North Norfolk has an impressive history of conflict. Occupied by the Vikings in the 9th century, it was the site of Ket’s peasant rebellion in 1549 and was later central to Britain’s defences against Germany in the Second World War. Now the county’s principal conflict is with the ever-encroaching sea, a battle that affects many of Norfolk’s coastal golf courses.
One such venue is Sheringham GC. The club has already been forced to move the green on the par-5 7th because of the invasive tide. Situated some 25 miles north of Norwich, Sheringham is famous as the course where Joyce Wethered claimed her first English Ladies Championship. In 1920 the 18-year-old Wethered was just a lowly member of the Surrey County team. Her main reason for travelling to the Championship was to provide company for her friend Molly Griffiths. Amazingly Wethered won the title, defeating hot favourite Cecil Leitch in the final. She went on to win the competition four additional times and Bobby Jones described her as the most gifted player he’d ever seen.
With seven par 4s over 400 yards, Sheringham delivers a stern test of your long game. The famous author, Bernard Darwin, said that Sheringham demands, “some of the very stoutest hitting with the brassey that there has ever been required of us”. Aside from being a challenging course, Sheringham is also incredibly beautiful. Set on cliffs in an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, many of the holes are spectacular. When you reach the hugely elevated 5th tee, take some time to catch your breath and absorb the stunning panorama before considering the incredible hole that stretches away far below you.
After completing our round at Sheringham we enjoyed an excellent platter of sandwiches and a relaxing pint before striking out west along the A149. Our next destination was Hunstanton, just north of King’s Lynn. I think the standard of par 3s is an excellent indicator of a course’s quality. Using this benchmark, Hunstanton ranks very highly. Each short hole offers a dramatic challenge and all are exceptionally difficult.
Keeping this in mind, the story of Robert Taylor is even more incredible. In a tournament in 1974 he made three holes-in-one at the 189-yard 16th in three rounds on three consecutive days. The fact that Robert used a 1-iron on day one and a 6-iron on days two and three gives some indication of the role the wind plays at Hunstanton. When we teed up it was fairly vicious. Standing on some of the raised tees it was a real battle to stay standing, let alone play one down the middle. The greens are superb, many are plateaus, but all are exceptionally true and on the quicker side of speedy. I tend to remember good greens and those at Hunstanton are firmly stuck in my memory. Hunstanton is a twoball course, though fourball play is allowed on Tuesdays after 10.30am.
It is encouraging to know that there is a great variety of non-golfing activities for visitors to enjoy in north Norfolk. The Queen’s winter residence, Sandringham Estate, can be found here and the house, museum and gardens are open to the public throughout the summer. The impresssive country houses, Houghton Hall and Felbrigg Hall, are also open to all. Meanwhile you can see wild seals and a huge array of sea birds at Blakeney National Nature Reserve.
Unfortunately our schedule didn’t allow any deviations, and after finishing the game at Hunstanton we headed straight for our hotel. We were staying at the comfortable Stuart House in the middle of King’s Lynn. A small Victorian hotel, it was the perfect place to wind down.
After a very sound night’s sleep we awoke to beautiful blue skies and very little wind, ideal for our final game of the trip. It was to be at one of Norfolk’s finest inland courses, King’s Lynn. Although the club was founded in 1923, it didn’t move to its current site until 1975 when Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas were employed to lay out 18 holes. It is a tree-lined, parkland course but the sandy terrain means it’s playable year-round. It’s very well maintained and a thoroughly relaxing place to play. Beautiful pines and birches frame many of the holes, which may be attractive but still demand a straight ball flight. Stray off line just a little and you’re often forced to chip out sideways.
King’s Lynn was the ideal final destination for our fleeting visit to north Norfolk. After two tough seaside courses played in blustery conditions, a serenely sedate round on an immaculate tree-lined track was just what the doctor ordered.
Where to play
t: 01263 823488
stats: par 70, SSS 71, 6,456 yards
t: 01485 532811
stats: par 72, SSS 73, 6,759 yards
t: 01553 631654
stats: par 72, SSS 70, 6,609 yards
Where to stay
The Stuart House Hotel
t: 01553 774788
An 18-bedroom hotel in the centre of King’s Lynn, the Stuart House boasts a restaurant and bar that are listed in the Camra Good Beer Guide.
The Crown Hotel
t: 01328 710209
A comfortable and luxurious small hotel in Wells-next-the-Sea. Once a coaching inn, there is now a fabulous restaurant, with dishes influenced by the Pacific Rim.