Review by Allgolfcourse Ambassador Matt Holbrook
Founded in 1880 and the only links course in Suffolk, Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club provides its members and visitors with a superb mix of challenging golf, perfect practice facilities and stunning views across the Deben Estuary, with all this just a 25 minute drive from Ipswich.
One of the central features of the main championship course at Felixstowe is the Martello Tower, which dates back to between 1805 and 1812 when eight Martello Towers were built on the Felixstowe Peninsula as a defence against a possible invasion by Napoleon’s forces. The tower itself even featured as the clubhouse for the first four years and now proudly sits as a centrepiece alongside the 14th tee and 17th fairway.
The main 18-hole layout ‘The Martello Course’ is accompanied by a full length, par 35, 9-hole course ‘The Kingsfleet’ that is renowned itself for being in the same condition as The Martello.
One of the things that strikes you most on your first visit to Felixstowe is the immediate view out onto the course, the estuary and the Martello Tower as you walk from the car park to either the clubhouse or pro shop. Pretty much the highest point on the course, it really gives an appetiser of what is to come from the course – before even stepping foot on it.
The friendly staff in the pro shop will be on hand to assist with anything, including an array of crested items that are an ideal keepsake for those visiting.
What of the facilities?
The driving range – not open to the general public – is available to use and has the option of hitting from mats, either open air or undercover, and a selection of grass bays during the summer months. An adequate chipping green with bunker is joined by one of the two putting greens – the other of which is the other side of the clubhouse, closer to the 1st tee.
Whether you decide to grab a quick bite before or after (the fish and chips come highly recommended) there is a great menu to pick from and you may even be lucky enough to get a seat by the window, or even outside if the weather permits.
Front 9 Overview
From its elevated tee and depending on the daily wind direction, the 1st hole can be one of the toughest in Suffolk.
The road that runs down towards Old Felixstowe on the left-hand side is out of bounds, meaning the right is more favourable from the tee. But at 428 yards, the bunkers down the right-hand side are perfectly placed to stop anything that’s a little too far, leaving a long second shot into large green that all runs from right to left – towards another bunker.
After a strong par 5 at the 2nd, the 3rd and 4th holes are both shorter par 4s.
The 3rd is 305 yards with a slight dog-leg right to left and slightly more tempting as there is just the one greenside bunker to contend with.
The 4th is a tad longer – 328 yards, but a driver may not be the best option as the tee box sits at an angle to the fairway with a couple of blind bunkers that are definitely in play. Safer option is an iron here but certainly another risk and reward if you’re feeling good about your game.
The 1st of the four par 3s comes at the 5th before the hardest hole statistically, the 6th.
A 421 par 4 that turns into a monster as more often than not, it will be playing into the wind. It’s going to take two excellent shots to maybe even get close to this green whilst avoiding the fairway bunkers down the right-hand side, with four more sandy graves surrounding another green that severely slopes from left to right.
Interestingly, the 7th is the first of three par 5s in the space of four holes, but as long as you avoid the water snaking its way down the left-hand side and then across the fairway, this is reachable in two.
The opposite can be said about the 8th, with OOB down the right-hand side, lots of bunkers to contend with and again, often playing into the wind, it’s a 500-yard par 5 with a stroke index of 3 for a reason.
The front finished with a tough par 3, another undulating green, and it’s the only hole on the course that actually plays directly out towards the sea. Club choice to cover the bunkers is vital too.
Back 9 Overview
The back half starts with the last par 5. Another strong offering, the OOB right shouldn’t come into play, but the water down the left may be on your mind, plotting your way down avoiding the bunkers will lead to a good birdie chance perhaps.
The 12th is tricky par 3 that plays up and over the road to an elevated green, with deep bunkers short and a green sloping from back to front, being below the hole would be ideal, but I wouldn’t suggest being too cute here, get it on the green and take a two putt.
Visually, the tee shot on the 13th was my favourite. From the highest point on the course right towards the Martello Tower, the beach and sea running down the right-hand side, the estuary in the distance and views looking towards Bawdsey Manor, this is a stunning spot but don’t forget about the task in hand. It’s not the longest, but there are some hidden fairway bunkers that you need to be short of, before an approach to a green with a devilish slope and run-offs.
The 14th and 15th are two really strong par 4s that require your full attention before you get to the last par 3 – and at 204 yards, often into the wind, many would even take a four as a good score.
The 17th is another super hole. Fairly forgiving from the tee but at 441 yards, the second shot into my favourite green will be from a fair distance. The ‘saucer’ like green means a bit of imagination can be used to try and chase an approach shot in with the ball feeding toward to the middle of the green from pretty much any side of the vast surface.
A fairly gentle finish awaits where the longer hitters will fancy getting their tee shots pretty close to the green. The hole drops away from the tee and rises back up again almost giving the perception that the hole is slightly longer than it actually plays. With a bit of room to the right, a nice chance to open them shoulders one last time.
Felixstowe is fun, Felixstowe is tough. Felixstowe is a really strong classic links course that depending on the weather and, more importantly the wind direction, can give and take away in equal measure.
As you would expect, the course plays well all-year-round, the naturally dry ground soaks up the rain well in winter and gets a bit bouncy and fiery during the summer months.
The greens are super tricky and will catch a lot of people out. There are some severe slopes, but there is also a lot of subtle breaks closer to the holes. It may be easy for someone not quite on top form to rack up a bit of a score here, but I don’t think that would take away from the enjoyment for any golfer of any ability.
It’s a constant test from start to finish. Some of the greens are a fair size, making you feel like you’re hitting more greens, but you can leave yourself with some troublesome putts at the same time – and that’s if you avoid some of the run-off areas too.
I can see why so many Allgolfcourse users rate Felixstowe as Highly Recommended and can’t wait to get back. They accommodate visitors very well with numerous open competitions as well as their very popular ‘Winter Fourball’ which runs on the first Tuesday of each month during winter – 18-holes of golf and fish and chips after, how could you possibly go wrong?
If you’re visiting this part of the country, make sure you head for a game at Felixstowe. I promise you won’t be disappointed and as they embark on an exciting project to build a new clubhouse, Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club is certainly one to keep your eye on over the next few years.
Overall Rating – 10
Course (Conditions) – 10
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) – 10
Course (Green Condition) – 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) – 8
Club Facilities & Clubhouse – 8
Practice Facilities – 7
Friendliness/Hospitality – 9
Pace of Play – 8
Value For Money – 9