In this blog we take a look at some of the most out there, wacky, head scratching golf holes in Norfolk – the type of hole that makes you ponder ‘Just what was the architect thinking here!?’
Lets delve into this fascinating top 10 which includes a mixture of old design, new design, bold design and poo design.
10. Royal West Norfolk – 18th Hole – 380 yards Par 4
The first entry into our top 10 will be a surprise to many, but the 18th at Brancaster will divide opinion.
The main design characteristics of this hole are deceptively simple yet at the same time bold. It is not a long hole – just a drive and pitch for many players. The fairway is incredibly flat and wide – the hole shares its driving area with the 1st to create a double fairway. The criss-cross of golfers playing in opposite directions offers the chance to wish fellow competitors well as they set off on their journey just as you are completing yours.
The green slopes from back to front and therefore offers little aesthetic clues from the fairway. By far the most dominant feature of the hole is a huge sleepered bunker that encircles the front of the green, offering an intimidating wall which seems just to blankly stare at you and seep into your mind as you stand over your approach shot.
In many ways, the nearest hole architecturally to this is the home hole at St Andrews, which shares the double fairway design but swops the bunker for the Valley of Sin. Are these great designs? The simple yet strong challenge does create an iconic feel and indeed the 18th at Brancaster sums up the wonderful, quirky, old-school experience of this venue perfectly.
9. Royal Cromer Golf Club – 13th Hole – 181 yards Par 3
There can be little denying that the 13th at Cromer enjoys a spectacular location – with a tee shot uphill across a gorse and bracken filled valley to a green perched on the cliff 120 feet above the sandy beach below.
There can also be little doubt that the design is somewhat unsatisfying. The tee shot is semi-blind, with only the top of the pin visible. In order to hit the green, the golfer is aiming 20 yards left of the putting surface and 15 yards short in order to run the ball onto the green.
This hole formed part of the original 18 at RCGC, opened in 1895. Interestingly, at that time the tee was further back on the hill, creating a 200 yard hole. This would surely have been a ‘Bogey 4’ for golfers of the time and perhaps explains the location of the cross-bunkers (now laid to grass), with players of that era having to decide whether to take on the green or lay short of the traps.
There are plans to develop this hole including the re-introduction of the original tee and most importantly to remove same turf short of the green to give golfers a better approach, visually to see the green and to make the bounces more consistent. These changes will help to complete a wonderful set of Par 3’s at this North Norfolk venue.
8. Mundesley Golf Club – 1st Hole – 163 yards Par 3
Mundesley Golf Club is a lovely little 9 Hole course situated on the North Norfolk coast. It is full of history – founded in 1901 and designed with the help of 6-time Open Champion Harry Vardon (who achieved his only hole-in-one here) it contains a mix of quirky, fun golf holes.
This starts right from the off. Slightly unusual in itself, the 1st is a mid-length Par 3. Played uphill over some rough ground to a ridge that slopes left to right to a smallish green, there is nothing particularly strange here. This changes once you reach the green.
For the first time visitor, spying the general left to right slope, it seems sensible to bring your tee shot in from the high side. This is fine unless you over-do it slightly, miss on the left side, or even find the left side of the green. The green slopes so severely from the left that, during the summer months, it is virtually impossible to keep the ball on the green if either chipping or putting from this side.
The sensible shot in dry conditions seems to be to hit your ball into the green-side right bunker. From here, it is a straightforward uphill shot to the hole. I am sure that there are not many putts conceded here! It does seem a little severe though.
7. Richmond Park Golf Club – 16th hole – 443 yards Par 5
Any hole that contains an almost right-angled dog-leg at 366 yards has to have questions asked about the design.
The 16th hole at Richmond Park Golf Club, a pretty parkland layout in West Norfolk often leaves you without any answers.
A Par 5 of Par 4 length, this hole on paper would seem to offer an excellent birdie opportunity. The reality is often somewhat different.
For the scratch golfer, a long straight drive here offers basically 2 choices:
- An approach to the extraordinarily narrow green fronted by a river and played over huge trees that could only be overcome with a 9-iron or greater.
- Effectively a chip shot to the corner of the dog-leg to leave a wedge shot into the green over the river.
From a design point of view the problem is that, unless you are Dustin Johnson you cannot reach the corner with your tee-shot. Although the green is in reach in 2 for many players, the difficulty and height of trees to cover just makes it a reckless strategic decision.
The ‘chip’ to the corner needs to be judged to within 10 yards, otherwise you will still be blocked out and needing to play an even shorter chip to regain position. It just feels unsatisfactory to play this type of shot after a good drive.
A great Match-Play hole no doubt, for stroke-play a flawed design.
6. Feltwell Golf Club – 18th Hole – 307 yards Par 4
Feltwell is a links style inland course in West Norfolk on the edge of the fens.
The short Par 4 18th hole offers interest architecturally in that it has been extended from a 180 yard par 3 into a par 4, with the former green now the landing area for the lay-up tee shot.
The new green is long, narrow and flanked by bunkers short and left and internal out-of-bounds to the right.
The design question here, though, is what the hell you do with the tee-shot. Massive trees block the centre left fairway at 200 yards (below). To carry them and reach the green is a high tariff shot out of the reach of most golfers. Fairway bunkers across the fairway and to the right prevent you laying back to play over the trees or going down the right to avoid the trees.
My personal tactic was to aim straight at the trees and try to hit my shot 200-205 yards so that my ball ran underneath them. Other players played 70 yards right onto the 1st fairway from the tee to allow a clear second shot to the green.
The new green is designed well with plenty of interest but surely the fairway trees need topping to open up more options to the golfer.
Next Week: The Most Extraordinary Golf Hole designs in Norfolk – we examine the top 5.