In Part 4 of my ultimate 18 holes at Royal Cromer through its 130 year history we enter the Back 9 with holes 10 through 12.
10th Hole – 537 yards Par 5 (2016)
For the opening hole of the final 9, we were presented with 3 choices.
In the period 1895 to 1925, the tenth was at the very far Eastern end of the course, a 240 yard Bogey 4 playing Northwards towards the sea.
Playing over the flat part of the land, one could be forgiven for thinking of this hole as featureless.
The records suggest however, that there were some penal bunkers around the putting surface awaiting the overly ambitious tee shot. In the exhibition match to open the course in 1895, 5-time Open Champion JH Taylor, having tried to reach the green with his tee shot, is recorded as taking 3 unsuccessful attempts to extricate his ball from one of these fearsome pits, eventually picking up his ball to concede the hole to his opponent.
Despite the attractive risk/reward nature of this hole, it falls just short of inclusion in my final 18.
From 1925 to 1978, the current 9th hole served as the 10th. Having already been included in my ultimate picks as the previous hole, we cannot play it twice in a row!
We start the back side therefore, with the first Par 5.
The main strategic features of this hole are the significant ridge that can be carried from the tee and the cross bunkers on the approach to the green.
For the strong player, the strategic challenges of this hole are best played from the championship tee, some 30 yards further back than the members markers. From here, only a purely struck long drive will open up the opportunity to see the green for the second shot. It also brings into play a fearsome bunker on the right side for the tee shot.
A more conservative drive will leave you short of the ridge and bunker, but offer a blind lay-up second and a longer approach to the green.
A long drive offers the opportunity to reach in 2, but the small green slopes off on all sides, leaving a difficult to judge pitch shot from either side or the back. The easiest approach is from short of the green.
Full of options, this hole allows the golfer to either open their shoulders and hit full out, or play three more conservative blows to reach the green in regulation.
11th Hole – 490 yards Par 5 (1905)
For the 11th, we turn back in a Westerly direction and discover another of the ‘lost’ holes at RCGC.
This intimidating Par 5 played parallel to the current 6th hole on land now entirely lost to the sea.
Playing into the prevailing wind and uphill, this hole would have had a fearsome reputation. Reporting on the exhibition match featuring Open Champions JH Taylor and Sandy Herd in 1895, this journalist had some less than complimentary words about the hole set-up:
‘Taylor had hard lines at the long eleventh in finding himself, after playing his second, obliged to approach out of long grass to the hole, the pin having been placed a good deal too near the edge of the green, or the long grass having been allowed to remain unmown much too close to the green.’
As if the prevailing conditions, long rough and cliff edge were not enough, records suggest a huge cross bunker covering the fairway around 240 yards from the tee on the peak of the rise in the fairway.
Despite the criticisms from the turn of the century scribe above, the green itself would have been quite an attractive target, set as it was into Target Hill. It would, however, have taken two significant blows in order to leave a short pitch to the putting surface.
With views along the coast to Cromer and the Pier however, this devilish mistress was not completely devoid of charm.
12th Hole – 390 yards Par 4 (1905)
We continue our round in 1905 and another forgotten hole – this one lost to the whim of course designers rather than the sea.
This hole demonstrates perfectly the subtle genius of the architecture skills of Old Tom Morris – using clever angles and the natural land to create challenging, interesting but playable designs.
From an elevated tee above the current 7th starting point, a straight drive would take you down the present 6th fairway (in the opposite direction) and leave a clear view of the green. A pulled drive would dice with the cliff edge, whilst anything pushed away from the North Sea would fall further right with the slope and leave a blind second.
Routed on a narrow stretch of land, the course at RCGC can feel rather out and back with limited changes in the direction of holes. This hole however, offers a subtle change in angle to challenge the golfers appreciation of the wind.
With the flattish green located near to the present left hand cross bunker for the 10th hole, a golfer who got their tee shot away successfully would have had a good chance to pick up a stroke here.