My latest top 10 list will identify the very best of the short, short holes in Norfolk. To qualify for this ranking, holes must be less than 150 yards long from the back tees. These type of designs are a bit of a dying breed these days as golf balls fly ever further and courses are bulked up to cope with this advance of technology.
Done well, however, par 3’s requiring just a short iron offer a beautiful variety to the flow of a course. Famous examples include the 7th at Pebble Beach and the iconic Postage Stamp at Troon. These are demanding holes for a Tour Professional yet offer the chance for all levels of golfer to make a birdie (or even a hole-in-one) with one heroic shot.
This weeks blog will cover positions 10 to 6 in the ranking and we will see a number of examples of the template drop hole that architects are so fond of. The top 5 next week offers a little more variety in design.
10. Swaffham Golf Club – 16th Hole – 149 yards
Measuring the maximum yardage for this list, but playing shorter than the scorecard suggests, the 16th hole at Swaffham is a pretty little hole where the sting is most definitely in its tail.
With just a short iron from an elevated tee position to a relatively soft putting surface, most golfers will fancy their chances of sticking one in close. When you reach the green, however, you start to notice the difficulty of the design.
The putting surface is on three general levels sloping down away from the tee. It is also placed at a slight angle across the golfer from front right to back left, making precise judgement of distance from the tee vital. Long but narrow, anything missing the green right or left will leave a difficult pitch whilst a tee shot finishing on the front of the green to a back hole location will result in a devilishly difficult 2-putt.
9. Bawburgh Golf Club – 16th Hole – 141 yards
Another template drop hole, the 16th at Bawburgh follows very similar design principles to its counterpart at Swaffham – albeit with a very different green design.
From the tee, it is another very inviting prospect, with a wide green seemingly impossible to miss from the high tee box. Hitting the putting surface however, is the easy part.
The green is wickedly contoured with huge breaks on any long putts and the uphill/downhill component so severe that the brain cannot seem to allow enough for the slope having not experienced anything similar previously in the round. The variety of hole locations on offer also limit the ability to learn from previous rounds, with golfers flummoxed on multiple visits.
A great match-play hole, there are no gimme putts here.
8. Dereham Golf Club – 3rd Hole – 132 yards
Yet another gorgeous parkland drop hole, the Dereham version offers slightly less green difficulty than our previous two entries. The design hazards introduced here include two of the other common principles of the short par 3 – a small putting surface and severe penalties for missing the green.
Set in a bowl at the lowest point of the mid-Norfolk course, the tee shot again offers pleasing aesthetics. With a general right to left slope to the surrounding land, the temptation is to favour the right side with the tee shot. This would be a mistake with a deep bunker covering the front right of the green. Even if the player is lucky enough to miss the sand, anything down the right side will leave him above the hole with a high tariff pitch shot required. The green has a steep drop-off to the left but if anything an easier shot awaits from here as you are below the hole.
Although not as heavy as the ones on entries 9 and 10 on the list, the green still contains tricky slopes. All in all, a 3 is a good score here.
7. Richmond Park Golf Club – 17th Hole – 144 yards
Finally a flat hole!
Playing as it does as the penultimate hole, this little beauty of a par 3 is designed to focus the golfers mind and tense the nerve ends if a good score is in sight.
From the tee, the golfers attention is inescapably drawn to the pretty river that runs hard down the right side of the hole and if anything cuts in near the putting surface. If the swing gets a little twitchy and pulls the shot, a line of trees await down the left side and annoyingly a narrow ditch that may be dry in summer but is almost impossible to play from.
The green itself is double-tiered, with a hole location on the upper level perhaps adding half a shot to the holes difficulty. Like all of these short short holes, the mental state of the golfer is positive on the tee but all too often hugely deflated leaving the hole after making mistakes on seemingly easy plays.
6. Barnham Broom (Valley) – 7th Hole – 137 yards Par 3
Yet another drop hole but this one takes things to the extreme.
Leaving the 6th green, golfers are directed up a very steep set of steps towards the next tee. Upon reaching their destination, the player then turns to face the direction of play and if they are not prepared for what lays before them, then a bout of vertigo may result.
With a huge drop-off in front of the tee, it is no exaggeration to suggest that if Gary Player was here and did his trademark walk-through the shot, he would meet a very sticky end.
The green is generous enough and so the main challenge here is to pick the right club. With such a severe drop from tee to green, how much distance will this add to the shot? And in any sort of wind from the elevated position, what effect will this have? These are the questions that this design asks, and if the golfer can overcome them, then a good chance for a birdie awaits.