10 of the Best Courses in Norfolk
MOST people think of Norfolk as a flat, featureless county - it is anything but. The county boasts some glorious countryside and much of it runs along the coast, where you will find miles of golden beaches. Of course you won't find any mountains in Norfolk but the land is rolling and undulating and some of the world's very best golf architects have made the most of the natural contours to create some fabulous courses. Here, we feature 10 of the very best.
Sprowston Manor Golf Club
Par 72, 6,547 yards, parkland
Green fee £42.50, November-March £12.50
This 6,547-yard course is located not far from Norwich. It received a £1.5m facelift back in 2003 which basically resulted in a brand new golf course that is one of the best parkland courses in East Anglia. It has hosted EuroPro Tour events and currently hosts the Norfolk heat of the Trilby Tour. It is a par 72 that features large, undulating greens that are difficult to read and can make you look pretty silly. There are also several water hazards, including the pond and fountain on the magnificent par-four seventh hole, a dogleg that runs alongside an oak-lined driveway that leads to Sprowston Manor's magnificent hotel.
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club
Image Credit: Steve Carr
Par 71, 6,457 yards, links
Green fee £85 singles, £60 pp greensomes; winter, £65 singles, greensomes £50
No fourball play is allowed at Royal Norfolk. The club does this to keep play moving and to ensure that visitors get the most from their experience on this fabulous course, in Brancaster. Uniquely, you have to cross the beach to get to the first tee, so be sure to check the tides. There are also double fairways and sleepered bunkers – trust me, you don't want your ball to finish at the base of the sleepers. Royal West Norfolk has a charm all of its own and has good links with local hotels and bread and breakfast establishments. It is a par 71 and measures 6,457 yards. The front nine is 400 yards shorter than the inward nine, but it is the home holes that represent the biggest challenge, with the holes running alongside the sea and usually played into the wind.
Par 71, 6,495 yards, parkland
Par 72, 6,483 yards, parkland
Green fee £18
There are two courses at Barnham Broom, but for the purposes of this exercise, we are going to count them as one. They feature a number of wonderful holes, with par fives played through avenues of of trees to greens protected by water, and a par three at which you have to hit your tee shot over towering trees to a green in the valley below with a small river running behind the putting surface. You can play 36 holes in a day and come off the final green and genuinely feel that no two holes are the same. The fairways are undulating, the courses are never boring, with bunkers waiting to swallow up any shot that is hit off target and greens that feature many humps and hollows. It is possible to score well here, but only if you drive the ball straight and can read the putting surfaces.
Par 71, 6,275 yards, parkland
Green fee £20
And this is one of those hidden gems, set in the grounds of what was once a country mansion but is now an outstanding hotel, offering magnificent food, cheap drink and comfortable accommodation. Dunston Hall's main feature is the size of its greens - most of them are pretty small, so you need to think long and hard about your approach shots. If the weather has been wet, it is best to avoid the course, but in dry conditions it is as good as any. Eleven of the 18 holes have water hazards, which puts the premium on accuracy. The fifth is only 323 yards, but care must be taken not to drive long and left, as the green is well protected by a deep sleeper bunker. The eighth is another birdie chance at 270 yards if you can clear the fairway bunkers, but there is out of bounds just 10 yards beyond the green.
Bawburgh Golf Club
Par 72, 6,720 yards, parkland
Green fee £32
Bawburgh is set in 190 acres of beautiful countryside, with fabulous views across the Yare Valley. It features rolling fairways, trees and water. The second measures 551 yards, with out of bounds running all the way down the right side of the fairway. It is a dog leg that calls for a good drive and the choice of an iron to a small plateau approach or wood that could finish in the bunkers on the left or bushes on the right. The approach is played to a two-tiered green. The 10th is even longer at 562 yards, without of bounds on the left, which is the side you should favour from the tee as it shortens the dog leg. The best way into the green is from the right side. A road runs alongside the 387-yard 11th. Favour the right side for the best approach to a green protected by two bunkers, one of which is tiered by railway sleepers. The 18th is a fantastic finishing hole. It measures 472 yards and is one of the toughest par fours you will ever play. Four bunkers on the left side must be avoided and the approach is hit to a green protected by a lake and two bunkers.
Hunstanton Golf Club
Par 72, 6,741 yards, links
Green fee £90, winter £50
This historic club was founded in 1891 and continues to be popular today. Changes have been made over the years, including its extension to 18 holes and the addition of 40 bunkers, and it is the bunkers that are the main feature at Hunstanton; avoid them all and you will score well here, but if you find the sand you could be in there all day. Some are small pot bunkers, others feature railway sleepers. At the first hole, for instance, there is one bunker on the left and three small pot bunkers running down the right. Avoid those and you then play to a green surrounded by a further four bunkers. The fourth measures 174 yards and is a great par three. It is usually played into the wind and requires a perfect shot to avoid the sand. The ninth, at 535 yards, is a proper par five. Stand on the tee and aim your drive at the lighthouse in the distance. The 13th is a par four at which you need to try to hit your tee shot onto a ridge and avoid the bunker to give you the easiest approach to yet another well-protected green. The 16th is a par three measuring 191 yards - one of the club's members holed in one here on three successive days, but you will be happy with a par.
Royal Cromer Golf Club
Par 72, 6,528 yards, links
Green fee £60, winter £35
Many people regard Royal Cromer as the best course in Norfolk, but we will let you be the judge of that. It is a superb links course, always kept in immaculate conditon, and always a test. It is a clifftop course and it boasts glorious coastal views, with the wind usually blowing in from the sea. The 418-yard opening hole features two gaping bunkers on the right side, which have to be avoided at all costs. The fourth measures 458 yards and is played from an elevated tee to a fairway with bunkers left and right, bushes to the right and thick rough to the left, before an approach to a flat, well-guarded bunker. The ninth, at 161 yards, is the only par three on the front nine. It looks simple enough but the small green is completely surrounded by bunkers. The 12th measures just 287 yards and although the green is slightly raised, it is just about possible to drive it. But go left or right and you will find serious trouble. The 18th is a 385-yard par four, played to another well guarded green, with bushes waiting at the rear of the green.
Sheringham Golf Club
Par 70, 6,460 yards, links
Green fee £75
A clifftop course with great views, Sheringham uses natural features such as gorse to provide a challenge for golfers. Did we mention the gorse? There is lots of it. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh holes run beside the sea, with heaps of trouble on the right. On many of the home holes, there is out of bounds to be avoided. Sheringham is a relatively flat links but it has lots of character, with undulations on the fairways, fantastic putting surfaces and plenty of well placed bunkers to be avoided.
King's Lynn Golf Club
Par 72, 6,609 yards, parkland
Green fee £50
The course was designed by Dave Thomas and Peter Alliss, who created some of the best courses in the UK together, including The Belfry. The first hole offers a taste of the daunting challenge ahead. At 370 yards it is not especially long but the fairway seems even narrower than it really is because of the trees on both side. Your only priority should be to keep the ball in play. The sixth is a 397-yard par four which features out of bounds on the left, trees left and right, and an approach played to a green that slopes away from you. The 13th is a 485-yard par five. Like so many others on the course, the hole requires an accurate drive which should be struck to the right side of the fairway to avoid a large oak tree. When you get close to the green, the ground slopes away from you. The closing hole, a 377-yard par four, doglegs back to the clubhouse, with the green sitting in front of the patio, where golfers will be relaxing with a beer.
Thetford Golf Club
Par 72, 6,849 yards, parkland
Green fee £40 before 1pm, £30 after 1pm
Set in the heart of Thetford Forest, you will not be surprised to learn that the main feature at Thetford is trees. Lots of trees. You will see plenty of wildlife, including little montjac deer. Unusually, the course kicks off with a 186-yard par three that calls for a long iron. The tiered green slopes from back to front so the challenge is to find the right level. Don't miss on the left side. The ninth is a terrific par four measuring 421 yards. It is uphill, so plays much longer than its actual length. This means that the second shot always plays further than it looks but if you go too far past the hole you will be left with a treacherous downhill putt. The 15th is only 375 yards, but proves that a par four doesn't need to be long to be challenging. Accuracy is the key. You might be tempted to reach for the driver and try to blast the ball past the bunker on the right, but better to play safe and leave the ball between the bunker and the left side gorse. You will have an uphill approach to an undulating green, the easiest putts are from short or right of the hole. Thetford closes with a great 472-yard par four, with trees and bunkers left and right. A classic finishing hole. Both the drive and approach will roll left, particularly the second shot, which can kick violently off the ridges on the left side of the fairway. Out of bounds long and left of the green just adds to the difficultly of this hole.
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