On most courses, it is the long two-shot holes that are recognised as the most difficult. In this top 10 therefore, we take a look at the toughest of the tough golf holes in the County of Norfolk.
Part 1 will cover positions 10-6, with the top 5 next week.
10. Kings Lynn Golf Club – 3rd Hole – 400 yards
At just 400 yards, the 3rd hole at Kings Lynn Golf Club in West Norfolk is (by 30 yards) the shortest hole on the entire list. Playing uphill and with penal hazards however, this hole very much justifies its place.
Like most of the holes on this layout, it has a claustrophobic feel among the pines. Trees encroach the fairway from both the left and the right on the tee shot.
If a Driver is to be used, then you will need to shape the ball from left to right to avoid running through the dog-leg. Lay back with a shorter club and the approach shot is intimidatingly long. Any miss to the right can often be found, but even a chip shot back to the fairway is extremely difficult given the density of the trees.
The green is extremely narrow, with a sharp drop-off to the right and a tricky bunker left. Forget running the ball up – the slope at the front of the green is too steep.
This is undoubtedly a stern test – the Club website gives amazing stats from over 15k competitive rounds with more than 50% of players taking double-bogey or worse! But like the course as a whole you feel the architects (Allis & Clarke) missed a trick. This is a superb piece of heathland but it is choked by pine trees – a good clear-out could create a masterpiece.
9. Eaton Golf Club – 18th Hole – 468 yards
This hole is a severe right to left dog-leg, not done any justice by the plan below – it is far more severe.
The green itself is relatively characterless and flat, but this is not where the difficulty of the hole lies.
From the white tees it is around 180 yards in a straight line to the corner of the dog-leg. Immediately to the left of the tee are mature, tall trees which would require a launch angle of around 30 degrees to carry.
Unless you can hit a slinging right to left tee shot, then, the option to cut the corner is very limited. And who would take this shot on with a good medal card going and it being the final hole? I imagine that most members play to reach the green in 3 and hope for a single putt. But where is the fun in that!
The design of the hole therefore makes it extremely difficult but limits golfers options. If they could move the tee further right or reduce the height of the trees on the corner, then it may knock the hole from this list, but it would be a lot more entertaining.
8. Dereham Golf Club – 5th Hole – 437 yards
The design of the 5th hole at Dereham Golf Club in Central Norfolk – with cross bunkers from the tee, a narrowing of the hole within 100 yards of the green and a small putting surface seem to suit a Par 5 rather than a 4. And this is probably because it is a Par 5 – albeit on the back 9 of this 9-hole layout, when the tee is moved back a further 100 yards into the woods.
And so the 14th hole at Dereham is a superb hole, a perfectly designed three shot challenge with a spectacular tee position and plenty of options for all levels of golfer throughout its duration. The 5th hole, however, whilst very difficult, would not be high on the list of architectural gems, with misplaced bunkers and a green too small for the yardage on the approach shot.
Whilst I am usually a fan of 9-hole courses offering a range of different tee options, on this occasion it would be great to play it as a Par 5 twice during the 18 hole round.
7. Swaffham Golf Club – 18th Hole – 438 yards
As we move into the top 7, we reach the first of the truly well designed holes on the list. These beasts are extremely tough but also fair tests.
The 18th at Swaffham is a gorgeous hole that reminds the golfer somewhat of Woburn – with a narrow fairway between heath and trees.
From the tee, the golfer must carry a valley to reach the fairway. This is a narrow strip of land between gnarly heath and scrub. There is no real bail out area but a purely struck shot that bisects the hazards here and is framed beautifully by the Norfolk sky is indeed a joy to behold.
A large part of the difficulty of the hole is the importance of angles. Even a ball on the fairway will often require to be shaped a certain way on the approach shot to avoid some well placed trees that narrow the approach to the putting surface.
The green itself is quite a generous target but there is no doubt that only two purely struck shots will hit the green in regulation here.
6. Great Yarmouth & Caister Golf Club – 4th Hole – 452 yards
GY & C Golf Club lacks aesthetic appeal but nevertheless is an excellent test of links golf. There are a number of fine long Par 4’s and indeed the 8th hole was very close to making this list. In the end it is the 4th that is the toughest of the lot.
The hole runs parallel to the horse racing circuit with the left hand fence marking the edge of the right side of the fairway. In the past, the track has been in play and the thick grass presented a testing hazard. Recently the racing authorities have gotten more sensitive about divots and so a free drop is awarded for balls ending on it. This has undoubtedly made the hole (and course) easier.
Overall the fairway is wide and it is the second shot that presents the biggest challenge here. Huge cross bunkers with wooden sleepers for faces cross the width of the fairway around 80 yards short of the green and especially against the prevailing wind many golfers will choose to lay up short with their second shots.
The green and surrounds are fantastic and fun.
Sunken into punch bowl, angling from front left to back right and often blind apart from a marker post, the contours can help to run your ball onto the green or provide a tricky pitch or chip shot.
Full of options, angles and fun challenge, this is a great hole to conclude this weeks blog. Next week we look at 5 top class, but very difficult Par 4’s.