The Suffolk Heritage Coast is a corner of England far removed from the commercialism of many seaside resorts.
The locals are a conservative bunch resistant to change. Recently a beautiful sculpture dedicated to the great composer Benjamin Britten on the beach at Aldeburgh caused much controversy, but in this era of apathy the passion of the locals should perhaps be commended.
The attractive Suffolk coastline stretching south of the popular resort of Great Yarmouth boasts a number of golf courses steeped in history.
The quaint and picturesque seaside town of Southwold boasts a quality nine-hole course on common land. James Braid was consulted about the layout on several occasions and played an exhibition round in 1898. He was invited back in 1906 but asked for a fee of eight guineas and was refused. Anti-commercialism had set in.
The pace of life here is almost as leisurely as when Braid first visited, although the meandering roads get busier in the summer. The area is excellent for bird watching and we have the Nazis to thank for RSPB Minsmere, the UK?s largest bird sanctuary.
The area was flooded to stop German tanks from landing, creating reedbeds ? the perfect environment for the bittern (which incidentally forms the logo for
the RSPB and is one of the UK?s rarest breeding birds). There are a number of trails you can follow through woods and along the dunes which in summer are carpeted with southern marsh orchids.
Southwold was adored by the Edwardian jet-set who came for the golf and the sea air. King George VI made the area fashionable by attending summer camp here until 1938. He was rowed ashore from the royal yacht to be greeted by crowds of enraptured locals and visitors.
Thorpeness was built between 1910 and 1930 by Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie as a family resort free from piers and promenades. The village has little more than a green, a lake, a windmill, the House in the Clouds ? a 1930s folly ? and a great James Braid-designed course. The Thorpeness Hotel and Golf Club is charming and you can easily imagine the golfers of the 1930s hitting hickories down the fairway.
The par-4 18th is a beautiful, though not particularly tough, finishing hole, with the eye-catching House in the Clouds and the windmill in the background. The course measures just 6,370 yards long and there is only one par 5, but don?t underestimate this treasure.
If you are searching for a tougher test then head for Aldeburgh, possibly the finest course on this part of the coast.
In May the fairways are aflame with flowering yellow gorse, and with luck the wind will be a little tamer.
I played on a freezing but beautiful February morning as the icy wind funnelled in from the North Sea, whipping my ball down the fairway one minute or seizing it from the air mid flight and hurling it to the ground the next. The greens were outstanding and the bunkers tough ? most were lined with sleepers making extricating your ball ball back onto the fairway that bit more difficult.
There are many challenging holes, such as the par-3 15th that measures 201 yards for men and 188 yards for ladies. Straight into the wind, with a large bunker to the right this is a hole of mammoth proportions. The par-3 4th features a sleeper-lined, horseshoe-shaped bunker that leaves no margin for error.
After playing those heavenly holes hellishly badly I strolled into the clubhouse in search of a stiff drink and I could have stepped straight into the 1930s. The clubhouse is exactly how it used to be ? leather armchairs, big picture windows offering panoramic views of the course and a tiger?s head mounted on the wall are just a few of the superb features.
The guest book falls open at an entry scrawled by an avid fan of the course in the late 1930s. This corner of Suffolk has certainly passed the test of time.
Tel: 01502 723234
GF: £26wd, £28we
Tel: 01728 453309
GF: wd ? £50 before noon, £40 after noon, £30 after 3pm; we? £60 before noon, £50 after noon and £35 after 3pm.
Nine-hole river course £7.50 wd, £12 we.
Tel: 01728 452176
GF: £35 wd, £40 we