Welcome to the second part of my quest to discover the original 18 holes at Royal Cromer – played between 1895 and 1914. Exploring old photographs and literature combined with intimate course knowledge has revealed a fascinating layout that was among the very best courses in the country at the time.
If you missed the opening nine holes – you can read about them here.
Then, without further ado, let us begin our journey through the second nine:
10th Hole – 240 yards
The closing half begins in relatively sedate fashion with a straightaway hole at the far Eastern end of the course. The main hazard here would be the chance of overshooting the green and rolling over the cliff edge, although records do show a large bunker around half-way between the tee and green to catch the poorly struck tee-shot.
With the tee near the boundary of the property now the right rough on the 5th hole, the green site was lost to the sea prior to 1940.
11th Hole – 490 yards
After a couple of quiet holes, the course revs back up to full pace with the spectacular and brutal 11th – the longest hole on the course.
Although the entire hole has now been lost to the sea, we can have an excellent idea of how it would have looked as it played parallel to the current 6th hole (below).
The old 11th would have played around 40 yards longer than the current 6th, with the green tucked into ‘target hill’, just to the coastal side of the current 9th tee.
As well as the cliffs and sea all the way down the right hand side, records also indicate a huge cross bunker that stretched across the width of the fairway at around 240 yards, near to the peak of the fairway rise.
Uphill and into the prevailing wind, this hole would have wrecked many early scorecards.
12th Hole – 390 yards
The next two holes demonstrate perfectly the design skill of Old Tom in his use of the natural contours of the land to create a masterpiece.
Starting from an elevated position just above the current 7th tee, players faced the sea to their left. A straight drive down the fairway (the current 6th fairway but in the opposite direction) would leave a clear view of the green, but a pushed drive would fall further right and leave a blind approach over the ridge of the present 10th fairway.
The 12th green was sited near to the left hand cross bunker on the current 10th fairway and provided the end point of another strong hole.
13th Hole – 340 yards
Utilising the ridge again as the course turns back towards the town, this time the drive is blind over the hill towards the fairway.
From a tee placed to the right of the current ladies 11th, golfers faced an intimidating drive over the ridge to reach the fairway. The plans show that this hole played straight and true, meaning the fairway would have been just to the right of the modern day 11th version.
14th Hole – 380 yards
An iconic hole named ‘Punchbowl’ due to the green location set into the hill that remains an integral part of the course 120 years after being designed.
In 2018, this hole plays as the 7th, but in 1900 it was the mid-point of the back 9. At that point the teeing area was further left than the current starting point, in the location of the current 10th tees, meaning the hole played straight.
Another cracking hole and as today, two exceptional shots required to reach the green.
15th Hole – 300 yards
The last of the handful of holes that retain their place on today’s layout – the old 15th now plays as the 8th.
16th Hole – 430 yards
This Old Tom Morris designs contains many tough holes, but perhaps the hardest of all was the epic 16th. Starting on the elevated position above the present 8th green, the entire hole has now been lost to the sea, but we have a great idea of its characteristics.
From the elevated start, golfers hit over the gorse and ferns into the wide uphill fairway, shared by the 7th hole (running in the opposite direction) and captured on this old cigarette card. Notice the severity of rough if missing the fairway to the right.
From the fairway, players were required to hit uphill, over another huge cross bunker and rough to the green perched to the right of the current 14th tee, 120 feet above the sandy beach.
With views back towards the pier and lighthouse and skirting the spectacular cliff-line, the 16th marks an aesthetic peak of a course not short on wow moments.
17th Hole – 235 yards
The 17th hole presented a very similar view to the modern day 14th tee shot.
Like the current 14th tee, the tee in 1900 was perched on the edge of the cliff. This was, however, further to the right than the above photograph shows, offering a slightly different angle.
The green was placed on a flat spot just to the left of the fairway ‘bowl’, in line with the house to the left of the lighthouse in the photograph.
For those early long-hitters willing to have a shy at the green, the direct line required a significant carry, with anything short on line finding trouble. The slight bail out option would have been to the right of the green, where the carry was less taxing, leaving a short pitch to the green.
18th Hole – 230 yards
The final tee, at the top of ‘Happy Valley’ offered a final view of the town as players hit downhill towards the green with the clubhouse beyond.
A relatively gentle finish after the brutal examination that has gone before, the 18th hole offered a picturesque backdrop for photographers and painters of the time.
And so our discovery of the original 18 hole as created by Old Tom Morris at Royal Cromer is complete.
A sometimes subtle and often dramatic use of the fantastic natural undulations. The routing is extremely intelligent with constant changing of directions and angles keeping the golfer guessing no-matter which direction the ever present wind is coming from.
Views of Cromer, the pier and lighthouse are maximised and the gentler slopes at the Eastern end of the course are utilised in a clever way.
Next Week: We recount the epic 36 hole match-play shootout that marked the opening of the course between two competitors that had finished winner and runner-up in the Open Championship at St Andrews just 4 weeks beforehand.