The parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Aldeburgh contains tributes to two important cultural figures associated with the seaside town. There’s a bust of one of its most famous sons, George Crabbe. The poet was born in Aldeburgh in 1794 and much of his work was inspired by the area. There’s also a stained glass window in memory of Benjamin Britten. The composer latterly lived in Aldeburgh and the festival he founded in 1948 is still held annually.

Culture is just one of Aldeburgh’s many facets. The beach has been a launching point for longshore fishermen since the 13th century, more recently the town has become a popular holiday resort, and, as we’ll find, a great centre for golf. But there’s one feature that is important to everything associated with Aldeburgh: the sea. Most of East Anglia is in danger from encroaching tides and this corner of Suffolk is no different. It’s a battle that’s been raging for centuries. In his poem, The Village, Crabbe describes the persistent threat:

Who still remain to hear the ocean roar, Whose greedy waves devour the lessening shore; Till some fierce tide, with more imperious sway,
Sweeps the low hut and all it holds away.

Ironically Crabbe’s own birthplace in Slaughden succumbed to the waves long ago.

The golf course at Aldeburgh is protected from the hungry sea by the town itself. Set on a rare stretch of maritime heathland, it has the playing characteristics of a links. Gorse, sandy fairways and a steady wind make this an excellent test of patience and accurate hitting. The layout is the work of J H Taylor and Willie Park Jnr. They were employed in 1907 to modify the original course after the club lost some of its land. Apart for some tinkering by Harry Colt, the course has remained the same since.

The wind must be taken into consideration on every shot here. Don’t underestimate its effect on distances, it is easy to fall short or fly too far. If you can avoid the bunkers all the way round you can count yourself very lucky. Often the ball seems magnetically drawn to them and many are hidden so you don’t realise your mistake until you reach the ball.

Just a few miles up the coast from Aldeburgh is Thorpeness. Designed by the ubiquitous James Braid in 1922 this is another heathland-by-the-sea layout. There’s an excellent hotel attached to the course which makes it an ideal place for a short golfing break – there’s something supremely luxurious about being able to walk straight from finishing a full English breakfast on to the first tee.

The course here is more heathland than links and the heather and silver birch-lined fairways prompt many to make comparisons with great inland tracks like Sunningdale and Walton Heath. This is a layout where you must plot a careful route. Staying on the fairways is critical as straying off line will often result in a hack sideways, if not a lost ball. The approach to the 18th offers one of the best backdrops in UK golf. You are faced by the impressive white windmill as well as Thorpeness’ famous, “house in the clouds” – originally a water tower, it now provides comfortable holiday accommodation.

Although our departure from Suffolk was imminent we felt there was just enough time to squeeze in one more game. Although Ipswich GC was founded in 1895 it was not until 1926 that it moved to its current site at Purdis Heath. In 1928 the new course was opened by an incredible fourball exhibition. Course architect James Braid, five-time Open champion J H Taylor, the man who stands atop the Ryder Cup – Abe Mitchell – and a promising 21-year-old golfer named Henry Cotton.

Continuing the theme of our excursion, Purdis Heath is another heathland layout. Significant efforts have been made recently to return to the playing conditions that existed at the time of the 1928 match. Native heathland grasses have been re-introduced and local wildlife encouraged. This initiative has clearly been a success and Ipswich is a superb place to enjoy a peaceful round over impressively maintained holes. If you have more time to spare than we did there’s even another nine holes to try.


Where to play

T: 01728 453309
Stats: par 68, SSS 71, 6,349 yards

T: 01728 452176
Stats: par 69, SSS 70, 6,432 yards

(Purdis Heath)
T: 01473 728941
Stats: par 71, SSS 71, 6,439 yards

Where to stay

Thorpeness Hotel
T: 01728 452176
This is the hotel attached to the golf course at Thorpeness. It’s a comfortable three-star establishment with 30 bedrooms. These all overlook the golf course or the boating lake.

Uplands Hotel
T: 01728 452420
Just opposite St Peter and St Paul church, the Uplands Hotel offers charming accommodation in a Grade 2 listed building.

Salthouse Harbour Hotel
T: 01473 226789
Luxurious and elegant four-star hotel in the heart of Ipswich. The bedrooms have views over the harbour.