10 of the Best Courses in Essex
ESSEX is a strange county, a mix of industry and agriculture featuring some of the prettiest towns and villages in England. But, thanks to programmes such as The Only Way Is Essex, it has something of a reputation as being the home of wheeler-dealers and loud-mouhed, tattooed women - if you have ever visited the area you will know that is not true.
Much of the county lies within the London commuter belt, with tens of thousands of people travelling to and from the capital every day.
Essex is also home to the Dunmow Flitch Trials, a traditional ceremony that takes place every four years and consists of a test of a married couple's devotion to one another. More than 14,000 buildings have listed status in the county, and around 1,000 of those are recognised as of Grade I or II* importance. It is home to Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, and seaside towns such as Clacton, Frinton and Southend.
With so much beautiful countryside, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are many fabulous golf courses in Essex. Here, we look at 10 of the best.
Thorndon Park Golf Club
Par 71, 6,511 yards, parkland
Green fee £70
Located just 15 miles from London and less than two miles from the busy M25, it may as well be 150 miles away as you would never guess that the capital is so close. Thorndon Park was designed by Harry Colt in 1920, is set in 250 acres and surrounded by a huge county park. It opens with a 437-yard par four. The left-hand bunker is well placed to catch all but the longest drives. Middle to left of the fairway gives the best line into the green, which falls away to the back right. The seventh is another par four, this one measuring 392 yards. The ideal tee shot is to the right of the fairway to allow for the right to left slope. If you hit a short drive the ditch at the bottom of the slope will come into play for your second shot. The 12th is a 512-yard par five with the drive played through an avenue of trees. With out of bounds left, and a slope to the right, a straight tee shot is a must. The shot to the green, which slopes away from you, is tricky from any distance, with bunkers short and to left. The 18th is a magnificent 400-yard par four. From the tee you can see the stunning Thorndon Hall standing guard over the green. The fairway is relatively wide, but ensure that you don't open your shoulders too much and end up in the rough, from where it is extremely difficult to hit a gently sloping green that is surrounded by bunkers.
Orsett Golf Club
Par 72, 6,600 yards, heathland
Green fee £47.50
Located five miles from the M25, Orsett G.C was founded in 1899 and was designed by James Braid. It is regularly used as a regional qualifying course for The Open Championship. The opening hole is a 525-yard par five, with out of bounds running down the right side of the hole. The ideal drive is to the left left side of the fairway but be careful to avoid the bunker on the left. Deep fairway bunkers lie in wait for a wayward second shot before an approach to a green surrounded by five bunkers. The eighth is a 182-yard par three played to a small, flat green. Ensure you take enough club to clear the deep bunkers at the front of the green but beware of the ridge that surrounds the back of the putting surface. The 10th is 397 yards long, and is a dogleg to the left. The drive is blind and should be aimed at the poplar trees on the right but ensure you don't go too far as trouble lies in wait. There is a big slope on the front of a large green. The 18th is 404 yards long and is a challenging closing hole, with a ditch and out of bounds on the right, and trees on both sides of the fairway. There is a bunker about 20 yards short of the green, which is protected by a further four traps.
Frinton Golf Club
Par 71, 6,265 yards , links
Green fee £35
Founded in 1895, Frinton is a traditional links that provides plenty of challenges, not least from the ever-changing wind. Tidal ditches cross many fairways, requiring accurately placed shots. The course is an area of special scientific interest and is home to a variety of wildlife, including the hen harrier and short-eared owl. The second hole is a 462-yard par four.with out of bounds on the right. The ideal tee shot is to the right of the fairway, giving the best view of the two-tiered green, guarded by two bunkers. The fifth is a frightening 388-yard par four that features no fewer than nine ponds, out of bounds, a stream and a ditch. The best line from the tee is to the left, but that is where all the ponds are. Find the ideal place and you face a second shot to a green that slopes from back to front. The 16th is a par three that looks simple enough. Measuring 186 yards, it is played to a long, narrow green that slopes from back to front and is protected by bunkers on both sides. The 17th, at 442 yards, is another terrific par four. Out of bounds looms on the right. There are a few trees right and left and a bunker in the middle of the fairway at 290 yards - avoid all of that and you are faced with an approach to another small green protected by bunkers, with a ditch on the left.
Chigwell Golf Club
Par 71, 6,309 yards, parkland
Green fee £35
Chigwell is 10 miles from central London and close to the M25. It was first opened for play in 1925. The first hole is a tough par four measuring 467 yards, calling for a long drive and a long iron/wood to a right to left sloping green. A five here is usually a good opening score. There are trees right and left, a bunker in the middle of the fairway and a deep bunker to the left side of the green. The ninth hole is a 354-yard par four that should offer you a birdie opportunity but steer clear of the out of bounds and bunkers on the left. The green is not easy to hit, with a bunker guarding the front, left and right of the putting surface. The 14th is a challenging par three measuring 197 yards, with out of bounds on the left, so many people end up bailing out to the right. The tee shot also has to clear a ditch and a bunker at the front of the green, as well as sand right and left. A par here is a very good result. The 18th, a par five measuring 556 yards, is a great finishing hole, with trouble all over the place. You have to find the fairway with your drive as bunkers wait on the right side and trees on both sides. You then need to miss the water hazard on the left before an approach to a sloping green.
Five Lakes Golf Club (Lakes Course)
Par 72, 6,767 yards, parkland
Green fee £16.25
There are two courses at Five Lakes and both provide a good test in delightful surroundings. Here, we look at the Lakes Course, which was designed by Neil Coles. Water comes into play on 10 holes. The third is a 504-yard par five, with out of bounds running down the right side and trees left and right. Fairway bunkers are perfectly placed to swallow up your drive and second shot, so take time to decide where you want to finish before hitting an approach to a narrow, sloping green with bunkers on either side. The fifth, at 395 yards, is a glorious par four where only a straight drive will do as water runs down the left side of a narrow fairway that also features bunkers on the right, more sand on the right side of a narrow green and more water at the rear. The 14th only measures 330 yards but provides proof that a hole doesn't need to be long to offer a challenge. There are trees on the right and thick reeds on the left of a narrow fairway. Find the short grass and you are left with an approach to a small green protected by a large bunker. The 18th is a classic finishing par five of 500 yards that demands a long straight drive. There is a huge lake on the left that must be avoided, but the left side offers the best line for both the second shot and the approach. The entrance to the well guarded, sloping green is extremely narrow so the approach must be accurate.
Abridge Golf Club
Par 72, 6,704 yards, parkland
Green fee £35
Abridge is set in 240 acres of beautiful parkland with terrific views of the Essex countryside and was designed by Henry Cotton in 1962. The third hole is 418 yards long and is a dogleg left. Big hitters can try to cut the corner to reduce the length of the second shot, but most people will play for the middle of the fairway, setting up an uphill approach to a green protected by a bunker short left and a pond on the right. The eighth is 377 yards long with a wide fairway before a blind approach to an elevated green. Take one more club than you think and aim towards the left hump by the green as the ball will kick down to the right hand side. The 12th is a great par four of 448 yards and presents the golfer with a tough challenge from the tee. There is out of bounds on the left and trees on the right, and the fairway slopes from left to right taking the ball towards the trees. Aim your drive at the hump in the fairway and you should be safe. The long narrow green features two bunkers on the right and trees on the left. The closing hole measures 354 yards, with out of bounds to the left and more trees to the right. Bunkers surround the green so distance control for your second shot is important. If you go long you will be faced with a tough chip back onto the green.
The Essex Golf and Country Club
Par 73, 6,905 yards, parkland
Green fee £25
Opened in 1990, the Essex is now a well-establish golf course that features 14 lakes, so accuracy and strategy are the keys to scoring well here. The first hole is a par five measuring 566 yards, with water right and left. The ideal line is to the right centre of the fairway, from where your second shot will be struck over a lake. Fairway bunkers lie in wait for your second shot. The approach is to a green surrounded by bunkers that slopes gently from back to front. The ninth is a magnificent par four of 399 yards, with a pond on the left and more water on the right. Hit your tee shot to the left side of the fairway and then commit yourself to to an approach to a two-tier green guarded by bunkers and yet more water. A bogey is never a bad score on this hole. The 16th is a terrific par four of 410 yards, with thick rough, trees and out of bounds on the right. It is a gentle dogleg that calls for a drive struck towards the left centre of the fairway before a difficult approach to a sloping green protected by bunkers and more trees on the right. The finishing hole is another fabulous par five,of 500 yards, with trees to the left and water on the right, as well as a ditch running across the fairway. Slice your second shot and you can say goodbye to your ball. The approach is to a green guarded by bunkers and a magnificent pond, complete with fountain.
Warren Golf Club
Par 70, 6,229 yards, parkland
Green fee £35, winter £30
Located in the heart of Essex, the first nine holes of the Warren meander through beautiful undulating woodland, with the back nine winding their way through more open but still testing parkland. The fourth is a par four measuring 455 yards, with trees on both sides of the fairway before a long approach to a green that slopes from front to back, protected by bunkers left and right. The sixth, at 396 yards, is one of the most difficult holes on the golf course. The drive is struck over a stream and through an avenue of trees to the left of the fairway before a blind approach that can always be struck further right than you think. The 189-yard 10th is a superb par three that leaves no margin for error. It looks intimidating from the tee, and that is because it is. Trees line both sides, and those on the right make a draw almost impossible, so the ideal shot is a high fade to a green that slopes from back to front. Come up short and you ball will roll all the way down the hill. Good luck! The closing hole, a par five, measures 498 yards and calls for a drive on the right of the fairway. There are trees on both sides of the fairway and bunkers on the left and right waiting to catch the drive. A huge beech tree comes into play with the second shot before an approach to a green that slopes from front to back and is protected by two bunkers.
Chelmsford Golf Club
Par 68, 5,996 yards, parkland
Green fee £45
Chelmsford is one of the oldest courses in Essex, having opening in 1883. The first hole is an uphill par four of 417 yards. A good drive up the left hand side opens the view to the green. Take one more club than you think to clear the steep slope in front of the green. Hit the wrong spot and the ball will roll back down the hill. The green slopes from back to front and is protected by bunkers. The sixth is another par four, measuring 413 yards, with trees right and left. The perfect drive is to the right side of the fairway, which is a lot further right of the fairway bunker than it looks. The green slopes from front to back, with a bank at the rear. The 11th is the only par five on the course at 495 yards. Short hitters should play left of the fairway bunker and then lay up short of the second set of bunkers. Big hitters can cut the corner, which will leave a long iron to a green guarded by a raised bunker to the right. The 17th hole is 384 yards and features a tight fairway but if you can find the middle and clear the top of the hill, your ball will kick forward - the fairway slopes from left to right, so take that into account. The green is elevated, so make sure you take enough club for your approach.
West Essex Golf Club
Par 71, 6,289 yards, parkland
Green fee £30
Designed by James Braid, West Essex offers some amazing views of London, including the O2 Millennium Dome, the Olympic Stadium & Canary Wharf; the Shard and the Gherkin in the City; the London Eye, the BT Tower and the Wembley Stadium Arch. The second hole is 384 yards and has trees running down the right side of the fairway so make sure you don't slice your drive. There is also a copse on the left and two fairway bunkers 110 yards from the green, which is guarded by a further three traps. The fifth is a downhill par three that measures 159 yards where you are trying to land your ball on the smallest green in England. Called the ‘the Frying Pan’ by the members, it is only being 14 yards wide. The eigth hole at Royal Troon, known as the Postage Stamp, is only about 10 yards wide but is 30 yards long (around 300 sq yards). So the 5that West Essex is about half the size of the Postage Stamp. The 13th is a challenging par four of 470 yards with a ditch on the left and a pond on the right. There are trees on the left, a bunker 70 yards from the putting surface and a green guarded by bunkers right and left. The 18th is a stonking 455-yard par four with a bunker 150 yards from the tee that shouldn't trouble anybody but actually collects a lot of golf balls. There are trees and bushes left and right and, 115 yards from the green, a huge oak that guards the right side - so make sure you favour the left side. There are three bunkers 50 yards short of the green and another on the left side of the putting surface.
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