Welcome to the final part of my countdown of the most anxiety inducing, yip creating most terrifying golf holes in Norfolk. We enter the top 5:
5. Royal Cromer Golf Club – 14th Hole
The iconic 14th hole at Royal Cromer features an imposing working lighthouse beside the green. In many ways, however, this unique feature is just window dressing to the most terrifying aspects of this sweeping dog-leg of a Par 4.
The tee box sits hard against the cliff edge to the right, with an intimidating 120 foot drop to the sandy beach below and views along to Cromer Pier. After taking a moment to enjoy the vista the golfer then has to face up to an intimidating 180 yard carry over gorse and bracken to the raised fairway.
Not only is a proper strike required to make the carry, but anything leaking right will be over the cliff, whilst any hint of hook spin will take the camber and end up in the gorse to the left of the fairway.
The drama does not end with the tee shot, with the approach needing to avoid a deep bunker to the left of the green and out-of-bounds hard to the rear and the right hand side.
Tony Jacklin once picked this hole amongst his favourites in the country, which he utilised a helicopter to play all 18 in a single day as part of a TV show. Jacklin managed a routine par 4 on his visit – many are not so fortunate.
4. Richmond Park Golf Club – 16th Hole
The small market town of Watton in central Norfolk is home to the pleasant but largely gentle layout at Richmond Park Golf Club. Pleasant and gentle however, are not adjectives commonly used to describe the remarkable Par 5 16th hole.
Measuring just 443 yards from the white tees, many would wonder why this hole has been awarded Par 5 status rather than the two-shotter that the distance suggests.
Well the course planner gives some suggestion of the complexities when it shows that the dog-leg does not take place until 366 yards from the tee. So Dustin Johnson may well be able to give himself a clear view of the green, but most golfers, if they manage to avoid the river running all the way alongside the right of the fairway from the tee, face an interesting decision.
A well struck 250 yard drive will, when taking the direct route, leave a relatively short-iron distance to the green. The shot though is massively fear inducing. Huge trees have to be carried and a tiny slither of a green sits hard against the river edge with fearsome sleepers on either bank ready to catapult your ball embarrassingly in random directions.
It is an interesting variable that a sensible ‘chipped’ second shot to the corner of the dog-leg will leave a perhaps even more intimidating approach shot. From this angle the sleepers stare at you like a row of bloodthirsty Roman soldiers.
A great match-play hole but when trying to protect a decent medal score must be a nightmare.
As an aside, the 18th hole here is also terrifying. A 90 degree dog-leg at 200 yards, with wooden residential lodges all along the corner but large trees blocking any chance to cut the angle. Find a drawn tee-shot here or your second could be from somebodies lounge.
3. Bawburgh Golf Club – 18th Hole
Whilst it is the sense of the unknown and the fear of wrecking a score before you have really begun that makes the 1st hole such a terrifying experience for all golfers, the final hole offers a different type of anxiety.
For those whose rounds have already been wrecked, it is a final chance for heroism and redemption. For those with chances of victory, the fear is one of failure – like a horse falling at the last in the Grand National – of being labelled a choker – of wasting 4 hours of good work.
The 18th at Bawburgh plays up magnificently to all these hopes and fears – a splendid closing hole.
The downhill tee-shot must be threaded between out-of-bounds hard to the right of the fairway and bunkers/trees/steep bank to the left. Given the length of the hole, nothing less than a Driver will give most golfers a chance to go for the green in regulation. This is a classic case of – take a deep breath – try to relax – close your eyes and pray for a straight hit.
With the fairway successfully found, the choice now is caution or to be a hero.
The pond at the front of the green offers a watery grave to any approach shot struck less than perfectly, and with large groups of golfers looking on from the veranda of the clubhouse overlooking the arena, the fear is very real.
Any par here allows the golfer to retreat to the clubhouse with a mix of both relief and achievement.
2. Sheringham Golf Club – 5th Hole
The view from the 5th tee at Sheringham along the North Norfolk Coast is perhaps the finest in the County.
With attention narrowed back to the task at hand, the golfer is faced with a brutal tee shot from the windswept elevated tee to a fairway with the cliff edge dramatically just to the right of the landing area and bunkers and rough to the left.
The long approach shot offers little respite, with the ‘infinity’ style green intimidating the golfer and encouraging a shove to the right.
Many of the hazards to be found on the courses along this coast have an old-school, eccentric charm to them – steam trains, lighthouses, sleepered bunkers and high tides. The 5th at Sheringham could not be described as charming – brutal, thrilling and scary would be more apt.
1. Royal West Norfolk Golf Club – 8th Hole
Golfers that have had the pleasure of a game at ‘Brancaster’ will find it no surprise that the 8th Hole is crowned the most terrifying in Norfolk.
Before even reaching the course, golfers have to check the tide times to avoid being cut-off from the rest of the country.
Playing the course at high tide however, is a unique and thrilling experience, typified when you reach the Par 5 eighth tee.
The opening shot must carry an expanse of marsh land to an ‘island’ fairway that angles from left to right. The player must therefore judge how much of the marsh to take on from the tee – the further right you aim, the longer the carry. Never has a left to right slider of a tee-shot been so valuable.
If, by some miracle, the tee shot has been found on dry land, the terror is not finished, with another carry over the marsh required on approach to the green.
Yes terrifying, but also a truly memorable experience worth the considerable green fee alone.
All of these 10 holes challenge a golfers mind and body – but surely this is why we play this infuriating game. Get out there and enjoy.