Played by NCG: Thorndon Park
Reason for a Thorndon Park Golf Club review
I had once visited Thorndon Park Golf Club previously, but only to watch the end of an amateur event several years ago. I was keen to see if it lived up to its billing as Essex’s No 1 course as part of my ongoing research for England’s Top 100 Courses 2018.
Where is Thorndon Park Golf Club?
Thorndon Park Golf Club is in Essex, close to Brentwood. It certainly doesn’t feel like it, but you are within 10 minutes of the M25.
What to expect
Thorndon Park is an exceptionally well-presented parkland that has real grandeur in the shape of the stately home that provides the backdrop to the gently rising closing hole. This is a club of great standing in its area.
It was originally the work of Harry Colt and Charles Alison.
Many of the fairways are lines by ancient oak trees, though the club are currently working on a strategy to remove some younger specimens. That will have the advantage of improving the drainage, especially on lower-lying areas of the course.
Considering that Essex is, notoriously in golfing terms, built on clay, it must be said that Thorndon Park Golf Club’s firmness underfoot is a tribute to the quality of the greenkeeping here.
Both nines here drop gently but continuously away from the clubhouse before climbing back towards the higher ground. It’s fair to say that the downhill holes are more fun, while the uphill ones are where you really make your score. Arguably the toughest stretch comes at the end of the front nine.
That would be the par-4 3rd. It’s quite a sight, especially if you get it early on a bright morning, as we did. The hole curls from right to left and the drive is over a lake. The further left you go, the longer the carry but the shorter the second shot becomes. Play safe, as I did, and you will have the best part of 200 yards in to a slightly raised green. It’s an attractive and classy hole.
My best bit
I managed to salvage an unlikely par at the stroke-one 8th after an untidy journey up this tough par 4. From an unpromising spot right of the green, and only able to see the top of the flag, I floated a chip over the bunker to a foot.
What to look for at Thorndon Park Golf Club
You have to admire the quality of presentation here, and it will only be enhanced by a renovation project following consultation with Ken Brown and Ken Moodie.
I will stick my neck out here and say that with attention to the presentation of the bunkering, the character of several holes could be greatly lifted. Originally, Colt and Alison’s bunkers would have been irregularly shaped but over the years many have become generic ‘splash’ bunkers.
When I go back
I’ll start from scratch on the 7th green. I am ashamed to say I managed to four-putt it. Spectacularly, I mis-read each of the first three putts. Granted, I was a long way from the hole to start with, and, yes, Thorndon Park’s greens are swift, but still.