Several courses in the UK and Ireland are laid out within racecourses – Musselburgh (Old) in Scotland and Gowran Park in Ireland spring immediately to mind – but Great Yarmouth & Caister Golf Club takes this interaction of golf and horse racing onto a new level, with golfers having to duck under the rails several times during the course of a round.
The club was formed in 1882 when a 13-hole layout was brought into play but, by the end of the following year, North Berwick-born professional Tom Dunn had extended the course to eighteen holes. After the club merged with near neighbour Caister in 1913, Harry Colt is said to have designed an 18-hole course over land that had been used by both clubs but World War I prevented this development from ever going ahead.
racetrack was relocated to its present position just after the Great War and a
revised course was completed in 1921, with an exhibition match between Ted Ray,
George Duncan and local professionals J.B. Batley and Len Holland to mark the
occasion. Tank defences laid across the course during World War II were removed
when hostilities ceased but, apart from that, the layout has remained intact
for almost a century.
After reading all the previous glowing reports, writing this review has proved harder than i thought.
There is alot to love about GYCGC but the dreadful state of the fairways cannot be ignored. I tried googling to see if, like Thetford, they are not allowed sprinkers or irrigation on the course, except the greens, which would have provided a good excuse but I havent been able to see anything to this effect.
At times the fairways looked and felt like the lunar surface, bald, lumpy, patchy at best,with very poor grass coverage. The only exception being the 17th and 18th which are played away from the sandy soil and here the coverage was better.
In addition the rough and waste areas from holes 4 - 7 looked like they had been used as a set in some post apocalyptic movie. The gorse was missing and the rough was practically barren land scattered with dead pieces of gorse wood.
BUT that did not take away the enjoyment of the course. Yes it's quirky in places, notably the 1st and 18th which play across the race track which is an integral part of the overall course, being in play on the 1st, GUR on the 18th and ever present through holes 4 - 10, 15 and 16. It was the teeing off across the racetrack and then again on your approach to the 1st green that drew my attention and desire to play here.
In stark contrast to the fairways, the greens were in exceptional condition, running true and at good pace. This is clearly where the course maintenance budget is spent.
The 1st 3 holes provide birdie opportunities with the longest of these holes being only 336 yards. After an easy start, the xourse really gets going on the 4th which is located within the centre of the racecourse. At 449 yards and into a stiff wind, this is a tough par 4 and in these conditions only the bigger hitters will reach in two. The 5th is a dog leg (blind) with the aforementioned apocalyptic rough ro the left, providing a shorter route to the green.
Then a delightful short par 4, at 298 off the whites this is easily reachable with the driver as i proved today. Not a long hitter, i thought when the group in front were on the green i was safe to go, but with wind behind and some down slopes near the green, the ball ran through to the back of the green. After the appropriate apology, an eagle wasn't obtained but a birdie duly despatched. Note to self - wait next time you play here.
After this, a fine run to the end of the front 9, with a 186 yard par 3 played to a long green that gets very narrow at the back and fall away areas left and right.
The 8th is played with the wind shortening the 462 yards considerably whilst the 9th plays back into the wind making it play all of its 370 yards and then some.
Before leaving the centre of the racecourse, another long par 4 to a green that is receptive as green slopes back to front.
Holes 11 and 12 really play through the dunes. 11 is visually a good looking hole (ignore the caravan site to the right of the tee!) and 12, a par 3, tees off from the top of a dune with the green perched on another 160 yards away. A nice stretch.
The 13th is the 1st of the 2 par 5's and played into the wind, requires 3 good strikes to reach the green.
The 14th is a lovely par 3, the best in my opinion of the 4 on the course. The bunkers all have wooden vertical lats to their green sides. This is also feature on other bunkers on the course. The green sits in a bowl tucked behind them. The green side slopes down from behind the bunkers, so any shot just clearing them will then roll through to the back of the green.
Then a wind assisted par 5, played down the 5 and 6 furlong markers of the racecouse home straight. This extension of the track doesn't rest easy on the eye on this and the next hole and is GUR if your drive did find it. Another good birdie opportunity on this hole.
The 16th is played on the other side of the rails and at 406 yards into the wind, another tough hole.
And then the 17th heading into a more parkland feel and the 18th which heads back across the racecourse, leaving your approach similar to the 1st, played over the rails tk the green situated inside the racecouse.
All in all, i liked GYCGC. The fairways left alot to be desired and i suspect playing in the spring or autumn may see them in better condition. That aside, the greens were excellent, the changes in direction and the impact of the wind as a result helped test your game whether wind assisted or wind against. The par 3s were all good and the small section in the higher dunes very enjoyable.
Rating is difficult as the maintenance not ideal, although would love to understand the reasons why the fairways are in such a state(financial, environmental etc) but as the greens were excellent i suspect the club focus their attention and budgets in that direction. Its history is also notable and cannot be ignored. On balance I've opted for 3 1/2 (fairways would be 1!).
Interesting course and very hard to judge. I love the old fashioned-links courses and this is certainly one with some cracking holes but there are also a few weak ones.
As has been noted, the first hole is odd - crossing the racetrack twice on a bizarre short par 4. 2 and 3 are ok holes amongst the gorse bushes but the course gets going from hole 4. This is a great links hole - slight dogleg left with some nasty cross bunkers at the corner of the dogleg. The green is nestled in some low dunes and it’s a tough one to find. 5-10 are also great links holes (all surrounded by the gorse and dunes) before leaving the inside of the racetrack. 11 and 12 are great holes along the beach before heading back towards the clubhouse on the tricky 13th. 14 is another great par 3 where it is difficult to keep your ball on the green (the bunkers short meaning you daren’t underclub).
The final 4 holes are ok but not as good as some of the previous ones.
This is a great links course with a lot of history and there are some clear comparisons to Musselburgh Old. Yes the racecourse is a bit quirky, yes the conditioning isn’t perfect and yes, you do have quite a noisy and unsightly caravan park to contend with but this is worth playing if you enjoy good old fashioned links.
Really don't get or like the first hole but after that it is a superb course. Plenty of scary shots and a few easier holes to give you a chance. Take plenty of balls as there is gorse aplenty. It's a tough walk but also an enjoyable one. You'll get plenty of tricky lies which makes this a tough track to score well on even if you can steer clear of all the bunkers
Great Yarmouth & Caister was founded in 1882 making it the oldest golf club in Norfolk. It’s also one of the best.
Steeped in history The Club was adopted by members of Royal Blackheath Golf Club (England’s oldest club) who provided Captains, Officers, members and trophies.
The historical importance of the club doesn’t end there for Great Yarmouth & Caister is also the ‘Home of Bogey’.
This dates back to their 1890 Autumn Meeting when Dr Browne, a member of Coventry Golf Club, suggested the idea of playing a match under handicap against the number of shots a scratch golfer would take playing perfect golf.
Moving forward to the present day and “Caister Links” more than caters for the needs of the modern golfer, especially those who seek good quality links golf on an all-year round basis. Norfolk is rightly noted for its acclaimed courses in the North; Hunstanton, Brancaster and to a lesser extent Sheringham. However, it is certainly worth edging a little further around the coastline to sample this honest and traditional links.
Holes four through to 15 are of a particularly high standard and are played on pure linksland with tight, fast running sandy fairways lined by dabs of gorse. There is plenty of movement in the fairways over this stretch of holes as well as some superb green locations.
Before then the course makes an unusual start where one must duck under the barriers of the neighbouring and intertwining horse racecourse no less than two times on the opening hole! Your drive should easily clear the racetrack for the first time prior to playing over it again with your approach to the green. The majority of the front nine is laid out inside the track and this is where many of the best holes can be found.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Having played GY&C two times now in contrasting times of the year, I am happy to say i'm fairly pleased with what I have encountered.
Speaking to other junior friends of mine I was not expecting much as they had said it wasn't a good course, however they were talking on looks rather than the holes of the course. Yes it's easy to write it off as a racecourse flows straight through, which is now GUR, and a caravan park close which I personally wouldn't know was there, but as far as a test of golf is concerned I was delighted.
Along with the history of the golf course, it's charming par 3's and well placed bunkers make it a hard course to play when the wind is blowing. However both times I played it, there was hardly a breath of wind! The greens in the summer time were very close in speed to Hunstanton at peak time and very good greens in the winter too considering it was late December!
My only negatives about the course is the racetrack which prevents people playing on the Yarmouth race days they have there. It's not the prettiest of things to happen to a golf course but you get used to it. There is however a very tough stretch of holes if you happen to be starting off the 9th tee which can ruin a round along with the delicate 18th.
It's a shame that Norfolk has so much quality in the links department already as Yarmouth is a pleasant one to play, just with the likes of Royal West Norfolk, Hunstanton, Cromer and Sheringham around too makes it very hard to compete with.
Whilst the 1st hole is a fairly short par four, it cuts across the racecourse at the turn so you have to negotiate it twice. The 4th is the first of the more difficult holes. A par four of 452 yards, the fairway narrows about a hundred and twenty yards from the green. A line of bunkers runs across the fairway and gorse is on either side.
The 7th is the only par three on the front nine and it is 191 yards in length with a two-tiered green that falls away on both sides. Eight is quite rightly index 1, a par four of 468 yards with fairway bunkers along the left and plenty of gorse on the right, near the green. Index 2, the 10th, is a good looking par four of 419 yards.
Fourteen is a lovely short hole of 161 yards. There are several clumps of gorse for a really poor tee shot, but the view of the green is dominated by two large bunkers with vertical sleepers. The par four 18th requires an extremely accurate drive. There are wet ditches and then trees close by on both sides forward of the tee. The drive must also clear the racetrack, the rails of which are classified as an immovable obstruction.
This review is an edited extract from Another Journey through the Links, which has been reproduced with David Worley’s kind permission. The author has exclusively rated for us every English course featured in his book. Another Journey through the Links is available for Australian buyers via www.golfbooks.com.au and through Amazon for buyers from other countries.