As the final part of the puzzle on each hole and as the canvas for the art of putting, the golfing green is a critical part of great golfing architecture. Think of any of the famous golfing holes in the world such as the 17th at St Andrews or the 7th at Pebble Beach and the size, angle and slope of the putting surface are crucial elements of the design, challenge and fun.
Crucially the green has to fit the context of the hole. The tiny surface of the 7th at Pebble would be a poor design if the hole played to 190 yards instead of 110. The 17th at the Home of Golf would not be so perfect if instead of angling from front right to back left it went in the opposite direction. This is because it is much more difficult to play the low left to right shot that would be required rather than the current low running draw that is the ideal approach (left-handers will disagree!)
Lets take a look at the best that Norfolk has to offer
10. Richmond Park Golf Club – 15th Hole
Most good players will be approaching this medium length par 4 with a shortish iron. A pond is hard to the left and rear of this narrow but wide putting surface. A great aspect of this design is the false front that forms the right side of the entrance. Tentative golfers that err away from the water will be caught by this feature which leaves a difficult chip towards the hazard.
In order for a short birdie putt, golfers have to be brave and carry the ball all of the way to the hole with a low margin of error. Holes that quicken the pulse always add to the experience and the design of this green achieves this aim.
9. Great Yarmouth & Caister Golf Club – 12th Hole
The green on this 170 yard Par 3 is perfectly designed for the hole.
Situated at the far end of the course amongst the dunes, golfers play from an elevated tee to the plateau green that features a steep drop-off to the front meaning that the tee shot must carry all of the way to the green.
Small enough to be a challenge, but large enough for the length of the hole, the green features two tiers with a relatively gentle gradient that allows a range of hole locations, the most challenging being on the top tier at the back of the green.
With a surface and surrounds full of natural undulation and a beautifully stark windswept location, this is links architecture at its finest.
8. Wensum Valley (Wensum) – 3rd Hole
A surprise awaits at the far end of this previously unremarkable 390 yard Par 4 hole.
On playing the course for the first time last year, I was initially pleased to see my slightly heavy 6-iron second shot find the front of the putting surface. When I arrived at the green however, I knew that the biggest challenge was yet to come.
Without measuring, I guess that my first putt was around 120 feet and full of slope – left to right, downhill and a little back up. It most certainly is the biggest single green that I have seen. I managed to hole my third putt from around 6ft for a slightly embarrassing bogey – but I immediately wanted another go. A great feat of architecture albeit no doubt very expensive to maintain, the fun here is how seldom as a golfer you get to experience such long, sloping putts – who practices from 120 feet with 20 feet of break?
7. Hunstanton Golf Club – 6th Hole
The green on this short par 4 probably induces more fear than any other in the County.
The narrow surface sits up high with vertigo inducing run-offs on all sides. Baked hard and sloping from back to front, a putt from beyond the hole to a front pin genuinely could run 60 yards back down the fairway. Overhit putts across the green can also lead to red-faced journeys to retrieve the wedge from the bag.
Superb design for a hole that offers birdies and disasters in equal measure.
6. Royal Cromer Golf Club – 3rd Hole
As one of the newest holes on this 130 year old layout, the 3rd was a part of 3 new holes introduced in 1979 to replace those being lost to the cliff erosion.
Most players will be playing into this green from around 100 yards. This does not make it easy.
A false front will gobble up any under-hit approach shot or indeed lead to the depressing sight of a ball played with too much spin rapidly making its way back towards you off the putting surface.
Deep bunkers await both left and right of the green and anything running off the back will leave a fiendishly difficult chip shot down the hill. Once the putter is in hand, things do not get much easier. The surface is steeply contoured but not evenly across the whole green, making pace judgement extremely tricky. Any downhill putt is extremely fast.
Like the previous entry, this green site would not work for a 400 yard hole, but with wedges in hand, golfers should be asked difficult questions.
Next week – we look at the top 5 greens in Norfolk.