Welcome to the second part of my review of the golf course at RCGC over its 130 year history and my selection of its greatest holes. In this part, we will take a look at holes 4 through 6.
If you missed part 1 of the blog, you can read it here.
Of the first three holes, two were original 1895 Old Tom Morris designs. Will this pattern continue?
4th Hole – 180 yards Par 3 (1895)
The fourth hole introduces us to our first short hole and another of the ‘lost’ holes from the original design.
Played from a spectacular tee location (now lost to the sea), across a valley to a green site set into a welcoming incline, this would have been a truly outstanding hole.
With a windswept tee 120 feet above the crashing waves below, one can imagine golfers being welcome of the warm tweed clothing favoured at the time.
The very first players to play this hole were Open Champions JH Taylor (above left) and Sandy Herd (above right) in the 36-hole exhibition match played to open the 18 hole course in 1895. For a full report of this match, read my earlier blog here.
The shot they faced here would have been a full cleek to an enticing green facing them from the tee in an area now covered in gorse and bracken between the current 15th green and 16th tee. You can imagine though, that a putt from the back of the green would have been a slippery affair down the hill towards the pin.
This hole was a victim of the Braid re-design c.1925 to allow the current 15th green to be built and that hole to be lengthened. Slightly sad as the current course only has 3 short holes and could use another. Having said that, this hole would now be just a short pitch due to cliff falls.
5th Hole – 300 yards Par 4 (1905)
Another original hole but this one remains an integral part of the current course as the 16th.
There were three choices on offer for our 5th hole.
The chosen hole played in this location until 1925. Braid’s reconfiguration introduced a new hole at the Eastern end of the course. This played at 375 yards parallel to the current 6th but on the coastal side, now lost to the sea.
Interestingly, this hole would not have been particularly close to the cliff in 1925 as there was another hole on the seaward side that was also taken out at this time, as we will discuss later in the round. Little is known about Braids new 5th hole, but given the relatively flat landscape on this part of the course we will discount it from our discussion of the ultimate 18.
The current 5th hole is a well-designed Par 5, also at the Eastern end of the course. This gentle right to left dog-leg contains strong bunkering and a good green complex that falls off on all sides. Some tree thinning on the left side would improve the architecture on this part of the course and is in the plans moving forwards. It was a contender for the final 18 but fell just short.
Our chosen 5th hole enjoys a stunning location at the highest point of the course with 360 views out to sea and over towards Cromer, the risk/reward short par 4 offering a number of choices both for the tee shot and on approach.
From the tee, the long hitter has the opportunity to reach the green but this is full of risk as the hole narrows towards the putting surface, with the hogs back fairway sloping off towards bunkers, bracken and gorse.
The long putting surface favours a running approach shot. Though the breaks on the green are subtle, this surface is baked by the sun and can run at frightening speeds in the summer months.
6th Hole – 454 yards Par 4 (2019)
Our first foray to the Overstrand end of the course and with it the longest hole so far.
Again, over the years there have been three different 6th holes played at RCGC.
The original layout played the current 13th hole (below). It is fascinating that this hole played at 200 yards when first designed by Old Tom in 1895, but has since been shortened to its current 180 yards from the back tees. This hole was certainly considered for the ultimate 18, but although it sits in a spectacular location, there are some design weaknesses which will be considered in the coming years. It will of course be considered again later in the round.
From 1925 until around 50 years ago, the 6th hole was played from a tee located near to the current 6th green to the current 10th green. Whilst this hole would have had an interesting angle playing across the ridge, it was not a strong contender for the ultimate 18.
The hole chosen for this course is the 2019 version. This year sees the introduction of a second fairway bunker down the left hand side and the removal of the right hand fairway trap. These changes encourage the long hitter to play down the right side of the fairway, bringing the cliff into play. Vegetation clearance near the tee has also introduced the wonderful views back towards Cromer Pier as a feature.
Playing uphill and often into the breeze, this is a brutal examination of your game and perhaps the toughest hole on our ultimate course.
Next week: We complete the front 9 in our ultimate guide to the very best of Royal Cromer.