|1||Royal West Norfolk||No change|
|4||Royal Norwich||Up 5|
|5||Royal Cromer||Down 1|
|7||King's Lynn||Down 1|
|8||Great Yarmouth & Caister||Down 1|
|10||Barnham Broom (Valley)||New entry|
The Purdis Heath course at Ipswich Golf Club regains the top spot in Suffolk, taking over from Aldeburgh which slips back to the runner-up slot. Ipswich was formed in 1895 on common land near Rushmere Heath but it moved to Purdis Heath thirty years later, with Fred G. Hawtree and J.H. Taylor constructing a new course from the plans of James Braid.
Ipswich Golf Club - Purdis Heath course
Today, this delightful heathland track has benefitted from a recent bunker renovation by Martin Hawtree, whose grandfather helped construct the original course. Using old photographs, the architect was able to return the sand hazards to the same style of ninety years ago, with the course now looking as good as it ever has during its 90-year history.
|1||Ipswich (Purdis Heath)||Up 1|
|3||Woodbridge (Heath)||No change|
|4||Royal Worlington & Newmarket||No change|
|6||Felixstowe Ferry (Martello)||No change|
|7||Bury St Edmunds||Up 1|
|8||Bungay & Waveney Valley||Up 1|
The next English region to come under the magnifying glass is the North East, when we’ll be focusing on the counties of Durham, Northumberland and Yorkshire.
Top 100 Golf Courses