From an architectural point of view I often think that Par 5 holes are the most challenging. It is very easy – and there are many examples in Norfolk and elsewhere – of bland, slightly boring long holes that do little other than take up valuable space.
A great Par 5 should offer choices for all levels of golfer – by taking risks, a birdie opportunity should await but elements of severe penalty should be present to raise adrenaline levels. Likewise, a strategically plotted 3 shots should also present a chance for birdie or par.
Let’s delve into the best long holes that Norfolk has to offer:
10. Caldecott Hall Golf Club – 3rd Hole – 532 yards
Many golfers hate blind shots. For me – depending on their context – they can be thrilling. And so it is with the 3rd hole at Caldecott Hall.
Standing on the tee on this Par 5, the fairway is wide and inviting. Nothing wrong with this – it invites the golfer to take their Driver and give it a smash – one of the most fun experiences in golf.
A well struck drive will leave the golfer with that choice that we have talked about. The green is well situated in a dell over the top of a rise. The downhill approach to the green can tempt players into the ambitious second shot.
Any such attempt at the green from long-range will have to be played blind across the corner of the dog-leg and over trees and bunkers. The walk over the blind rise in anticipation of where your ball may have finished is one of the great thrills of a round here.
The angle of the dog-leg and plethora of cross-bunkers make the lay-up shot tricky and the lovely positioning of the large but sloping green make for an attractive but challenging pitch shot. An undoubted highlight of a varied and fun course.
9. Feltwell Golf Club – 12th Hole – 562 yards
Commonly, I will approach the tee at a Par 5 hole with a very positive expectation of the chances to pick up a shot on the course. The stats tell me that I average under 5 for the long holes over the course of the season, so this is not unreasonable. Not so on the 12th at Feltwell.
On arrival at this tee, the main hope is that your scorecard is not ruined before you reach the 13th tee. The challenges are plentiful – the course sits at the edge of the fens and so despite the lack of hills and being 50 miles from the coast is extremely windswept. The tee shot has out-of-bounds left and right. There is even the remnants of the concrete pillars formerly used by the RAF to fire missiles from the site to avoid!
The hole dog-legs severely left-to-right at around 230 yards so the bravest golfers need to take on the corner (and out-of-bounds) if they have aspirations to reach the green in two shots. Out-of-bounds continues up both sides of the narrow fairway on the second shot. The green slopes dramatically and is well protected by bunkers.
As a friendly 9 Hole Club, Feltwell attracts a great number of golfers new to the game. It is not unfair to say that many of them never finish the 12th hole – just too many hazards. For beginners and scratch golfers alike this hole is a beast – but the joy of a birdie or par lasts long after the round is finished.
8. Mundesley Golf Club – 5th Hole – 494 yards
At number 8 on the list, we feature another 9-Hole course with the 5th/14th at Mundesley on the North Norfolk coast.
This Par 5 features a thrilling tee shot over a sea of gorse to a fairway angled left to right across the golfers line. The tee-shot will land on the uphill slope making the hole play longer than its yardage.
I believe that every course design should try to incorporate some tee-shots requiring a reasonable carry to make the fairway. This becomes a very exciting challenge to even the most experienced player and makes the hole aesthetically pleasing. So long as a variety of tee options are available, all levels of golfer can be catered for.
The second shot is played blind over the top of the hill, with the hole now straightening out all the way to the green. With the putting surface being relatively flat, this offers an excellent birdie chance once the tee shot is successfully negotiated.
7. Eaton Golf Club – 16th Hole – 487 yards
The 16th hole at Eaton Golf Club, situated just a long par 4 from the city centre of Norwich, demonstrates perfectly the design element of choice.
The hole slopes downhill and dog-legs to the right almost immediately from the tee. This has the effect that a tee-shot struck perfectly straight will run out of fairway at less than 200 yards. Those wishing to attempt to reach the green in two therefore will need to shape their drive left-to-right or go over the trees 100 yards or so on the right of the tee. The alternative, of course, is an iron safely down the left side.
The long approach shot to this green sets the golfers pulse to dangerous levels. Coming as it does on the 16th, this hole will be crucial in determining whether or not the round is a success. The hole narrows dramatically the nearer you get to the putting surface, with out-of-bounds left and severe tree and undergrowth hard to the right. Combine this with the steep downhill lie on the fairway and the challenge level is set to maximum.
6. Dereham Golf Club – 14th Hole – 520 yards
The strength of 9-Hole Clubs in Norfolk is demonstrated once again by their third entry into our top 10 with the 14th Hole at Dereham. The experiences of playing a nine-hole course can be improved dramatically by intelligent use of different tee placements for front and back nines.
And so it is at Dereham, where the 5th hole plays as a long Par 4. Upon reaching the 14th tee, golfers are directed to the right from the 5th tee placement, seemingly into the middle of a wood. The narrow path continues for 100 yards or so until finally you reach the 14th tee.
Turning to face the line of play, golfers are now eye to eye with a dauntingly narrow escape route through the trees and with a significant carry to the fairway. This is an excellent use of the property and cannot help but put a wry smile on your face when you realise the extent of the proposition presented to you.
A positive escape from the wooded tee leads to a tree-lined fairway which narrows significantly within 100 yards of the green – once again, this gives the golfer the option of a heroic long approach or a more conservative lay-up to leave a pitch to the green.
Positions 6-10 of our top 10 Par 5 holes in Norfolk have featured some of the lesser known courses in the County, demonstrating the depth of great golf available in the area. Next week will feature the top 5 including some of the best holes in England.