Golf Course Review of Thetford Golf Club
Thetford Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: A fine fast-running mix of heath and woodland
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.0
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.
Designed by James Braid in 1912 Thetford doesn’t fall into the top tier of inland courses but it isn’t too far behind and I would strongly recommend anyone to go and play there. I tied it in with a visit to nearby Royal Worlington and Newmarket, just over the border into Suffolk but no more than twenty minutes away, and it’s one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had.
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.
As I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of courses that start with a par three. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason except to say it just doesn’t feel right to me. Thetford (almost) breaks the mould as it begins with a beautiful, downhill opener to a two-tiered green and although 186 yards at its maximum the drop in elevation means it plays much shorter. It’s a fine hole and one I would enjoy even more if it were to come during, rather than right at the start of, the round.
The drop in ground level at the first is probably the most we come across during the entire round and the remainder of the course, as you might expect from one in this region, is quite flat. But where there are changes in elevation it is where we find the best holes; most notably at the fifth and 14th which were my two favourite par fours. The former delivers a real sting in the tail with its devilish putting surface (where I managed to chip and four-putt at this incredibly cunning green). The 16th is a lovely short hole played to a semi-basin green that is ringed at the front by a large bunker. Played over a mass of heathery ground this 150-yarder has shades of Woodhall Spa about it and oozes class.
The 17th, with what appears to be a narrow drive but is actually much wider than you think, is the pick of the three-shotters and gets better as you approach the green. It is part of the fine closing stretch at Thetford which perhaps begins as early as the 12th but really comes into its own from the 14th.
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.
Thetford is featured in the National Club Golfer Top 100 under £100 Golf Courses of Great Britain.