People travel from all over the world to play at two courses that are right on our doorstep
ROYAL WEST NORFOLK GOLF CLUB Brancaster, Near King's Lynn, Norfolk, PE31 8AX Tel: 01485 210223
A strong feeling of blissful isolation from the real world prevails as the journey to Royal West Norfolk Golf Club is made along the causeway, across the salt marshes to the clubhouse. Founded in 1892, Royal West Norfolk Golf Club or "Brancaster", as it's also known, was designed in the main by Holcombe Ingleby, while its par-71 layout measures some 6,427 yards from the championship stakes.
Rated amongst the top fifty golf clubs in Ireland and Great Britain, Royal West Norfolk is a fine links course, laid out in a grand manner and is characterised by extraordinary sleepered greens, superb cross-bunkers and salt marshes. The varied and tranquil surroundings include a harbour, the sea, farmland and marshland, the latter inhabited by many rare species of birds. The one drawback of being a member here however, is that for a large part of the year, the course is cut off by tidal flooding, which restricts the amount of play possible but that in no way takes away from the inherent quality of this superb golf course.
And what of the course itself? Well, the sleepered bunkers are forbidding, the rough is wicked at times and the greens are firm and true. All this aside however, when you play here for the first time, you will know in your heart that this is how golf was meant to be played. After a testing start comprising two par fours of well over 400 yards, the perilous effects of the sleepered bunkers are first brought home to you on the 403-yard, 3rd hole, rated as the third hardest hole on the course. Push your drive to the right and you're in the salt marsh; play safely to the left and it's a desperate business to clear the woodwork lying about 40 yards in front of the elevated green.
With its fairway set like an island amongst the marshes, the 8th hole is an excellent short par five and it's no wonder that it is rated as the most difficult on the course. The more marsh you carry with your drive, the less work you have to do with your second shot across another dangerous watery arm, where the penalty for over-ambition is appalling. Measuring just over 3,000 yards, the inward journey may be considerably shorter that its outward counterpart but the card cannot reflect the wind, rough, bunkers and subtle undulations of the greens, which make these closing holes just as exacting a test of golfing prowess.
Designer: Horace Hutchinson, Holcombe Ingleby
Championship Length: 6,427 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 71
All visitors must be members of a recognised Golf Club hold an official Handicap and must make prior arrangements with the Secretary to play. No visitors prior to 10am Sundays and no visitors in August.
HUNSTANTON GOLF CLUB
Tel: (01485) 532811
Lying on the northwestern coast of Norfolk, Hunstanton Golf Club, though not quite as tough as some of the Open Championship courses, is still a real challenge for all links enthusiasts. Already assured of its place in the historical annals of English golf when Bob Taylor scored a hole-in-one on three consecutive days at the 16th hole in 1974, it would be incorrect to assume that this is Hunstanton's only claim to fame. The links is of the highest calibre, offers countless superb holes and boasts greens that are amongst the finest and slickest in England.
Following the opening couple of holes, which are negotiable but certainly not easy, one encounters what is rated as the toughest hole on the course. The key to this long, well-bunkered, right hand dogleg is good positional play. Anything struck right from the tee will find thick rough, while the presence of the River Hun demands an accurate approach to a sloping green. The short par four, 6th hole is one of the best on the course and demands a knee-trembling second to a green set high on a plateau, while the 168-yard 7th, which requires a carry over a wild ravine and steep bunker is another of Hunstanton's feature holes.
Like the opening half, the homeward journey does not disappoint, with one of the finest holes being the par four, 13th. Whatever you do here, aim straight for the marker post on the distant ridge - anything right will be lost or in rough; anything left will probably find a large, steep bunker, where aspirations to get home in two almost invariably flounder. The long par three, 14th requires a blind shot aimed at a distant pole and though this is the kind of hole, which would never be built today, it is full of character and bears testament to the history of the course. The final two holes are simply superb, with the par four, 17th hole, though not rated officially as so, being generally acknowledged as the toughest on the course.
Designer: James Braid, James Sherlock
Championship Length: 6,911 yards
SSS (Course Rating): 72
Hunstanton is a two ball course for singles and foursomes play. Four ball play is permitted only on Tuesdays from 10.30 am.
Weekdays: All day £75: from 12 am £60: after 3pm £45
Weekends: All day £85: from 12am £65: after 3 pm Saturday after 2pm Sunday £55