Gorleston Golf Club was founded at a meeting in the Cliff Hotel on 12th May 1906, when entrance fees for gentlemen were set at one guinea and annual subscriptions also fixed at one guinea, with ladies paying half those amounts. A 9-hole course was brought into play by Easter the following year on land leased from the Cliff Park estate.
The club relocated in 1913, calling in Willie Park Jr. to lay out a new 18-hole course, and he was assisted in this by James Hepburn, the professional at Home Park in Richmond. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War I the following year resulted in the closure of the course and six holes were ploughed over for agricultural use.
All eighteen holes didn’t come back into use until 1925, after they had been remodelled by Fred Hawtree and J.H. Taylor. During the Second World War, only twelve holes were left in play but repairs and renovations were carried out again by Fred Hawtree, allowing normal operations to resume in 1948.
Both the course and clubhouse were bought from the landlord by the members in 1967, enabling the club to proceed on a surer footing. When additional land was obtained in 1974/75, this allowed John Bacon of Hugh Jackson, Bacon and Partners to design a couple of new holes and modify others.
At the start of the new millennium, the club purchased another 50-acre tract to the west of the old 13th and 14th holes, which enabled Howard Swan to integrate part of this land into the main design of the course. Continuing coastal erosion might force the club to develop more of these spare acres as the cliffs erode onto the beach below.
Today, this cliff top layout (the easternmost course in the UK) extends to 6,341 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 71; 34 out and 37 in. With no par fives on the outward half, the front nine holes measure all of 500 yards shorter than those on the back nine, though the routing is such that golfers don’t return to the clubhouse until they’ve played the par four 10th.
Highlight holes include short par fours on the 1st and 9th, along with the stretch of holes between the 5th and 8th, which run along the edge of the cliffs. On the inward half, the par three 11th is a tricky optical proposition for first time players on the tee, with a couple of bunkers in front of the green giving the illusion that the green appears to be a lot closer than it really is.
Although Gorleston is located in Norfolk the golf club is affilated to the Suffolk Golf Union, so we have assigned the course to our Suffolk county listings.
Inspired by Andy Newmarch review below, I made the decision to add Gorleston to our Norfolk golfing holiday. And I'm glad I did.
What a treat it turned out to be. There is nothing better than playing links or cliff top golf and this course delivers fun and challenges in bucket loads.
Playing today in blue skies, bright sun and a light breeze, off the yellows as visitors, the springy sandy turf meant that the course played alot shorter than the 6146 on the scorecard.
There are a mixture of very short par 4 holes (1, 2, 9, 10 ), medium to long par 3's and on the back 9 a couple of par 5's, both medium length at just over 500 yards. Throw in a long par 4 (430 yards) on the front 9 and 2 back to back 400+ pars on the back.9 and you have a really good mix of holes.
I won't run through them all as Andy Newmarch did a great job. I would say the standout holes for me are the stretches on the cliff tops (holes 5 -8 and 16) of which the 6th is the best, with its cross bunkers seen off the tee and also additional ones which you face on the 2nd shot as well. With a sharp sloping front edge to the green which is above you, pick your approach shot in carefully. The best green complex for me was the 16th - beautifully framed and bunker design excellent.
The best par 3 is the 11th, visually it looks better than the similar 7th, with bunkers front and left, making it look longer than its yardage shows. I'd disagree with Andy on the 4th. Whilst it is long at 220 yards, rather than shorten it, I'd prefer to see the gorse reduced so you can see the hole better off the tee, so whilst long you can actually weigh up your shot options better by seeing the whole hole.
On the 'new' holes (45+years old!) Whilst i understand they don't fit in with the rest of the course, they are necessary. The fairway on 13 is too wide and despite being over 220 yards to the dog leg, running through into the thick rough was easily done. I did however like the 14th. Flanked by mature deciduous trees and pines, it has a real heathland/woodland feel, played on turf which looked like a carpet. With a green sloping back to front it replicated the 13th green template, but a much stronger hole.
There is still plenty of space available which the club has acquired which will help future proof the club. Whilst this may mean a change from cliff top golf to more heathland/woodland if it enables this club to survive and thrive it must be welcomed.
At some points of the course you can stand and look across 7 fairways, narrowing to just 2 at the furthest point from the clubhouse. There is still room on the original layout to move holes inwards as the cliffs inevitably retreat. At one point this afternoon as i looked across the fairways with the grasses and trees separating them, and the sun and blue skies above, i felt like I was abroad - Portugal perhaps. I felt blessed.
Add to this a very friendly welcome, great value for money and conditioning that was of a good standard and I'd totally agree that this is a course you should fit into any golfing trip to Norfolk. Plus with the horse racing on this evening in Great Yarmouth, despite not winning a single race in the donkey derby, this little trip to south Norfolk has been very special indeed.
I get the feeling time almost slows down at Gorleston, it gives a very traditional feel to it, and if it weren't for the housing estates visible in most parts of the course, it could very well feel like the olden days!
I do like Gorleston. The course has made good use of the limited space available, whilst still providing some great tests of golf holes. I, myself am not a big fan of the two holes you play in the trees, it does feel so out of place. I completely understand that Gorleston isn't blessed with acres of land at their disposal so I will accept that the rest of the course makes up for it, even if they could be designed in a better way.
If you were to take a look online, you would see that 18 holes are crammed into a space similar to where you would find a 9 hole course, but with that being said, Gorleston does a good job of separating and it doesn't feel as bad as it looks when you actually get to play it. There are only two holes on the course I would say are forced in, you'll definitely know the two I talk about when you play it.
In terms of condition, it's much like any other in Norfolk, not immaculate but certainly not bad. Most people who visit this part of the world realise that the membership fees, membership base and green fees aren't reflective of the likes of Surrey. The condition is obviously not as manicured as you'd expect down there but certainly not bad.
All in all, if you're over this area for a holiday as many people do, this is certainly a good value course to play locally.
I like the club and course at Gorleston and enjoyed my first visit in May 2021. There is plenty of that seaside charm found at many coastal courses around the country and the pace of life is slightly slower, which is no bad thing at all. The 18 hole course has been here for over 100 years and although some of the course will be impacted by the erosion at the cliffs in time, most of the original layout is intact but definitely watch this space.
Located just minutes from the busy holiday hotspot that is Great Yarmouth, the course is very popular with locals and visitors but probably still flies a little under the radar and is not that well known overall. I think this is a perfect course to choose and combine in a tour with some of the higher ranked courses in Norfolk or Suffolk.
A friendly opening couple of par-4’s at 267 yards and 320 yards (downhill) get you moving quickly and give a chance for a smart start to score. The 3rd hole bites back at 430 yards and slightly uphill – the early par-run will be under threat here. My first observation comes at the next hole; the 4th is a par-3, 220 yards with a not so friendly stroke-index of 14 – this can be a full blooded tee shot with a big club depending on wind direction – I think a positive move would be to shorten this hole a little.
The 5th tee takes you very close to the cliff-edge and the signs are there that the coastal erosion is very close and that land is being lost at a scary rate.
The 6th hole is my favourite on the front nine; 451 yards having to negotiate two sets of cross bunkers with the fairway dipping severely between both sets, this hole will not be reached in two shots often; add in a fairly sloping green and this is a beast of a hole.
The course is the furthest east in the UK and the green at the all-carry par-3 7th is the putting surface closest to the sea and my choice of best short hole on the course.
The front nine ends with another short par-4 (286 yards); this with a very small green and strong bunkering at the front, so the big shot to the green is risky.
The back nine at Gorleston is what you can call a stronger challenge; more than 500 yards longer than the front and yes there are two more short par-4’s at 10th and 17th but the course’s two par-5’s (15th and 18th) are here too.
After a very welcome stop at half-way hut by the 10th green, my next observation is that the par-3th 11th is very similar to the 7th hole – this is another all-carry shot to a strongly bunkered green but as the yardage is only one yard difference, it is a very familiar shot to the tee shot a few holes earlier.
I like the 12th hole at lot – a par-4 at 383 yards but as the teeing ground is way right of the hole direction, a dog-leg is created which is made for the controlled fade shot.
My next talking point comes at the next two holes; the 13th and 14th – these holes are on land that the club bought in 1974 (the start of future proofing due the obvious threat of land loss at the coast). For me these two holes are very much the same; the land is basically square with woodland in the middle and what has been created are two big dog-leg holes turning right and at 419 and 409 yards can be described as mirror images. I would suggest that the 14th should be changed and maybe take the hole through the wooded area to add variety in these newer holes.
The furthest place from the clubhouse is the 16th tee and the start of a great run-in to end the round; 396 yards for this hole with some great bunkering just short of the green. The 17th has plenty of character – just 309 yards in length and the play is to lay-up short of the deep crater 100 yards out – then the sensible approach is towards the rear of the green but this will leave a tricky downhill curving putt. The last hole at 529 yards and uphill for the second half of the hole is a three-shotter really and a strong end to the round.
Lasting thoughts are that this is a club that I may well like to join one day – it is certainly suited to a ‘later in life’ feel and as mentioned at the top, the charm and pace here are clear. In saying that, I would also recommend the course to any visitors and if you set expectations ahead of playing, then Gorleston will deliver golf with a smile on your face without a doubt.