Golfer's Guide - Essex

There are a number of gems located just outside of London perfect for the city golfer

Stoke by Nayland

Chigwell Golf Club

One of Essex's more exclusive clubs, this course is a testing par 71. In the last ten years the condition of the course has come on leaps and bounds and is now near immaculate year round.

The greens are fast but not too hard to get your approach to spin. Many of the holes are lined by trees so avoiding the rough is crucial as you will find yourself blocked out with any wayward tee shots.

The long par-4 1st hole is a tough challenge to start your round and is followed up by a tricky par 3 with an out-of-bounds down the left while anything right of the green makes your chip almost impossible to stop on the green. This is followed by a par 5 up the hill which represents your best chance at an early par. Many a member has come a cropper on the opening three holes here and it carries the nickname 'boeing corner' as you can easily start with a 747 or even a 757.

While the views on the course are unspectacular some of the houses that line the course have been lived in by many a celebrity over the years. The 13th and 14th holes run parallel to Chigwell's Manor Road where both England's World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore and snooker champion Ronnie O'Sullivan have lived, while current England and Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe backs on to the par-4 9th hole.

The quirkiest hole is probably the 16th. You tee off from an elevated position hitting down over a hazard towards the fairway, which then dog-legs left at a near 90 degree angle leaving you with a pitch to the green for the second. Many try and cut the corner to leave themselves under 100 yards but realistically the reward is outweighed by the risk, as the extra carry and accuracy required to avoid the trees running down the left make it a challenging shot.

While the stroke index suggests the 4th hole is the hardest on the course, the 7th and 15th represent tougher challenges. The 7th is a tree-lined tee shot followed by an approach to a long, narrow and elevated green where you cannot see the bottom of the pin making it very hard to judge your distance while the ball will often come in flat making it hard to stop the ball close to the pin.

The 15th is another tricky par 4. The most important thing here is getting a good drive away to ensure you can get to the green in two. Anything to the left or right of the fairway means you are likely to be blocked out by trees making a par nigh on impossible as you hit to a small two-tiered green that is protected by bunkers on either side.

Overall you won't be disappointed by your experience at Chigwell as the course is always in exceptional condition and the sloping fairways mean you will rarely have a flat lie for your approach shots providing a good test for golfers of any standard.

Thorndon Park

Founded in 1920 and set amongst the backdrop of an 18th century mansion, Thorndon Park is widely considered the number one course in Essex.

Accuracy is crucial around this Harry Colt designed, par 71 that punishes wayward shots on every hole. Excellent greens that roll true await should you miss the bunkers that surround the greens. Even though some devilish pin positions made it a serious challenge to score well when playing the course it was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the right test for all aspects of the game.

Notable holes are the par-4 3rd where you tee off over a huge lake while the some of the shorter par 4 holes such as the 4th and the 7th offer there own unique challenges as longer hitters are forced to take an iron from the tee. The par 3 holes also offer a stern test of ball striking as each of the four on the course are surrounded by bunkers with some making your second shot impossible to get inside ten feet of the hole.

The closing hole is a beauty as you play towards Thorndon Hall and are left with the perfect mental image to remember this wonderful course by.

Toot Hill Golf Club

This young parkland course is a picturesque par 70 near Ongar. It offers a stiff challenge to all aspects of your game and there are numerous water hazards to be found around the course.

The course is in great condition year round and represents excellent value for money.

The most eye-catching hole on the course is the par-3 12th. It measures 170 yards and the green is surrounded by water making the tee shot a real knee-jerker.

Rolling hills and carefully placed bunkers are both features of the course and the bunker placing in particular mean that each shot represents a real challenge.

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