Its par of 68 versus a SSS of 73 is testament to that. Playing over 6,600 yards from the back markers there are a dozen par fours that exceed the 400 yard mark (seven greater than 425) and you won’t find a par five in sight.
The four par-threes are well defended and there isn’t a single hole where you stand on the tee and think this is a real birdie opportunity.
However, and interestingly, the scorecard also has a column for ‘bogey’ where the 3rd (uphill 429 yards), the sixth (uphill 428 yards), the 11th (flat 467 yards) and the 16th (rising 478 yards) are all assigned a bogey of five.
Now is not the time to delve into the mechanics or history of bogey but if one should consider the above quartet of holes as par fives and the course a par 72 then you actually have four excellent birdie chances! In practice these are effectively ‘par 4 ½’ holes, as are a number of the other two-shotters depending upon the strength and direction of the wind.
Regardless of how you balance the numbers Aldeburgh, situated a mile or so inland from the seaside town, is a very good test of golf over superbly dry, running ground. As you would expect long driving and stout iron play are essential. The former, where you can never relax on the tee, is complicated by a number of deadly fairway bunkers and, although the playing corridors are generous, gorse lines virtually every one of them and will happily gobble up a wild tee-shot. There's a real brashness to the 18 holes.
Playing from the tight and sandy fairways on this coastal heathland course is an absolute treat. The near links-like conditions enable the purest of strikes and this is often required to hold the firm and fast greens. The property is exposed to the ever-present sea breeze and in a stiff wind this championship course can be extremely challenging and unrelenting.
Inevitably the length of the course will place a premium on the short game; because of the distance you are coming in from you are likely to miss as many greens as you hit. One must pitch, chip and putt well at Aldeburgh, perhaps even more so than to be on top of your long-game.
It’s difficult to single out individual holes at this fine course because in many ways there are no jaw-droppers. Each one is solid, well-bunkered and a very good test. This is arguably its biggest weakness.
The short fourth, the first par three on the course, is certainly an eye-catcher with its raised kidney-shaped green mostly surrounded by a large wooden railway sleepered bunker. The putting surface is long, narrow and slopes significantly from left-to-right. The other one-shotters, despite all running in virtually the same direction, are all fine holes too.
There aren’t massive changes in elevation during the round although there are many significant rises and falls, the most severe coming at the downhill approach to the seventh. A number of tee-shots are played from high points to downhill fairways so some of the holes don’t play quite as long as the yardage suggests and the running nature of the course also aids in a similar way.
Holes that elevate themselves above the rest in my opinion were the third, ninth, 11th, 14th and 16th. These five holes give a few more options from the tee than the rest, but long and straight are still the main overriding factors. One must shape the ball a bit more on these to gain maximum distance or to put yourself in the prime position for attacking the green.
Aldeburgh is undoubtedly a very good golf course and an even better test of golf although I did feel it lacked a bit of variety in the type of shots required. I personally would like to see a short par four thrown into the equation to mix it up a bit whilst the four short holes, all playing in the same direction, meant that you had a similar wind to contend with on each of them.
However, this is nit-picking at a very fine course, certainly one of England’s best and toughest inland tracks. Hard as nails and relentless in its challenge.
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.