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.
Date: August 11, 2021