Golf Course Review of Thorpeness Golf Club

Thorpeness Golf Club

Thorpeness Golf Course

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Quick Summary: An excellent coastal heathland layout perfect for groups or societies

Our 5 Star Rating: 4.0

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 disappoint. 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!

This is evident from the get-go because even the relatively tame opening hole has a couple of bunkers at differing distances on opposite sides of the fairway to catch you out. This is a pattern that is repeated quite a few times during the round so you really need to be on your game from the tee.

The greens are also extremely interesting and cleverly designed. Many of them are tilted so not only do you need to judge your approach shots particularly carefully one must also make sure your ball finishes below the hole otherwise three-putting could become a regular occurrence. A few of them fall away from the fairway too which is a feature I particularly like on flattish courses and can catch the first-time visitor unawares… watch out for these at holes six, eight and 16 in particular.

Most golfers may cite the third green as the best on the property, with a backstop that you can use to your advantage, (and it is indeed very good) but the three putting surfaces, and their surrounds, that I thought stood out above the rest were the narrow second, unique sixth and angled 15th. Each one offers a different challenge and where finding yourself on the wrong side could spell disaster. The green complex at the latter of this trio is truly exceptional and in hindsight dictates your strategy from the tee; the best angle is from the right, especially if the hole is located in the swale towards the back-left, as there is a knuckle at the front-left that can deflect your approach away towards a gathering bunker.

Holes of note, before you cross the B1353 to play holes eight through to 16, are the excellent stroke-index one fourth, where if the fairway bunkers don’t get you the ones 70-yards shy of the green probably will, and the short seventh which is played across a pond in a lovely corner of the grounds.

In my opinion, the best of Thorpeness can be found on the north side of the road that splits the course in two. The feel is more heathland on this section and whilst I didn’t care too much for holes 10 and 11 at the far end of the estate the two par fives (nine and 14) are both superb as is the 12th which has an awesome left-to-right sweeping drive.

The final highlight at Thorpeness comes down the last hole, a stern finisher, where the backdrop of the iconic ‘House in the Clouds’ and a Grade II listed windmill ensure that you finish your round with a smile on your face.

Par for the course is 70 whilst the maximum yardage is 6,510 from the blue tees, however, it should be noted that the SSS from the back markers is 72. Thorpeness is a very popular ‘stay and play’ destination but don’t be suckered into thinking this is mere holiday golf; it’s a challenging, albeit highly enjoyable, test of golf.

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.

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