An intimate heathland course on a beautiful property


Ipswich Golf Club

Date Reviewed
May 7, 2015
Reviewed by Ed Battye
The Purdis Heath layout at Ipswich Golf Club is an intimate heathland course played over rolling terrain and through beautiful, tranquil woodland in the heart of Suffolk.

It’s very easy on the eye and recent bunker renovations have elevated this course to one that is now knocking on the door of the country’s elite inland venues. As to whether it will gain entrance is an altogether different question.

Some may suggest its location doesn’t do it any favours and the old adage that “If it was on the Surrey sandbelt….” may have an element of truth in it but that never really washes with me. I’m more inclined to reason that if a course is good enough it will be recognised as such regardless of where it is situated.

In my opinion if Ipswich can’t quite be talked about in the same breath as the Surrey and Berkshire powerhouses (not that this unpretentious club claims to be) it isn’t too far away and is clearly going in the right direction.

It should also be noted that there is a second course, the 9-hole Bixley, which although I didn’t get to see on my flying visit is reported to be of a similar ilk to its big brother and well worth playing if one has the time.

Back to the main course and each hole is different; the natural contours of the truly majestic property were used exceptionally well by James Braid in 1926 to create a highly enjoyable golfing experience. There are a number of wonderful green locations; some perched up high, others etched seamlessly into the hillside and of course the memorable sunken green at the fourth. Ipswich mixes it up very well and oozes character.

The heavily bunkered course is routed quite superbly and is one of those where you truly get lost. After half-a-dozen holes you could have asked me to point in the direction of the clubhouse and I wouldn’t have had a clue. In fact it wasn’t until looking at the overhead plan of the course after the round that I realised the 10th green is actually quite close to the clubhouse; I would have otherwise guessed that we were at the farthest point away from it! The back-nine then wraps itself around the inner front-nine in what is roughly a U-shape for the entire layout.

Even from the back tees the course doesn’t play overly long and there are a number of short par fours. The first, ninth and 16th could be classed as just about reachable for longer hitters although I suspect most will play the former and latter as drive-pitch holes. Meanwhile, the temptation at the ninth, the shortest of the trio at 302 yards, is just too much not to have a go for the green on a superb hole that narrows as it reaches the target.

The one-shotters are all pretty little things too with beautifully sited greens. The sixth, tenth and 15th especially are all visually appealing with inviting shots but not without their dangers too, mainly in the form of sand traps and sharp drop-offs around the green.

As for the par fours, the fifth is perhaps the stand-out. It’s a stunning hole with a sweeping drive from a high tee to a green that will gather from the right but is protected on that side with bunkers. Holes eight and 12 also offer exhilarating drives whilst most of the greens are not just defended by greenside bunkers but also by ones 30 to 60 yards short of the putting surfaces.

For me personally the thing that holds the course back ever-so-slightly is a sense of real scale and breadth. The course is absolutely delightful and has a lovely cosy feel to it. There are clearly some extremely fine holes but it just doesn’t quite have that killer instinct which I personally look for in a truly top class golf course. The 18 holes as a collective are far from easy but the fast running nature of the firm fairways along with the downhill changes in elevation on some of the longer two-shotters do make it play shorter than the already modest yardage of 6,439 (par 71) suggests. I’m certainly not an advocate of adding length to courses but it did feel at times that it just need to pack that extra punch.

To say it’s more a case of style over substance at Purdis Heath is admittedly harsh, and is not quite what I’m getting at, but the missing ingredient is definitely a bit of bite. I’m sure others, who’ve played the course more times than me, will disagree but I can only speak from experience.

Regardless of this minor niggle I thoroughly enjoyed playing here on what is undoubtedly a much unheralded course and one that is clearly on the rise. Expect to hear more about Ipswich Golf Club in the future. Much more.

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