Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Brad McLean, general manager
Thorpeness: growing
profits in a shrinking sport
Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel on Suffolk’s heritage coast
is a sporting venue defying a decade-long decline in the
game of golf. Golf is worth £10 billion to the UK economy
per year, but declining participation and falling membership
numbers have troubled golf course owners from Cornwall to
Scotland – in spite of this, Thorpeness has thrived. Speaking on
behalf of the venue is its general manager, Brad McLean.
In 2006, golf reached a peak, with more than four million Britons regularly teeing
off. Today, the number of regular golfers playing monthly is closer to 2.7 million.
Memberships at England’s circa 2,000 accredited golf clubs fell to just 652,000 in
2017, according to governing body England Golf, with similar patterns reflected
in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and worldwide. Professional golf is in rude
health, but at grassroots level not enough new starters are taking a swing, clubs
are closing annually and critics point to problems with time, cost and a negative
public perception of the sport.
Putting Suffolk on the golfing map
Thorpeness is located in one of Britain’s remotest coastal villages, a tiny tip of
Suffolk’s heritage coastline set in the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB (area of
outstanding natural beauty). Against this challenging national picture, Thorpeness
has grown its membership, increased profits from golf tourism and made the sport
accessible to three hard-to-reach groups in the sport: women, juniors and families.
Commercial success has been achieved without sacrificing a duty of care to the
rare natural environment that makes Thorpeness a honeypot for golfers, walkers
»General manager: Brad McLean
»Established in 1922
»Based in Suffolk
»Services: Hospitality, golf,
dining and events
»No. of employees: 50-70,
based on seasonal fluctuation)
»Thorpeness will celebrate its
centenary in 2022 and has
been named in the UK’s top
100 golf courses by National
Club Golfer magazine
Thorpeness Golf Club
& Hotel
»Over 50 species of birdlife, wildlife, flora and funghi
»Hybernaculars for snakes, toads, birds and bats
»Management of an SSI – site of special scientific interest
»Full-scale village recycling centre
»Extensive heathland and heather management programme
»Made Honorary Life Member of BIGGA (British and International
Golf Greenkeepers Association) January 2018
and day-trippers. Indeed, Thorpeness
has twice been recognised as Britain’s
“greenest golf club” by STRI (Sports
Turf Research Institute).
Course manager Ian Willett is regarded
as a pioneer in terms of environmental
management of sensitive habitats for
flora and fauna, bird and wildlife at
Thorpeness golf course.
Success breeds success, and this year
Thorpeness was voted into the UK’s
top 100 golf courses by
Club Golfer,
Britain’s most-read golf
Thorpeness is a valuable case study
for the UK golf industry because
it demonstrates the wisdom of
responding to social and environmental
change and providing a product
that complements modern lifestyles.
Its achievements in doing so are
remarkable when you consider
the club’s origins and the unusual
composition of the community itserves.
Cultivating a golfing community
in a holiday village
In 1910, barrister, architect and
playwright Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie
acquired the Suffolk fishing hamlet
of Thorpeness after inheriting the
Sizewell Estate. He recognised its
potential as a holiday village for friends
and family. In 1923, Scotsman James
Braid completed design of a golf
course on the heathland. A country
club with tennis courts followed, and
later a boating lake called Thorpeness
The Ogilvie family owned Thorpeness
Golf Club until the early 1970s
with the death of Glencairn Stuart
Ogilvie’s grandson. Punitive death
duties meant the course was sold
into private ownership. Most recently,
the course and hotel was acquired
by the TA Hotel Collection, owners
of six distinctive and independent
The board saw an opportunity to
increase golf tourism while also
providing a venue that enriched the
local community. Many properties in
Thorpeness are second homes owned
by families with a generational history
of holidaying there. The population
fluctuates annually, increasing
significantly during summer then
returning to modest levels outside of
Golf: a big driver for
Suffolk tourism
Highlighting best practice
holiday season; not ideal for building a
thriving membership.
To meet this challenge, Thorpeness
became one of the first UK golf clubs
to launch a new flexible lifestyle-
friendly membership that has become
an industry mainstay today.
Jubilee Membership
was introduced
in 2000 with a points-based system
enabling golfers to enjoy all the
benefits of a full membership (an
official handicap, club competitions
and weekend play) from as little as
£325 a year. Jubilee members can
share points with family members
and friends, and their unused points
can roll over into the new season.
Furthermore, points can be exchanged
for rounds, with the number of
points to play varying depending on
whether members play at peak or off-
Today, Thorpeness has over 700
members, split between permanent
annual subscriptions and flexible
Jubilee members. In direct opposition
to falling memberships elsewhere,
Thorpeness’s retention is healthy and
the club is seeing year-on-year growth
through all revenue streams.
Opening new pathways to golf
Governing bodies in golf have
identified a pressing need for more
women, juniors and families to play the
game. Brad McLean, general manager
at Thorpeness, has made this a priority
since joining the business in 2016 and
his efforts have come to fruition. A
new nine-hole mini-golf course called
Jiggers opened this spring.
Its purpose is to provide fun, family-
friendly entertainment and a reason for
non-golfers to visit the club. It is served
by a pizza oven and a pop-up bar and
has seating for groups to spend an
afternoon there.
A junior coaching academy has
launched alongside Jiggers under
the guidance of the club’s head
professional Christine Langford.
Langford is one of the founding
members of the Ladies European Tour
and an Honorary Life Member of the
PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association).
Christine is the first female golf
professional in Thorpeness’s 95-year
history and her standing attracts
all-female groups and new women
members. Underpinning the golf
operation is a commitment to excellent
hospitality within the 36-bed hotel and
its eateries.
An ambitious renovation of the
club’s restaurant in late 2017 created
Ogilvie’s, a new steakhouse grill
serving traditionally reared East Anglian
beef from local craft butcher Gerard
and Salter. It is distinct among eateries
on the Suffolk coast and is attracting a
non-golfing clientele.
When Thorpeness celebrates its
centenary in 2023, it will do so in rude
health, because it has been eager to
embrace change to grow and sustain
interest in this most reluctant and
traditional of British sports.
Ogilvie’s Grill – an
attractive 19th hole
Our hope is that
Jiggers provides
inspiration for
children and
parents to enjoy
their time in a
golf club, which
could be an
setting, and for
them to feel
comfortable and
enough to try
learning the
game with our

This article was sponsored by Thorpeness Golf Club & Hotel. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister