The county of Norfolk in Eastern England contains only around 30 courses – but amongst this number there is an impressive variety of quality offerings.
These are headlined by the classic links at Hunstanton and Brancaster but supplemented by spectacular cliff-top offerings at Royal Cromer and Sheringham. This is complimented by top class heathland tracks at Thetford and Kings Lynn and supported by a number of excellent 9 hole courses spread around the county. Arguably the only missing link is a really top parkland course – but that gap should be filled with the re-opening of Weston Park in 2019 following the purchase and redevelopment by Royal Norwich.
To compile this composite course, I have stuck with two rules:
- The 1st Hole is the 1st Hole! Holes are listed in the position they fill on the course on which they sit.
- One and done! Only one hole from each course is permitted.
Whilst these rules may not result in the absolute 18 best holes in Norfolk, they will ensure that attention is spread across a wider range of courses – it also makes choices tricky – try for yourself!
1st Hole – Ryston Park Golf Club – 401 yards Par 4
A delightful 9 – Hole course in West Norfolk, the 1st hole at Ryston Park contains all the elements that a 1st hole should.
The tee-shot is open enough that everybody can get their round underway with the minimum of fuss – but importantly it tightens up significantly on the approach shot so that only a tee-shot down the centre right of the fairway will offer a second shot that does not have a tree to shape around or over.
For any tee shots slightly off the desired line therefore an early heroic shot over or around huge trees is an option. Whatever way it is achieved, a par or better here to start your round will give the golfer an important shot of confidence.
Other 1st hole contenders: Swaffham, Royal Cromer.
2nd Hole – Swaffham Golf Club – 412 yards Par 4
Founded in 1922 but extended from 9 to 18 Holes in 2001, Swaffham contains a number of contenders for the course, but ultimately and impressively, it is one of the ‘new’ holes that makes the final 18.
The tee shot offers an attractive downhill drive between avenues of trees to left and right. Depending on the wind – that often sweeps across the neighbouring open fields, a fairway wood maybe the preferred choice due to the narrow target area.
The approach shot is demanding as the green is guarded by trees and bunkers to the right and a large pit (and trees) to the left. The green is wide and undulating. The vistas on the hole are spectacular in every direction and another par will add to the satisfaction here.
Other 2nd hole contenders: Ryston Park, Fakenham.
3rd Hole – Caldecott Hall Golf Club – 532 yards Par 5
Caldecott Hall is situated in the far South-East of the county and is a pleasant heathland/parkland hybrid course that offers a mix of tough holes and birdie opportunities
And so it is with the sweeping dog-leg Par 5 3rd hole – the first realistic birdie opportunity on the course. The tee – shot offers a wonderful opportunity to open your shoulders on your Driver – one of the great joys of golf.
Like all good Par 5’s, a good long drive will give the golfer a risk-reward choice – take on the dog-leg, trees and bunkers over the ridge of the hill to go for the green, or a more conservative positional shot to allow for a wedged approach. Many golfers hate blind shots – but, like in this case, the unknown result of an approach over the ridge – offers an adrenaline rush as you peer with trepidation to the result as you climb the ridge.
A really good Par 5 with a small, undulating green in a pleasant bowl setting.
Other 3rd Hole contenders: Royal West Norfolk, Thetford, Barnham Broom (Valley).
4th Hole – Barnham Broom GC (Valley) – 192 yards Par 3
The first short hole and it is a beauty – set amongst the picturesque surroundings of a river, trees and steep bank to the left in the central Norfolk setting of Barnham Broom Hotel & Golf Club.
From the back tees, a long-iron will be required to a narrow target. The upslope at the front of the green will mean anything short remains so, and the penalty for missing left or right can be deep trouble.
This stunning Par 3 rounds off a parkland based first 4 holes before an altogether more rugged challenge awaits at the 5th.
Other 4th hole contenders: Kings Lynn, Royal Cromer, Great Yarmouth & Caister
5th Hole – Sheringham Golf Club – 458 yards Par 4
We move to perhaps the most photographed hole in Norfolk – the epic 5th at Sheringham on the North Norfolk coast.
The tee – shot here is set against an incredible backdrop of the North Sea and all along the coast towards Blakeney. Anything to the right will disappear over the cliff and left means an awkward sloping lie in the rough.
The approach is equally as exciting as you take aim towards an infinity style green that seemingly drops off towards the beach. If ever there was argument for a Par 4.5, then it is here, where a par will certainly make up shots on the field.
Other 5th Hole contenders: Thetford, Eaton, Dereham.
6th Hole – Eaton Golf Club – 371 yards Par 4
Our first dog-leg par 4 is found on the very well appointed Eaton Golf Club – found just outside the centre of the county city of Norwich.
In what could be viewed as a chance to relax after the brutal difficulty of the 5th hole, golfers would be advised to take this lovely hole seriously as it plays longer than the yardage suggests.
The tee – shot needs to be placed carefully at the angle of the dog-leg so as to give a clear view of the pin. The green is guarded left and right by large trees and so any tee shot offline will result in a blocked approach.
The second shot is steeply uphill and a missed green will lead to a tricky up and down to save par.
Other 6th Hole Contenders: Hunstanton, Swaffham.
Holes 7 – 12 published in Part 2 (11/2)