My latest feature on golf in Norfolk will focus upon an area of course design that offers architects some great options – short par 4’s.
Given the relative lack of yardage, these holes can often include severe hazards, be it narrow fairways, deep bunkers, water or sloping greens. For the golfer, an enticing chance for birdie awaits but a single poor shot can lead to disaster.
Lets take a look at some of the very best examples in Norfolk and analyse the design features that make them stand out.
10. Royal Norwich Golf Club – 13th Hole 282 – 328 yards
For those that have ambitions to play this hole but have not yet had the opportunity – best be quick. In mid 2019, Royal Norwich is due to leave its current location and move down the road, having sold its current land for housing.
It will be a shame to lose this little gem of a hole.
From a very narrow, highly elevated tee that does not suit those who suffer from vertigo, the hole falls away sharply to a fairway far below. The tee shot requires a carry over trees and scrub to reach the cut grass. Although the fairway is quite generous, the trees in front of the tee and to the right, combined with more trees and out-of-bounds to the left steal the golfers focus and quicken the pulse.
Whilst the heroic tee shot can reach the green, most will be left with a short iron to the heavily contoured putting surface. This can help or hinder the approach shot on its path towards the pin and certainly leads to plenty of head scratching with the putter in hand. For those that like to employ the Aimpoint technique, you may need more fingers to measure the break.
9. Heacham Manor Golf Club – 3rd Hole 255 – 300 yards
Heacham Manor is a relatively new addition to golf on the Norfolk coast, opening for play just 10 years ago. Remarkably for a course situated just a 3-wood and a wedge from the beach, there are no sea views and for the most part has the character of an inland course rather than a links.
This is certainly the case for the exciting 3rd hole.
The more observant will have noticed that the Championship tee stretches to 373 yards, but I am not sure this area has ever been used, so we will consider the strategy from the normal tees.
The wide putting surface offers a tantalising aesthetic from the tee and most definitely encourages the player to ‘have a go’. When the ground is firm, however, to finish the shot on the narrow green requires the proverbial needle to be thread between two large bunkers guarding the front of the putting surface.
The lay-up tee shot needs to avoid rivers (ditches?) both left and right. It is an excellent design feature that the longer the club you hit from the tee, the wider the target area becomes, again encouraging the ambitious effort. Distance control is essential on the approach shot. It is exceedingly easy to misjudge and find an unforgiving chip shot either short or over the green.
8. Fakenham Golf Club – 2nd/11th Hole 249 – 282 yards
Short Par 4’s work particularly well on 9 – hole layouts as length and angles can be altered for an 18 hole round. And so it is with the 2nd and 11th holes at Fakenham Golf Club in Central Norfolk.
This is an interesting course with 6 holes outside the horse racing track and 3 inside the oval. It is a case of very pretty on the outside but slightly underwhelming on the inside, where any foliage is limited in height so as not to restrict race-goers views of the Colts as they run.
Our featured hole would certainly feature highly on a list of the prettiest in the County, with mature trees along the right of the hole and a picturesque river to the left.
A slight left to right dog-leg, the normal strategy will be to lay-up and wedge into the narrow but long green. An attempt to drive the green from the tee will require a high fade and any miss to the left or right will leave a very tricky chip shot even if you find your ball.
7. Links Golf Club – 9th/18th Hole 248 – 309 yards
Continuing our theme of 9-Hole courses, the 9th/18th at Links Golf Club, at West Runton on the North Norfolk coast squeezes in at number seven on the list. Whilst this layout often struggles from a conditioning point of view, the design of this thrilling hole justifies its lofty position in the ranking.
The teeing areas for these holes are sited on perhaps the highest point in Norfolk, offering a stunning vista towards the green, with the imposing hotel to the left, the small clubhouse hard behind the green and the beach and North Sea to the right of the putting area.
There are few more satisfying feelings than launching a sweet Drive from an elevated tee towards a Par 4 green. It is one of the best walks in golf if you are successful.
6. Royal Cromer Golf Club – 16th Hole 300 – 316 yards
The 16th hole at Royal Cromer sits in a stunning location with a hogs back fairway enjoying 360 degree views across the property.
The tee shot is blind over the brow of the fairway. Many players try to drive the green but the margin of error is tight, with gorse and bracken both left and right at driving distance.
The green itself is a key feature of the hole design. Sited at the very top of the course, baked by sun, whipped by wind and sloping off at both sides, it plays firm, fast and true. 30 yards long but just a few paces wide, judging distance on this ice rink is quite the challenge.
So our 5 holes filling positions 10 to 6 on our list provide some of the most fun golf available in Norfolk.
Next week we dive headlong into the top 5.