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.
Date: August 09, 2021