One of the frustrations of my previous blog, Norfolk’s Finest 18 was that my self-imposed limitations of inclusion prevented me featuring many of the excellent short holes around the courses of Norfolk. And so the idea for this blog was born.
How did I pick the courses on this list?
My main ingredient for a great Par 3 is DRAMA. I want my pulse rate to increase as soon as I approach the tee. It needs to challenge my mental state – offering chances of disaster or success with a single shot.
One of the consistent features of all the holes in the list is that they offer big penalties for missing the green on at least one side – and for some on all sides. This is important and adds to the sense of thrill and satisfaction when a sweetly struck shot settles onto the putting surface.
It was a relatively straightforward task to reduce the 120 or so short holes in the County to my favourite 25. All of these were then given a rating based on my course review criteria. This helped, but in order to differentiate further, it was required to make this rating more detailed – so I rated each of the contenders to one decimal place. For example an 8 rated hole would be anywhere between 7.5 and 8.4. I will include the rating as part of each hole feature.
Before we get to the top 10, here is a selection of holes that just missed out. See if you can guess them. I will include the full list of holes filling places 11-20 when I publish the top 5 in next weeks blog.
10. Royal West Norfolk Golf Club – 5th Hole – 129 yards
The 5th at ‘Brancaster’ captures quite well the essence of the place – quirky, unique, pure.
Whilst only requiring a short-iron, this in many ways makes the challenge more difficult – judging the coastal winds with a high lofted shot can often lead to misjudgments. This hole plays towards the sea and so is often into the teeth of the breeze. With almost literally a wall facing you a small error can lead to the chastening experience of watching your ball rebound and head directly back towards you.
9. Feltwell Golf Club – 16th Hole – 221 yards
The 16th hole at Feltwell is the longest ‘short’ hole featured in the top 10.
If I am honest, I am generally not a big fan of longer par 3’s, but this hole contains design features that are crucial for holes of this kind and elevates it to a very very good hole.
Flanked on both sides by a ‘stadium’ of banking which is left to grow long tangly grass, the hole contains a claustrophobic quality that is unusual given the generally flat nature of the course at the edge of the fens.
At 221 yards and uphill, the hole will require a fairway wood or Driver for most golfers. Crucially the entrance to the green is clear and so allows for a running shot. The green angles from left to right and so a low fade is the desired shot to meet the contours. A deep bunker on the front right and a long, narrow trap on the left of the green will catch any slight misjudgment. A huge ‘bomb’ hole at the back left of the green is an interesting feature and one to be admired rather than find your ball in.
The green itself contains subtle contours and is difficult to read. If courses could award half pars, then this would be a classic Par 3.5.
A wonderful challenge.
8. Barnham Broom Golf Club (Valley) – 4th Hole – 192 yards
With a range of tees offering choices from 150-190 yards, the 4th hole at Barnham Broom Hotel and Golf Club is the only pure parkland hole included in the top 10.
The setting is beautiful, with the back tee alongside the River Yare. A straight shot is required, with a steep undergrowth filled bank to the left and lower-lying shrubs and a ditch to the right of the green.
The green itself is elevated and so any approach struck less than perfectly will stick short.
A beautiful beast.
7. Kings Lynn Golf Club – 12th Hole – 210 yards
The 12th hole at Kings Lynn takes the title for the best long par 3 (over 200 yards) in Norfolk.
Completing an excellent Par 5, Par 4, Par 3 start to the back 9, the 12th hole is set amongst an avenue of trees pine trees. A brook runs across the front of the tee and flows up the right hand side to catch anything leaked in this direction.
This is heathland golf at its best.
6. Hunstanton Golf Club – 7th Hole – 167 yards
Hunstanton makes its first entry into our top 10 with the intimidating 7th hole.
No matter how many times that you have heard Bob Rotella tell you to focus on the target, there is only one thing that goes through your mind when you step on this tee and that is the absolutely massive bunker at the front of the (very narrow) green.
Note: This hole is currently undergoing some major reconstruction work, removing the sleepers from the bunker face (health and safety?). More information available through the Clubs twitter account here. The jury will obviously be out, but I would not be surprised to see the hole challenge the top 5 when it is completed.
Next week’s blog will feature positions 1-5. Published 18/3.