Founded in 1910, Eaton Golf Club quickly had a 9-hole course in operation on 40 acres of a leased property with an annual rent payment of £30 and no play on Sundays. The inaugural club committee contained six founder members of Royal Norwich (by then almost seventeen years in existence) and entrance fees were set at 2½ guineas, along with annual subscriptions of 1½ guineas for men and 1 guinea for ladies.
J. H. Taylor was called in to extend the course in 1912 and this layout was altered a decade later by Sidney Gill – who later became club captain then president – when he introduced two new holes to the west of the property. Local professional and 1923 Open champion Arthur Havers then assisted Gill in 1935 when further modifications were made, with five new holes brought into play on newly acquired land to the southwest of the main layout.
After World War II, the nines were reversed into the current playing order. The 6th wasn’t doglegged like the present day hole, the 7th was a short par three playing to the modern day 6th green, the 8th was a right doglegging par four, and the 9th played from the current tee position to a green located further north, where school playing fields are now located.
Nowadays, the course extends to 6,194 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 70. Unusually, the front nine is configured with three par threes, three par fours and three par fives. Feature holes include the 458-yard 3rd (rated stroke index 1), the 195-yard 9th (which is the longest of the par threes), and the tight, bunkerless short par four 17th.
Eaton golf course is quite the oasis within suburban Norwich. It’s not a massive parcel of land - so can feel hemmed in at times - but is nevertheless a pleasant routing with surprising elevation changes. It’s not long, but provides a test due to tight driving lines on several tee shots. Oddly, when we signed in to start our last round here, we were certain the assistant pro pointed us to the 7th tee, rather than the 1st.
Favourite holes would include #2 & #7, both decent one-shotters of varying length. The deja-vu second shots on uphill Par 4’s at #6 & #17 are other highlights, and the sweeping drives/vistas at #3 & #17 are also enjoyable moments. The assistant pro suggested we’d enjoy holes #1 & #18 the best, a view also shared by one-time member Ben Hogan, but we felt they were less interesting.
Having played all of the inland courses around Norwich, Eaton is my favourite. It was always just ahead of the now defunct Weston Park. The one caveat is that I have yet to see the new Royal Norwich - but Eaton was superior to their previous iteration. It has a nice settled feeling and is comfortable in its own skin, something you tend to get when a course is 100+ years old. The assistant pro firmly stated it to be the best course in the East of England and at least 475 years old.
If I were to suggest improvements, I’d remove a few trees to maximize the width on offer, and renovate the bunkers to make them more visually intimidating. Not sure if any work has been undertaken since my last visit. The assistant pro had earlier stated the course to be perfect as it is and more highly regarded than The Old Course (whilst giving us incorrect opening times for the catering).
I do wonder what the future holds here if nearby clubs like Royal Norwich sell up from their prime locations and move elsewhere. Hopefully Eaton stays where it is for another 100+ years. Although the assistant pro did mention in passing that he held shares in both Barratt homes & Tesco. It is definitely worth your time if in the area - I always look forward to my next quiet & testing round here.
Footnote: Eaton GC actually has a lot to answer for, as it was here 15 years ago that a distracted assistant pro gave me my first lessons. In completely failing to produce a solid right-handed swing for this left-handed golfer, a pestilence was unleashed upon the golf world. If only he had some lefty clubs lying around. I had planned to become the next Arnold Palmer but have been more mocktail than cocktail ever since. Despite this, I do have a fondness for the place. Mentioning this in the interest of full disclosure - although I’m certain no trace of bias has crept into the above text to negatively represent my view of a course that is befitting of such a fine city
I have played Eaton numerous times over the years during my junior days in Norfolk for various competitions. Norwich isn't usually the first port of call for visiting golfers with it's quality on the coast. It is the only place in Norfolk that can boast quite a few courses within a short distance of one another.
Whilst I do find Eaton a little hit and miss in regards to condition, it boasts a solid layout which, in the peak of summer, can offer a truly enjoyable round of golf with some very tricky holes. How tight most of the holes are contributes to how difficult the course is and in a few cases, knowing the course helps a lot more compared to other golf courses.
It's a very friendly club, every time I've been the people there have been lovely, the food is good and it's a nice atmosphere in the clubhouse which with some of these modern places coming up, I see less and less of nowadays.
A notable mention is the par 4 18th, off the backs 470 yards with a almost right angle dog leg left. It's certainly a hole designed to test your nerve, with most long hitters having to hit an iron off the tee. It takes a wonderful golf shot to start the ball far enough right to miss the tight line of trees just to the left of the tee but then to almost snap hook it round the corner onto the fairway. I'm sure plenty of scorecard wreckers have been had here!
Whilst it doesn't come anywhere near the other calibre of courses in Norfolk, it's certainly a lovely place to go and visit if your in the area.
A lovely parkland course with a stunning variety of trees make this a real Autumn winner. A strategic lay out for this short course means that the bomber may leave disappointed that he or she has not scored as well as expected. It is a tight driving course so maybe pop that driving iron in the bag.
A new greenkeeper for the past couple of years has transformed the condition and it is now a must to play if you’re in the area. Tiny greens though so practice your short game for the up and downs.