Best Golf Courses In Essex

Not so famous for the sport, the best golf courses in Essex still offer plenty of fun, variety and value

Orsett Golf Club - Hole 12
The short twelfth at Orsett Golf Club
(Image credit: Orsett Golf Club)

Best Golf Courses In Essex

Essex is a relatively flat county running from the north-eastern outskirts of London out to the coast and up towards East Anglia. Despite having no representation in the Top 100 courses of the UK&I and just the one entry in the Next 100, Thorndon Park, it is still home to some extremely enjoyable golf. There are just over 70 clubs affiliated to its county union, and this alphabetic selection demonstrates the very good variety and value on offer throughout the county.


Abridge Golf Club - Hole 14

A pond protects the entrance to the green at the par-4 fourteenth at Abridge

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Romford
  • Founded 1962
  • Architect Henry Cotton
  • GF £60 all week
  • Par 72, 6,439 yards
  • Contact Abridge Golf Club

A former host of regional qualifying for The Open, Abridge was the first course designed by 3-time Open Champion Henry Cotton. Its undulations create interest and challenge at the same time as shielding it visually and as well as possible noise-wise from the nearby M25. Recent investment including better drainage has resulted in a course that is kept in very good condition, especially the greens. The holes are generally tree-lined and so position off the tee is important as well as length. The excellent SI1 14th must be one of the toughest two-shotters in the county.

Ballards Gore

Ballards Gore - Hole 9

Looking back from behind the ninth green at Ballards Gore

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

This is one of the younger courses in the county, and it is situated on a peaceful site surrounded by farmland just a few minutes outside England’s newest city, Southend. Several ponds are in play, including at the par-4 2nd both for the drive and the approach. Water also protects the approaches at the very attractive 8th and 9th holes, as well as the short 14th played to a raised green. This is a pretty course with good variety throughout and well worth a visit.

Boyce Hill

Boyce Hill - Hole 10

Autumn sunlight over the tenth hole at Boyce Hill, a drive-and-pitch par 4

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Benfleet
  • Founded 1922
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF Contact club for details
  • Par 68, 6,009 yards
  • Contact Boyce Hill Golf Club

Just to the north of Canvey Island, Boyce Hill is a very friendly members’ club with an attractive and enjoyable course. While the clue is in the name, the climbs are never too demanding and the reward is some fine views and inviting tee shots. The opening five holes are certainly daunting, but keep your card intact and these are offset by a few drive and pitch par 4s such as the 6th, 9th and 10th. The lone par 5 at the 12th is reachable if you position your tee shot well, and there is plenty of interest all the way.

Braxted Park

Braxted Park - Hole 3

Just 100 yards, the short third at Braxted Park with the lake beyond

(Image credit: Andy Hiseman)
  • Location Witham
  • Founded 1953
  • Architect Unknown
  • GF £25 (18 holes) Mon-Fri
  • Par 66, 5,086 yards
  • Contact Braxted Park Golf Club

This delightful parkland course in the heart of the county is both pretty and engaging. An inventive approach to alternative tee placements means that four holes change par on your second circuit, while the sixth goes from being an outrageously tough par 4 to a realistic birdie chance. The clubhouse is a characterful old cricket pavilion, and the welcome is warm and genuine. The course flies under the radar and is very attractive and can justifiably be described as a hidden gem.


Chelmsford Golf Club - Hole 9

Take plenty of club at the par-3 ninth at Chelmsford which crosses a ravine

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Chelmsford
  • Founded 1893
  • Architect Harry Colt
  • GF £80 Mon, Wed-Fri
  • Par 68, 5,889 yards
  • Contact Chelmsford Golf Club

The club moved to an 18-hole James Braid design almost 30 years after its foundation, but legendary course designer Harry Colt was brought in to make substantial changes. Most of his work remains, although a few holes on the far side of the railway that marks the western boundary have since been replaced. It’s no great length, but a tight par of 68 makes scoring difficult with half a dozen long par 4s being the main test. The routing constantly changes direction, there are pleasant undulations, and somewhat unusually each nine concludes with a par 3. The short holes are strong, varied and very visual, especially the 4th, 9th and 15th.


Colchester Golf Club - Hole 7

Looking back down the seventh hole at Colchester at sunset

(Image credit: Colchester Golf Club)
  • Location Colchester
  • Founded 1907
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF £60 all day, Mon-Fri, £40 after 13:00
  • Par 70, 6,357 yards
  • Contact Colchester Golf Club

Colchester is home to one of the very best courses in the county. Its mature, tree-lined Braid design rewards straight driving over brute force, and is benefiting from a recent irrigation upgrade that sees it kept in excellent condition. There are subtle undulations both on the fairways and the greens, and it is best to make your score on the front nine which is home to both of the par 5s. The 10th hole brings you close to the clubhouse, and the closing loop of eight contains no fewer than five two-shotters in excess of 400 yards.

Five Lakes

Five Lakes - Lakes Course - Hole 8

Looking across to the green on the par-3 eighth on the Lakes Course at Five Lakes

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Brentwood
  • Founded 1972
  • Architect Neil Coles
  • GF £45 Mon-Fri, £35 after 14:00
  • Par Lakes 72, 6,313 yards - Links 71, 5,981 yards
  • Contact Five Lakes Golf Club

Five Lakes is a comprehensive sporting venue in a peaceful location in the east of the county with two entertaining and very playable courses. Water features on no fewer than ten holes on the Lakes Course, but less often on the slightly shorter Links. Neil Coles designed the easy-walking courses which complement one another well, and both are kept in fine shape. A day spent playing both, or better still a stopover, should yield a lot of fun.


Orsett Golf Club - Hole 12

A two-tier green awaits on the lovely and very well-bunkered par-3 twelfth at Orsett

(Image credit: Orsett Golf Club)
  • Location Orsett
  • Founded 1899
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF £80
  • Par 72, 6,694 yards
  • Contact Orsett Golf Club

Blessed with wonderfully free-draining and springy turf, the course at Orsett dates back to 1899 and was substantially revised by the great James Braid 30 years later. Just a couple of miles from the Thames, this is the most southerly golf in the county. This well-bunkered heathland design has hosted Open qualifying on a number of occasions, and while still a real test when the rough is up or the wind is blowing, it is equally enjoyable for players of all standards. There are four par 5s, all in the first 11 holes and none of them particularly long. This is where your score needs to be made because the closing four holes - a long par 3 followed by a hat-trick of tough two-shotters - make for a very challenging finish.

The Rayleigh

The Rayleigh - South Course - Hole 13

The beautiful par-3 thirteenth hole on the South Course at The Rayleigh

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Rayleigh
  • Architect Reg Plumbridge
  • GF Contact club for details
  • Par South 71, 6,544 yards, East 67, 4,670 yards
  • Contact The Rayleigh Club

Not far from Southend, the Rayleigh Club is another well-designed venue with a pair of 18-hole courses. The main distinction between the two is that the East is substantially shorter. Having said that, it is still almost as enjoyable as the tougher and very attractive South Course. Great use has been made of the gently undulating landscape, attractive ponds feature regularly, and there are memorable holes on both courses.

Rochford Hundred

Rochford Hundred - Hole 6

The risk-reward sixth at Rochford Hundred is the first par 5 on the course

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Situated alongside the relatively quiet runway of London Southend Airport, Rochford Hundred is home to a strong parkland course with much to offer. The River Roach runs through it, serving both as an obstacle and a visual delight, and it is also home to an active church, St Andrews, which lies between the opening tee and final fairway. There are four very strong two-shotters very well spaced at the 5th, 8th, 12th and 17th, and just three par 3s. The very impressive Grade 1 Listed Rochford Hall serves as the clubhouse and its origins date back to the late 15th-century.

Saffron Waldon

Saffron Waldon - Hole 5

The par-3 fifth at Saffron Waldon with the mansion at Audley End in the distance

(Image credit: Saffron Waldon Golf Club)
  • Location Saffron Waldon
  • Founded 1919
  • Architect Harry Vardon & Reg Cox
  • GF £60 Mon-Fri
  • Par 72, 6,632 yards
  • Contact Saffron Waldon Golf Club

This very pretty parkland course is actually affiliated to the Cambridgeshire Golf Union and is the most northerly course in Essex. It borders on historic stately home, Audley End, which has appeared in many TV programmes such as Antiques Roadshow. The club moved a decade after formation and this lovely course was first designed by Harry Vardon, 7-time Major champion, and the club’s own professional, Reg Cox. It was extended to today’s full and very engaging 18 in 1975. The individual holes are well separated by mature woodland, and there are four par 5s, all in the opening 10 holes. The closing hole is a lovely par 3 down to the clubhouse with the spire of St. Mary’s a very distinctive backdrop.

Stoke By Nayland

Stoke By Nayland - Gainsborough Course - Hole 18

The Gainsborough Course at Stoke by Nayland closes with an excellent par 3

(Image credit: Stoke by Nayland Golf Club)
  • Location Stoke by Nayland
  • Founded 1972
  • Architect Howard Swan
  • GF £40-£75, check website for details
  • Par Constable 72, 6,477 yards - Gainsborough 71, 6,321 yards
  • Contact Stoke by Nayland Resort

Stoke by Nayland is a comprehensive golf resort with two very good courses, strong practice and teaching facilities, a hotel and spa. It is also another slight anomaly as while technically in Suffolk, the golf club is attached to the Essex Golf Union. Each of the modern, tree-lined courses is named after famous, historic, local artists, and it would be hard to say which is the better as they both provide plenty of challenge and interest. The resort has hosted many professional events and is an excellent destination for golfing breaks for couples and golfing groups.

Theydon Bois

Theydon Bois - Hole 18

A snaking stream protects the closing hole at Theydon Bois

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Theydon Bois
  • Founded 1897
  • Architect James Braid & Fred Hawtree
  • GF £33 Mon-Fri, £39 Weekend
  • Par 69, 5,432 yards
  • Contact Theydon Bois Golf Club

This short but sweet course close to the M25/M11 intersection is great fun and well worth seeking out. Despite its easy access, it is well screened from the motorways, and Braid’s original 9 was upgraded to the full 18 with plenty of doglegs just over 50 years ago by Fred Hawtree with land to the south of Little Gregories Lane. As you would expect, scoring is more about placement from the tee than length, and there are plenty of drive and pitch par 4s that will raise hope of a birdie.

Thorndon Park

Thorndon Park - Hole 1

Looking back from behind the opening green at Thorndon Park

(Image credit: Rob Smith)

Thorndon Park is in the Golf Monthly Next 100 Courses for the UK&I and is benefitting greatly from an expansive woodland clearance and bunker redevelopment programme designed to bring this Harry Colt gem back to its very best. You would never know that the M25 is just minutes away by car, as this lovely, tree-lined oasis feels secluded and remote despite the easy access. Originally a deer park, the landscaping was designed by Capability Brown in the 18th-century, and magnificent specimen trees frame the holes and in many places effectively define the playing lines. There are two loops of nine which run in opposite directions around New Hall Pond, and the short holes are particularly good looking, especially the 5th and 15th.

Toot Hill

Toot Hill - Hole 15 and 12

Two dangerous greens at Toot Hill, the fifteenth, and beyond it the twelfth

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Ongar
  • Founded 1991
  • Architect Martin Gillett
  • GF £30 Mon-Thu, £35 Fri, £40 Weekends
  • Par 70, 6,254 yards
  • Contact Toot Hill Golf Club

Toot Hill is a modern and very entertaining parkland course that runs over a gently undulating swathe of land just a couple of miles from the same M11/M25 junction as Theydon Bois. Apart from fact that the topography again means that you would think you are deep in the countryside, there the similarity ends. This is a contemporary design benefitting from the thrills and spills you enjoy when ponds and streams are very much designed to be a part of the strategy. The bunkering is strong without ever being too intrusive, and there are two wow-factor short holes on the back nine at 12 and 15. The result - great fun from start to finish.

West Essex

West Essex Golf Club - Hole 1

Looking back over the opening green at West Essex with the London skyline beyond

(Image credit: Rob Smith)
  • Location Chingford
  • Founded 1900
  • Architect James Braid
  • GF £50 Mon-Fri, £40 Sun after 15:00
  • Par 71, 6,324 yards
  • Contact West Essex Golf Club

Right on the border of Essex and Greater London, West Essex is just a few minutes drive from the M25. Its course covers an attractive and gently undulating parcel of land that borders ancient Epping Forest, and it was designed by the prolific James Braid. It measures a little under 6,400 yards from the back tees with the back nine substantially longer than the front, though for some reason it doesn’t really feel it and there is plenty to keep you interested all the way.

Read full West Essex Golf Club review

For a county that is not so well known for its golf and is seldom the destination for a golfing tour, Essex nonetheless has plenty to offer. In addition, with few of the big name trophy courses, it also offers excellent value for money.

Rob Smith
Contributing Editor

Rob Smith has been playing golf for 45 years and been a contributing editor for Golf Monthly since 2012. He specialises in course reviews and travel, and has played more than 1,200 courses in almost 50 countries. In 2022, he played all 21 courses in East Lothian in 13 days. Last year, his tally was 81, 32 of them for the first time. One of Rob's primary roles is helping to prepare the Top 100 and Next 100 Courses of the UK&I, of which he has played all but seven and a half... i.e. not the new 9 at Carne! Of those missing, some are already booked for 2024. He is a member of Tandridge in Surrey where his handicap hovers around 16. You can contact him at