Royal Cromer is the second oldest golf club in Norfolk, predated only by Great Yarmouth & Caister, which was inaugurated six years earlier. “The Club owes much in its origins and early days of difficulty to the Harbord family, led by successive Lords Suffield.” Wrote Sir Peter Allen in The Sunley Book of Royal Golf. “At the time of the formation of the Club in 1888, thanks to the efforts of Henry Broadhurst MP, Lord Suffield became the Club’s first President. As he was a friend and sometimes host to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, HRH was asked and agreed to become the Club’s first Patron and grant the royal title.”
“Cromer, like Felixstowe, makes me feel a very old golfer,” wrote Bernard Darwin, “because, when I first played there, there was a little ladies’ course along the edge of the cliff, which has many, many years since toppled peacefully into the German Ocean. Later on, I saw an excellent seventeenth hole share the same fate, and the poor old first hole has for practical purposes gone the same way.”
Originally designed by Old Tom Morris, the cliff top Royal Cromer has had to make significant changes over the years due to coastal erosion, with architects JH Taylor, James Braid, Frank Pennink and Donald Steel involved in keeping eighteen holes in play.
The 14th is Royal Cromer’s signature hole, which heads to the lighthouse. The North Sea lurks ominously to the right and prickly gorse to the left. Take aim at the lighthouse if you’re feeling brave, but don’t go through the green with your approach shot as it’s out of bounds beyond the dance floor.“The greatest claim to fame for Royal Cromer is without doubt its organisation of the first international golf match ever played – that of the ladies of Great Britain against America as a preliminary to the British Ladies’ Championship in 1905.” Wrote Sir Peter Allen. “Matches between the ladies of England, Scotland and Ireland had been played before, but this was the first outside national boundaries… As a result of this match, the Curtis sisters presented the now famous Curtis Cup… In 1988 the two Curtis Cup teams played a match at Cromer in period dress.”
The golfing fraternity of North Norfolk are blessed to have such quality and variety of golf courses within relatively easy access of each other. RCGC is no exception. Whilst a cliff top location like it's near neighbour Sheringham, it offers a different experience. Both are picturesque courses with some magnificent views but Cromer is the more challenging layout with penal rough lining narrow fairways.
What I loved about Royal Cromer was that so many of the holes play up, down and along the top of a hill 1st encountered at the green complex on hole 3. I like courses like this - Cleeve Hill springs to mind, as does a good number of the holes at Rufford in Nottinghamshire. Sherringham also had a number of holes featured on and around Skelding Hill. When asked, the members advised me it's called 'Cardiac Hill'! So check your heart rate and lets get going.
The course offers a strong opener, with the tee box directly outside the pro shop, guaranteeing a gallery, the key from the off is get your drive away straight. I saw numerous groups spend their 3 minute allocation searching in vain for their balls which sailed left off the tee into the thick penal rough. The members even joked to check how many golf balls I had in my bag and suggested I'd need more.
But today was going to be a straight driving day and my TP5X survived 18 holes relatively unscathed.
The 1st hole green is tucked to the right, with thick rough to the right, just shy of the greenside bunker. At 425 yards it's a good opener.
The 2nd takes you from an elevated tee into the valley floor, a straight forward medium length par 4.
Loved the short par 4 3rd - the hole is dog legged right to left, with mature pines flanking the apex of the dog leg, leaving a short wedge up to a green high above you on the side of the hill. And then the 4th sweeps back off a tee further up the hillside, again to the fairway below you, which then rises and levels out to a green, which is 454 yards away from the tee, but the downhill nature makes it play shorter.
The weather was calm today which certainly helped, although the greens looked like the sand on the nearby beaches, as it was course maintenance week and the ground staff were applying sand today. Made for interesting putting. Therefore hard to comment on the greens given this additional gritty layer, although by the time I made it to the back nine, the sand had been swept in and excess removed. Members were incredibly apologetic but no need, we were enjoying the round regardless.
The 5th is the 1st of 3 par 5's and plays down to the further point from the clubhouse, before a meander across to the 6th tee and where, in my opinion, the course really starts to get interesting.
The 6th is the hardest hole, at 453 yards par 4, I would imagine if played into a stiff breeze, the OOB on the coastal path will no doubt be threatened on many occasion.
I loved the 7th - the periscope on the tee so you can see if the players in front of you have cleared the dip following what is a semi blind tee shot. The green sits on 'Cardiac Hill', although this isn't where you need your heart defibulator ready - that's on hole 12! The narrow fairway you have seen running back in the opposite direction whilst wandering up the 7th fairway is the 8th, a short par 4 at 310 yards which is played from higher up the hill, across a valley to another green perched up above you. From the tee box the fairway is indeed more generous.
Then the 1st of only 3 par 3's - played downhill 157 yards to a green that is surrounded to the front and sides by bunkers. This plays across the 7th fairway, but I understand those on the 9th have priority, although I'd recommend you check 1st for any player on the 7th rummaging for their ball in the rough out of your eyeline!
The back 9 continues this most pleasant of journeys. As the holes switch direction regularly you get so many breath taking moments.
The 10th and 11th are both par 5's, so pars or better should start this part of the round. Then the 12th. The member in front came back to warn me that the hardest part of the climb is not the walk upto the 12th green (similar to the 7th and 8th holes) but the climb afterwards upto the 13th tee! It certainly tested my leg muscles.
The 13th is a par 3 where you play to the horizon, trust your number and let fly. There is quite a long false front not seen from the tee. You are now on top of the hill. A wander through bracken to the next tee and what is a very special part of the course. Whilst you have a semi blind tee shot, the working lighthouse at the back of the green is spectacular to view, as is your view of the 15th in the valley below.
Like Sheringham yesterday, there are plenty of photo ops on Royal Cromer too!
The 15th again plays from a high tee, across a valley below, before rising back up to the green, which has a slope on the front edge catching any balls just landing short. Quite a few of the greens have this feature.
The 16th is also a blind tee shot, again over the horizon on the top of the hill. There is no marker post so just aim at roughly where the group in front appear to be walking. A short hole at 316 yards.
Then the shortest hole on the course at 119 yards - the wind had picked up a little so I took extra club but still managed to fall back into one of the pot bunkers at the front of the green. My only blemish on the back 9, a bogey followed.
And the final hole, played over an undulating fairway with humps and hollows, before your 2nd shot downhill to a green protected front left and right by bunkers, penal rough to the right and a green that sloped gently right to left. A nice finish.
Many of the previous reviews for RCGC and Sheringham feel that RCGC is a stiffer challenge. Whilst I didn't find the penal rough, if you do then your ball is lost! This is a much harder aspect than Sheringham, plus the fairways are narrower, putting a premium on accuracy throughout your entire round.
Based on the courses I have played this last week, RCGC should sit above Royal Norwich in the Top 100 rankings - it is a far superior course, in terms of conditioning (green maintenance week accepted), challenge, interesting layout, a course that grabs your attention and holds it throughout. There isn't much in between RCGC and Sheringham, so a ranking of at least 4th in Norfolk is more appropriate.
With a very friendly membership and reasonable green fees to boot, add this to your Norfolk play list. I'm glad I did.
I have waited a few weeks after you informed me of your impending visit to Royal Cromer Andy and i have to say, that is exactly as i saw it but you gave a far better and descriptive review. I only wish you could have played in the wind i played in and i the calmer conditions you played in, HA HA. It is a pity about the greens as two of my three ball, myself included loved the greens and the other couldn't get to grips with them, so it would have been good to have had a fourth opinion. I haven't played Sherringham or Royal West Norfolk but i walked a lot of both courses and i prefered the look of the challenge of Cromer but i will return to play both to compare.
Played Cromer for the first time in a 20 mph wind and i have to say it made it a challenge that could be described as hard and even unfair. The course layout, bunkering and condition was fantastic, with some amazing views of the holes and surrounding areas. It was made very tricky (unfair) by the rough which if the ball went in, it was lost. I think unfortunately it was the weather or time of year to make the rough so thick and lush but with blind shots and many undulations, it did make it hard work, many other golfers were complaining as we played around. That aside, the golf course is a great course and should be on everyones list when you are in Norfolk. The holes are varied and interesting right from the start of the round to the end, the back nine being the better of the two. The course definitely makes you use every shot in your locker and ones that arent. In benign conditions it would be more playable but when the wind blows in the present state, it is a real test, so go with an open mind, lots of spare golf balls and enjoy the course. I must say the WHS rating is a joke, it is a far harder test.
I'm playing Royal Cromer in a few weeks time, so your review has whetted my appetite. I will however be hoping for a still day!
Hi Andy, if the wind blows and you are good in the wind, or have played it before, it should be no problem, it is wide enough but with run offs and undulations, the rough becomes no man's land. But it has jumped into my top 20 of best courses, that i have ever played, its charming and wild all at the same time. I have no problem with a challenge, i like it, i just get annoyed when i hit some "good" shots that were not quite in the right spot and lost the ball completely. But thats golf. I have played easier links courses than that and i didn't enjoy them as much, so go and enjoy.
Beautiful cliff top views and a tricky course when the wind is up. They're making some great upgrades to the course such as improving tee boxes with railway sleepers and adding crushed seashells to paths, a really nice touch. I'd personally rate Cromer a smidge higher than nearby Sheringham
From the moment we arrived and received a great welcome from the professional, secretary and green keeper we quickly fell in love with this place. We were fortunate in the mild dry weather for early spring made for a perfect day. However the best was still to come, the course was amazing with hole after hole providing interesting and quirky challenges that require every facet of shot making. The course was in fabulous condition for anytime of the year let alone so early in the season, clearly huge investment in this club with all the work being completed to the highest of standards, if you get chance to play here make sure you do
We were lucky enough to play here on a warm sunny summer day, so were able to enjoy the spectacular views of the coast. This clifftop course has some significant undulations and offers a roller roaster ride.
The opening hole starts with a blind drive and is a bit of an uninspiring start, but the course soon improves. Generally, the greens are small, often elevated, and surrounded by heavy rough and bracken, which mean that the shorter par fours played much tougher than the yardage on the scorecard suggests.
Given the changes in elevation, there was quite a lot of guesswork as a first time visitor, this is one of those courses where it's not all laid out in front of you so you need to play it several times to understand the lines.
With the stunning views of the coast from a number of parts of the course it is easy to overlook what a very good golf course this is. Ok the first five holes do not have views of the sea but they are solid holes with a medium length dog leg left to right par 4, straight away medium length par 4, a brilliant sort par 4 which dog legs right to left, a long (450 yes) straight away par 4, from a raised tee box providing wonderful views of 7 or 8 other holesand the 5th is a gentle right to left par 5. The 6th hole runs along the cliff / coast is utterly gorgeous - it is also an excellent strong par 4 of 440 yards. There is a very clever design theme here as the long par 4s tend to be downhill and the short par 4 are invariably uphill. Yes it is undulating and there are some serious walks up to tees. The pay off in terms of scenery is well worth some lung busting walks ( especially on the back 9). The only 15th hole was literally the only hole on the course that I did not enjoy and this was only because it felt a little tight and claustrophobic which was slightly at odds with the rest of the course. Greens were excellent as is the firm turf on the fairways. This course is severely underrated and should be comfortably in the top 100 in England.
Cromer was our last course on a Norfolk golf trip. I struggle to see how this course isn’t rated higher. The overall views, style and closing 9 holes is superb.
We played this on a cloudy and wind not blowing heavy day and I can only imagine what this would be like in worse conditions.
Greens are very quick and some very tough approach shots.
From a scenic prospective there are not many courses to beat the sea views and magical to play towards a lighthouse on the back nine on two holes. If you are not straight, very tough and penal but accept it and enjoy the venue.
Hunstanton is much more a classic links. Sheringham is very similar, with superb views and great layout but we felt as a four ball collectively that the back nine was a standout across the weekend.
A very charming links/heathland course, that mixes great elevation changes with spectacular views. There are some very ordinary holes, but for the most part there holes are really good. Especially good holes are 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 14, 15 and 17.
Well worth a stop if in the area.
The first round of our 3 day tour of Norfolk started at Royal Cromer, with Hunstanton and Sheringham to follow.
Royal Cromer starts with a tricky par four playing into the wind which means that 2, 4 and 5 also play into the wind, this did not make for an easy start.
The course comes alive on 6 with the run of 6 through 9 being good fun. I would comment that the 7th while an exciting blind tee shot at the point that we played meant that anything left was absolutely fine.
The course then comes back to life on 13 a good par 3 followed by a lovely hole on 14 where you soon realise that a draw is the call of the day off the tee. 15 is then just about being straight anything else is probably lost which is quite penal. 17 is another nice par 3, while it is short, miss left at your peril.
The let down for us when we played was probably due to a relatively dry summer leading to baron fairways in places and dead rough which made spotting your ball if you missed the fairway difficult.
Overall the layout of the course is good, although it feels tight at times. If the fairways were better I would go with a 4 but a 3.5 for me at the time of playing.
Cromer Golf Club is a lovely layout set on the North Norfolk Coast. I have played it a handful of times in varying conditions and I really do like it. Much like it's neighbour Sheringham, it's parked up on the top of the white cliffs overlooking the sea and is of course, at the mercy of the weather! Cromer can turn very quickly into a much less enjoyable round with bad conditions simply due to it's difficulty. Tough greens to hit and long grass in close proximity requires well struck shots into greens, and in howling wind and lashing rain, it only it was that easy!
The first few holes are more inland, until you make it to the 6th, then the beauty really shows. a few holes running alongside the cliffs. A stray shot could result in another kind of sand you don't want to hit from!
As well as being more challenging than it's neighbour, it offers alot of up and down holes where it's not all about reaching for your driver. Alot of holes require consideration to hit off the tee which makes it a nice change as some links courses, especially with the wind, can be long. Not really a fan of the par 3 13th, which is a completely blind uphill par three to the new players is really a cruel test having to guess where the green or pin lies. Along these few holes when you start the incline, it shows the beauty of the shrubbery in between the holes and gives a good look just over the footpath to the almost jungle like cliff a few meters away.
The two finishing holes at Cromer are lovely. A well designed last hole with punishing bunkers as well as the very short par 3 17th over the Heathy links style long grass. The 9th also getting a mention for the unique par 3 where there are pot bunkers evenly placed all around the green. With an elevated tee and being close to the sea, club selection is vital.
Cromer benefits from a small strip of land next to the first few holes which you have to drive to for a range. Unfortunately not long enough for the average golfer to hit a drive on, better than nothing! Around the traditional clubhouse, the locker rooms emit the old fashioned vibe and the travel up the stairs into the main area to view some of the big events Cromer has held throughout the years.
If you have the time to come and play on your trip to Norfolk, Cromer is definitely one to consider.