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Felixstowe Ferry: Suffolk's oldest golf course

Felixstowe Ferry
Felixstowe Ferry boasts former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour as a past captain

The banks of the Felixstowe coast have been battling gusts and gales for as long as they have stood.

And the golf course that sits upon them has had to contend with the winds of change in equal measure.

Felixstowe Ferry is the fifth oldest course in England and celebrated its 130th birthday last year.

Since 1880, when a wood was first swung on its tees, the course has adapted to the times, and even flourished.

"When I first came and you went out on to the 13th tee on a Saturday morning and there was another four-ball, you thought it was busy," says Peter Field, a member for nearly 40 years.

"If you went out there these days you'll probably have to join a queue."

Felixstowe Ferry
Club captain Chris Pearson (left) and secretary Ray Baines

The Suffolk links boast a par 72 18-hole and a par 35 nine-hole course, with the latter's introduction ruffling a few feathers in the club house.

"The nine-hole is quite a recent innovation," explains club captain Chris Pearson, who follows in the footsteps of former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, who was captain in 1889.

"It opened in 1997, there was an awful lot of fuss about that because a lot of the older members didn't think we should do it.

"Thank goodness we did because I believe that's one of the reasons we're still here, it brings in a lot of revenue from the pay-and-play type players.

"The main course is a different course every day, because the wind blows in different directions and the weather affects what it's like.

"Every time you go out there it plays in a different way."

It was eventually taken away by the bomb disposal squad who put it out on the beach and blew it up

Club secretary Ray Baines

Stories and anecdotes are not hard to come by in the club house - a lot of tales can be racked up in 130 years.

Former captain Roger Smith details one of them: "At my time as captain we unfortunately hit a gentleman on the sea wall between the eyes with a golf ball.

"Allegedly, we never could prove it, it's what we were told happened.

"So we had some difficult times where we had to move some holes inwards."

And club secretary Ray Baines recounts the time the course, which was used as a practice range for short artillery during World War II, turned up an explosive secret.

"There's hundreds of stories you could probably tell here," he said.

Felixstowe Ferry
The course was used as an artillery range during World War II

"One I only discovered last year was the discovery of a land mine on the course.

"One of the greenkeepers decided to put it in the back of his truck and drive it up the road towards the club house.

"It was eventually taken away by the bomb disposal squad who put it out on the beach and blew it up."

With two Open winners to its name, the club has a history, and hopefully a future, on the grand stage.

The latest one-to-watch is Heidi Baek, a 16-year-old who already has bypassed the national under-18 programme and has gone straight into the women's performance squad.

She is evidence enough that Felixstowe Ferry has invested heavily in keeping its legacy going for a good number of years yet.

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see also
History of the Claret Jug
17 Jul 10 |  Golf
Golf in St Andrews
14 Oct 09 |  History
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf

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