Royal Norwich Golf Club was founded on 8th November 1893 and The Duke of York (later King George V) conferred the club’s royal title in a letter to Mayor A. R. Chamberlain the following day. The original course was located in Hellesdon, a mere two miles from Norwich city centre, and James Braid made significant alterations to this layout when additional land became available in 1924.
Over time, the course became hemmed in by the ever-expanding city – and crossing the main road that split the course in two meant taking your life into your hands – so a decision was made to sell the property to a national house builder and relocate to the site of the former Weston Park Golf Club where a new 24-hole complex – designed by European Golf Design and built by contractors MJ Abbott – was opened in September 2019 by Ian Poulter.
The 18-hole course is configured as two returning nines and it can be stretched to 7,209 yards from the tips, playing to a par of 73. The 6-hole Academy course extends to 1,375 yards, featuring three par threes and three short par fours, and it’s an ideal place to either unwind for an hour at the end of a working day or to work on a few game improvement tips.
Highlight holes on the main layout include the par three 4th, played to a sand-protected offset green and the right doglegged 6th, which measures all of 446 yards from the back markers. On the back nine, the 608-yard 12th is an absolute beast of a par five, sliding left from tee to green, and the closing hole is another tough three-shotter, with the home green circled by three menacing bunkers.
Architect Ross McMurray had this to say when the layout debuted: “People here want it to be fun, to play in a nice setting, be challenged a little bit but without coming away thinking it had been too tough. It has challenges, though, linked to the fact that some of the site is new and open grazing land with very few trees… some of it is routed through mature parkland, some of it is woodland and some of it is open grazing land, and tying the whole thing together is quite tricky.”
Please note, the course reviews posted below (dated prior to September 2019) relate to Royal Norwich's old James Braid-designed course at Hellesdon.
On a 3 day golfing break taking in my favourite Norfolk course at Sherringham we decided to stop off and try out the relatively new Royal Norwich Course. Before I start I’d like to register a very direct warning to avid golfers who travel the country searching for those hidden gems. This most definitely isn’t one!! In fact to charge £130 a round is quite frankly a disgrace!! The greens were extremely poor and the layout was less than memorable. Add to that the cost of food this overly hyped venue will not be seeing me again. When you think you can play Hollinwell for £20 less there is simply no comparison. There are very many courses across the country who charge £100+ a round and generally speaking the cost is very worthwhile for the experience of playing a premier golf course.
I accept that this course is relatively new but to charge such a green fee is bordering on the outrageous. To further re-iterate my disgust a member 2 ball in front of us asked whether we’d paid £130 for the experience and a pairing on the patio were also heard to be complaining about the quality of the greens. Not a great advert I’m afraid but I tell it as it is!!
Having played Royal Norwich today, I was left searching for a sporting analogy to help describe my experience. And experience is the word. I chose boxing. Sometimes in boxing the hype isn't backed up by the fight itself. You get all the build up, you get Michael Buffer announcing 'Let's get ready to rumble!', you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation and then round 1 starts and it's tame, timid, dull and a bit of a let down. Occasionally the fight does eventually start to get going and deliver a few big punches and blows towards the end which make it all worthwhile.
This is what I felt about Royal Norwich. For Michael Buffer, read Danny Chapman, pro at the club. He was enthusiastic and friendly and our experience started brilliantly, as Danny sat down with us, provided us a welcome pack with course guide, ball marker and took his time to chat to us about the course, how it had been redeveloped by European Golf Design, the hundred odd sprinklers in the fairways which are controlled by an app etc. He was fantastic, the complimentary range balls a nice touch, the short game area excellent, the Stables restaurant was what you would expect in a 4/5 star hotel. To say I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation was an understatement. Even driving into the club up the long driveway had whetted the appetite.
Was I ready to play this amazing course - you bet!
What followed was a very pleasantly laid out course, reminiscent of The Bracken at Woodhall Spa; wide fairways, American style green complexes with humps and hollows. The greens ran true although some were patchy in places (surprising given the sprinkler system and 10 green staff). Yes, it's pleasantly routed through woodland and bracken and each hole clearly has been re-designed to a template that is enjoyable enough, but there isn't anything to get your juices flowing.
However like a fight that is a slow burner, the course did manager to deliver a strong finish from hole 14 - 18. Just a shame that it takes until then to grab your attention.
Hole 14 is an excellent risk and reward hole. With 5 tees to choose from, the hole is less than 300 yards off the tips, but it has 3 bunkers lining the fairway and directly in your driving line which are there to catch those going for the green. The green has banking to the right and behind and is undulating.
You then follow it with another longer par 4, played to a green raised above you, again visually attractive.
And then the closing 3 holes - par 4, par 3, par 5 finish. The 16th lines the driveway to the clubhouse and is a dog leg left. Make sure your uphill tee shot reaches the high portion of the fairway on the almost 90 degree dog leg, leaving c150 yards into the green.
Then the 17th, at around 150 yards, not a long par 3 but played over water with a multi tiered green. Visually it looks good, although the water should not come into play with a well struck tee shot - Si Woo Kim may disagree!.
And finally a dog leg right par 5 to finish, again a good looking hole but a par or better should be the result.
The overall experience was very good - the clubhouse and practice facilities are excellent, the pro was one of the best and most passionate I have seen, but the course simply did not quite match the hype, especially when the ringside fee was £130. At 7200 yards it was a long slog but at least it delivered a few big punches towards the end.
I feel as though I should update my review with Royal Norwich as the course has changed location with a brand new course!
I've played the 'new' Royal Norwich twice now and I'm still not really sure what to make of it. I think the price of full membership at around £2,000 is absurd for Norfolk, it would need to be head and shoulders above everything else and I'm afraid it doesn't quite cut the mark for me.
The old location, close to central Norwich, was sold off for housing, which in my opinion is a great thing, I wasn't a fan of the old layout at all. They then merged with Weston Park, and ripped the old golf course up there and started fresh. Don't get me wrong, the condition of this new course is as good as you'll get, certainly the best for an inland course in Norfolk.
It might be the fact that I had a soft spot for Weston Park, it was a delightful little course and that Royal Norwich feels too commercial for me. More like The Grove and I would say out of place with the kind of examples of courses you would see in Norfolk.
The clubhouse is lovely and sleek, (and expensive!), the range is trackman fitted, although I think could've been done better, and the chipping and putting green are fantastic as they should be.
Play for yourself and make your own judgement but the layout just doesn't feel right for me. My rating reflects the complex as a whole, with facilities, condition and layout taken into consideration.
The club at Royal Norwich is on its way to centenary status but in 2019 the course has moved to the land at Weston Park, around ten miles away from the original location – this is England’s latest course and in a similar way that Close House and The Centurion opened, this opening has created a decent buzz and could contend for an English Top 100 position in years to come I think. The members that have transferred to the new location have a course style that they would only have seen on TV when the Tour events are on, it is that good – they are very lucky and with five sets of tees, all standards can enjoy playing. Conditioning and presentation are first class already.
The style now is of a modern looking parkland course but with an obvious mature look already and the club style is that of one built to value tradition but to welcome the current generation of golfer’s demands, needs and time constraints.
I will pick some of my favourite holes but the truth is there is not one hole that can be described as weak at all. The 3rd is a par-5 (412 yards to 555 yards) dog-legging to the left and then rising majestically to the green – a lone bunker from the tee at the dogleg must be avoided, along with the three at the green – I predict this hole will be a favourite for many. I like the par-4 8th a lot, from the back it is 440 yards and plays downhill for the first half of the hole – the approach is to a brilliant offset green, with just a lone bunker protecting on the left side. The 14th hole is the short par-4 that all courses have to offer; this plays a maximum of 321 yards and with four bunkers at obvious layup length, tee shot position is key. Two more bunkers short of the green and a superb run-off to the right also put a huge premium of the approach – a seriously good hole. The 17th will undoubtedly be known as the signature – a par-3 over water to another offset green with runoffs back to the water – a high class hole, with precision and accuracy the key thoughts from the tee. A touch that I do like here is that from four tee boxes the water has to be played over; from the very front tee the hole plays only 95 yards and the lake is only a hazard on the left side; a great move to grow the game for new comers and juniors so they are not too intimidated.
Off course facilities like the course are high class and high quality. I would say take a trip up the A11 to East Anglia and play the new Royal Norwich course sooner rather than later.
The course is in the process of moving to another location, hence why it did feel like some holes weren't quite as they should be. A quite scenic course with plenty of trees only spoiled by having to cross a busy road. Was in good condition and thoroughly enjoyed the course and friendly clubhouse
Part 1: (1893-2019):
Royal Norwich opens with a Par 3, but it’s a good one that requires an accurate shot to a well protected green. The deceptively placed central bunker ensures you need a decent full swing to start your round. Shame it comes so early, but do have a few stretches beforehand, and enjoy the hole regardless.
You then cross a busy road and get the chance to open your shoulders at a mid length dogleg left Par 4. It’s a nice hole, which shares a fairway with a later hole, which gives clues to the slightly cramped nature of the site. This feeling is confirmed with the tight drive with OB left at the 3rd hole.
The property is not flat and does include nice elevation changes along with some interesting angles, several of which are facilitated by driving over other fairways. After 8 or 9 holes of this (special shout out to the peaceful Par 3 7th), you cross back over that busy main road for the remainder of the course. This portion does have 2-3 open field-like holes, but then returns to some of the intricate lines of the what has gone before. Perhaps there is slightly more opportunity to slash away with a driver on these remaining holes.
Royal Norwich is a product of the parcel of land it occupies. And that’s fine. It’s tight in places and you do need to think consider ball placement. The sparse but effective bunkering also gives you enough to think about. In this respect it draws comparison with nearby Eaton Golf Club. It also has that additional satisfaction you get when playing an older course - everything seems a bit more settled and the course is at ease with itself. Worth playing if you are in the area and catch it while you can because it will be turned into concrete at some point this year.
I do think Eaton has a slight edge over this track as a quality urban parkland option, and would give Royal Norwich a benefit of the doubt 3.51 ball rating. Worth seeking out if in the area. This may change when this club’s new course opens later in 2019 on the new site at Weston Park. If you feel the current course doesn’t cut the (Coleman’s) Mustard, the new incarnation may do it for you. Either way, that Canary will sing a different tune. I look forward to playing there later in the year for Royal Norwich Part 2
Did you ever get back BB?
Not been back yet Andy - Covid travel restrictions have turned the UK into Augusta National.
Plan is to visit Norwich May 2022. My expectations are not too high - more so after reading your review - so I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Although if I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised, perhaps my expectations are high and I still risk disappointment
Having played Royal Norwich a few times now, I return not hoping for much. A moderately average golf course with very few good holes.
Most peoples complaints of the course is the hatred of the crossing fairways bang in the middle of the layout of the front nine. It's not liked by many due to the inconvenience it causes to everyone. And from my experience of courses around Norfolk and further afoot, this is one of the blander ones.
Crossing over a fairly dangerous road is another bad point to add to Royal Norwich as you cross after the first hole. It just seems like a pointless hole to be there in all honesty.
Given all the stick it does get, I do like a few holes there including the 2nd, a long par 4 downhill with a slightly elevated green in which a good drive is needed to avoid the bomb hole to the left, and the 13th hole, a derivable downhill par 4 which a great tee shot is required to hit the well protected green with OB left.
The general condition of the course isn't bad in all honesty, greens can tend to be a bit slow however i'm not a fan of the layout. It seems like a golf course needing space where you look at other gems around and how they take you on a journey out into the course where Norwich just pings you back and fourth trying to get 18 holes in.