Royal Norwich Golf Club was founded in 1893 and despite urbanisation the course still occupies its original site in Hellesdon which is located a mere two miles from the city centre. The club owes much to John J.W. Deuchar who drafted the original plans. The great James Braid remodelled the course in the mid 1920s and little has since changed.
“Let us glance at Hellesdon, remembering that we are now on something like historic ground, since Hellesdon has bred the native Open Champion that we so badly wanted to stem the progress of the American invader.” Wrote Bernard Darwin in A Round of Golf on the LNER. “The soil is light and sandy, and the lie of the land pleasantly undulating. There are patches of gorse here and there, just enough to give a golfing flavour to the view, without making life too prickly a business.”
Despite its age, Royal Norwich is no shorty. The course measures a healthy 6,506 yards from the medal tees, with par set at 72. But with only three par fives and the same number of par threes, you need to be on song to better your handicap. The course opens up, rather unusually, with a par three. This is the only hole on the front nine on the westward side of the Drayton Road. It’s certainly not the most difficult opening hole, but the first shot on any course is often the most difficult, especially in the mind. To make matters worse, the 1st is sandwiched between the 18th green, the clubhouse and the putting green.
The 8th is one of our favourite holes and this is the only original remaining 19th century hole. This 408-yard par four requires a solid drive down a pretty valley. The two-tiered green site is set with trees on either side, inspiring the hole’s name: “The Glade”.
Royal Norwich is certainly an entertaining and engaging course with a fine collection of holes and some fascinating history. It’s well worth seeking out and worthy of a detour, but make the trip soon as plans to move Royal Norwich Golf Club to a new location was backed by its members in February 2014.
The proposal to relocate the club from Hellesdon to Weston Park, near Lenwade, was voted for by more than 80% of its members following an agreement with a housing developer. In March 2017 the club announced the completion of the sale of its land to developer Persimmon for £17m and confirmed that the existing Hellesdon golf course will remain open for the next two years.
Seeding of greens and fairways at Weston Park started in September 2017, so the new 7,500-yard Royal Norwich golf course, designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design, should be open by 2019 after a lengthy grow-in period.
Developer Martin Goymour said: “The project, upon completion, will benefit members at both clubs and enable Weston Park to be transformed into Norfolk's premier golf club.” Unless the sea swallows Royal West Norfolk and Hunstanton we feel Mr Goymour’s comments are perhaps optimistic.
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
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.
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