Royal West Norfolk - Norfolk - England

Royal West Norfolk Golf Club,
Brancaster,
Norfolk,
PE31 8AX,
England


  • +44 (0) 1485 210087

  • Golf Club Website

  • 7 miles E of Hunstanton

  • Contact in advance – restricted at weekends

  • Tim Stephens

  • Holcombe Ingleby and Horace Hutchinson

  • Andrew Collinson

Founded in 1892, Royal West Norfolk Golf Club is a classic, nothing much has changed here for 100 years. Squeezed beautifully between Brancaster Bay and the salt marshes, Royal West Norfolk truly is a peaceful golf links, except when the wind blows and boy, is the wind bracing here!

Check the tide times before you plan your trip to Royal West Norfolk Golf Club. The course plays on a narrow strip of links-land which gets cut off at high tide, turning it into an island. If you are lucky enough to play the course during high tide, you are in for a real treat; the downside is that you will need plenty of golf balls.

Prior to your game, grab a quick drink in the oak-panelled Smoke Room inside the Victorian clubhouse and check the wind speed on the gauge next to the bar. If you want to eat after your round, make sure you order before you play, otherwise you will only be offered a choice of delicious cakes.

“In the days of the gutty it was most emphatically a driver’s course,” wrote Bernard Darwin in his book, The Golf Courses of the British Isles, “since nobody could get over the ground without exceptional hitting. Even now, when the pampering Haskell has noticeably reduced its terrors, it is still a driver’s course, in the sense that it is one on which one derives the maximum of sensual pleasure from opening one’s shoulders for a wooden club shot.”

Out on the course, you feel delightfully isolated; often all you can hear are the seductive sounds of the wind, the seagulls, the clinking of stays and the flapping of boat sails. Essentially, the course is a traditional out and back links; huge sleeper-faced bunkers, fast greens and that beautiful links turf. A magical place to play golf. However, three-ball play is only allowed at the discretion of the Secretary and four-ball play is forbidden.

“Few things are more terrifying than the first hole at Brancaster on a cold, raw, windy morning,” wrote Darwin, “when our wrists are stiff and our beautiful steely-shafted driver feels like a poker. There is a bunker – really a very big, deep bunker – right in front of our noses.”

Beware the weather at Brancaster though; it can take you by surprise. We played here in late spring and ignored the black clouds to the west. After all, we were on the 15th and the sun was shining. By the time we reached the 17th it was raining and by the 18th, we faced a full-blown tempest. When, soaked to the skin, we arrived to knowing smiles in the clubhouse, the wind gauge was fluctuating between 50 and 55mph.

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Reviews for Royal West Norfolk

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Description: Check the tide times before you plan your trip to Royal West Norfolk Golf Club, the course plays on a narrow strip of links-land which gets cut off at high tide, turning it into an island. Rating: 8.4 out of 10 Reviews: 73
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Ian McMurray

Brancaster on a mild windless cloudless day in March was akin to being taken back to summer holidays as a child, the rose tinted reminisces of timelessness playing with a bucket and spade. Just this time you are playing with a 58 degree wedge in cavernous sleeper faced bunker so big you think you are on your own private beach.

The opening hole is the best first hole I have ever played, I am an avid believer that the course shouldn’t hit you where it hurts from the getgo, Brancaster facilitates a welcoming drive to warm the cockles. The big bunker in front of your nose is really for show and isn’t really in play except to awake the senses, however after getting the drive away the second shot is a pure test of golf and nerve. The thick dunes and out of bounds to the left and two pot bunkers to the front right of an elevated green collect anything slightly miss hit.

The first hole provides you with the true kernel of how the course defends itself on days where the wind has itself gone on holiday. The course provides ample room off the tee, but place the drive in the wrong location then accessing the green can be nigh impossible with the next. For example a pulled drive on the 3rd, leaves a shot over a monster bunker to a green of minimal landing area from that errant angle.

The only real danger from the tee also arrives on the 3rd and is situated to the right of the majority of the outgoing holes, being the marsh. Although fenced to the course it isn’t actually out of bounds which is something that really adds to the character of the course. The tide was out on our round so the threat of water on the 8th and 9th holes had receded, which meant that errant shots fell into the dry marsh, providing a welcomed escape from what would have been card wreckers.

A thoroughly enjoyable course with a lovely welcome from the pro, secretary and steward. A delightful course made very memorable by the surroundings and welcome.

March 31, 2022
8 / 10
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Chaz Sizeland

Played Brancaster on my Birthday and boy was it a treat!

We were the first off on a Thursday morning and were greeted by a lovely chap in the pro shop who told us a bit the history of the club and showed us some amazing aerial pictures of the course on the computer and an equally friendly barman who gave us a little local knowledge on how to approach some of the holes.

The course itself was in fabulous condition, lush fairways and fast & true greens. We also had it almost exclusively to ourselves which was brilliant as I often stopped to take photos of the stunning views.

A simply gorgeous golf course with fantastic staff, easily one of the best golf courses I've played

March 04, 2022
9 / 10
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James Smith

You can tell why this golf course is so highly ranked and deserving of the No.1 rank in Norfolk. With stunning views, excellent fairways and majestic greens, this golf course was a treat and one that I am already desperate to play again. If you enjoy playing links style golf courses, then this course is perfect for you. It's inches away from the Norfolk coast and gives the golfer excellent views of the sea and surrounding areas. You constantly find yourself looking at the stunning scenery throughout the round, in awe that this is actually real. I must say how welcoming and friendly the staff are in the proshop and clubhouse. The man in the proshop was more than happy to talk about the club's history and assured that I'd fall in love with the beauty, impecable fairways and incredible views this course has to offer.

February 25, 2022
10 / 10
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Warren
March 01, 2022

I agree with your "real" comment. As mentioned a few years ago in my review, when I first saw this course from the top of the dunes, I thought it looked like an attempt of a golf course that just wasn't done quite right. The criss cross of some fairways, the strange looking bunkers, the slimness of the land, the dogs. I played it soon afterwards and it went straight to top 10. World class.

Rob Gibson

A beautiful sunny day in November, 10 degrees, and a 3 club breeze. What a lovely layout, a longer front 9 that plays far easier than the shorter back 9 coming back into the stuff cold breeze! I happened to play awesome on the back 9 though so that was a treat!

You start with a gentle par 4 doglegging around the dunes, simple tee shot to the double fairway shared with 18, but the longer the second shot you leave, the more scary it is! A small green with huge dunes/OB left & right isn’t much better!

2 whilst being a long par 4 is a breather hole, plenty of space, and plays far shorter downwind.

3 is a very interesting par 4, where the second shot plays over sleepers blind to the green, crucially you can see the top of the pin easily, which is a prerequisite an approach for me. I really quite liked this quirky design.

4 is a little par 3 over sleepers once again, a wide green, and unless very windy, a simple task.

5 is a very very intimidating tee shot for a good player, never mind a hacker, playing over a cavernous bunker blind, but with a good aiming point to try and kick a goal through, not just 1 solitary marker post, and the fairway and landing area is generous.

6 plays back to the clubhouse, the only front 9 hole that does so, and is a brilliant hole, back into the wind with a false front and OB just left of the green. A real beast.

7 & 8 are par 5’s and where you must make your score. 7 you can hit driver and reduce it to nothing but it brings a lot of trouble into play - I just hit 3i then 5i downwind, and there was no danger in doing this and an easy birdie.

8 is a very very quirky par 5, you can not hit driver, which I don’t like, but if you’re going to stop me from hitting driver on a par 5, it best not then require a 3 wood 2nd and a wedge to the green. To be honest, 5i 5i would hit this green in 2, and you absolutely need to play this with caution as the fairway is a table top and danger lurks both sides.

9 is the signature hole, and in high tide would present a huge challenge for the average player to hit the second shot over, if you can’t carry the ball 120y over water, you’re in strife.

10 is a gentle par 3, but back into the wind makes it play far harder.

11 is probably the hardest 480y par 5 you’ll ever play into the wind, I couldn’t get home in 2 and in no wind I average easily over 300y off the tee!

12 is an interesting mid length 4, a blind second shot to a green in a bowl, a birdie chance.

13 is an excellent short 4, in the right conditions easily reachable off the tee, but the green complex is excellent and fraught with danger!

14 is a brutal 430y par 4, I nutted driver and still had 3i in!! It’s a seriously intimidating second shot, what I would say is there is more room around the green to miss than you think there is, and if you get it right, the ball feeds in on all sides.

15 is 180y par 3 that plays a lot further, and has one of the deepest bunkers I have ever seen 30y short of the green, if you go in there and you aren’t skilled and powerful at exploding the ball out of sand, you’re done. A great hole for me, maybe a bit too difficult for a shorter hitter.

16 is a great second shot up the hill, a short 4 that plays like a long 4 into the wind.

The view on the 17th tee is epic, my phone battery was done by then sadly! But a downhill tee shot with plenty of space left, and a simple second shot in.

18 is an easy tee shot with a lot of space, followed by a second over another huge sleeper bunker, but a fairer one to where if anyone goes in, they can get out.

I thought this layout was simply brilliant, and all the people we spoke to were very friendly.

Hunstanton also lovely, but I don’t feel like bar a few holes I would need to play that again, and I would get bored relatively quickly, I could play RWNGC every day for the rest of my life and have an absolute blast.

It’s not perfection. But it’s close!!

The location, all I can say is wow. One side of the thin slither of land is salt marsh, the other side beach. Truly a gem, and hope the course survives for a long time and it doesn’t go underwater.

I’ll be back someday and hopefully soon!!

November 18, 2021
9 / 10
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Greg Watson

Brancaster as its known by the locals is a grand setting for a game of golf. After you have driven in past the sign warning of the tide times and when the access road is passable you know you are going to be in for a treat. Play was only allowed in foursome or two ball, and we chose the later. I found the course to be very traditional as expected, very much imagine still laid out in its original manner, a clever use of the land. Some of the hidden dips that guard the greens add significant length do grateful we had a bushnell as on a number of occasions second guessing our eyesight would have proved disastrous. A great friendly welcome in the clubhouse with lovely food, served in a glass annexe that over looks the links.

June 13, 2021
6 / 10
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JP

Brancaster is a fantastic golf course and quintessentially old school. The board in the club house listing past captains is the most distinguished one I've ever seen - royalty, numerous dukes, admirals, even a VC winner - and really enforces what a special and historic place it is.

It's certainly worth making the effort to visit north Norfolk to play Brancaster and its neighbour Hunstanton.

April 16, 2021
8 / 10
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Tony Daley

I played Royal West Norfolk on a sodden October day with the wind howling and only a few other brave (stupid?) souls out on the links. However, I was so glad to have made the forty-minute drive up from Cromer where we were staying for the weekend.

What a fantastically fun experience Brancaster is.

From the need to arrive at a certain time to miss the tide cutting you off from the mainland to the shared fairways, the railway sleeper bunkers and a clubhouse lost-in-time. I loved the whole experience.

The course is a super test with some truly standout holes, especially around the turn where you play across tidal marshland to greens that are protected by sleepers. The fourth, eighth and ninth are some of the best holes I have ever played.

The tee shots on the way back in up on the top of the dunes provide stunning outlooks along the beach and back across to the village.

From the moment you walk across the sandy walkway and through the cast iron gate it is a golfing joy that everyone should attempt to experience if they can. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

December 26, 2020
8 / 10
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tamas

Old school. Quirky. Charming. Over rated. These all seem appropriate ways to describe this place.

Firstly the course. We were lucky to play on a hot June day, with firm running conditions and the turf starting to brown nicely. From the moment you step through the wrought iron gate that separates the course from the beach, you know you are in for something special. The shared fairway of the 1st and 18th stretches out before you, a secret world hidden by the dunes. The first couple of holes are unremarkable but get you going, the 3rd is the first test, asking you to cut the corner and flirt with the marshland to the right.

The 4th was my favourite hole, a short par three to an elevated fortress green, protected by wooden sleeper ramparts and pot bunkers stationed in front like sentries. This hole plays back into the wind, actually more of a left to right cross wind when I played, and it's a great test of controlling trajectory and ball flight with a short iron.

The par five 8th is most mentioned hole, with a nervy carry over the marsh required off the tee. As the fairway is angled across you, the challenge lies in judging how aggressive to be with your line off the tee (and then executing the shot!). A good drive puts the green easily in range with your second shot. The 9th asks exactly the same question, but this time is a shortish par 4, with a carry off the tee and another to reach the green.

I found the front nine thrilling. Downwind, the scoring was obviously easier, but nevertheless demanding, with a marshy grave awaiting any shot leaked right. The back nine then turns back into the wind, with the dunes and beach OOB down the right side. The back nine is less interesting and is more of a slog into the wind. It makes good use of the dune ridge to create elevated tees and greens, and relies more on bunkers to scare you (some are cavernous). The 18th is a bit of an anti-climax, a drive into the wide double fairway then an approach to a green guarded by a long trench-like bunker which wraps around the whole front half of the putting surface.

RWN is different to many links courses in that running the ball into the green is not usually an option. There are invariably hazards blocking your path, whether marshland, bunkers, sleepers or dunes. Add in the wind and it is a very stiff challenge - this is not a course for high handicappers.

Walking into the clubhouse was like stepping back in time. A little dilapidated, it is wonderfully atmospheric. It seems the club prefers to spend its money on the course and excellent practice facilities, which I can only applaud. Overall, top 20 in England feels a little high to me, but it offers a terrific experience at a unique venue

December 22, 2020
8 / 10
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Alex

The first Links course I ever played. How lucky am I. What a course. Quirky, Entertaining and a test.

Nothing has changed here in the 127 years since it was founded in 1892. Perching there is the understated and sentimentally shabby chic clubhouse sitting, almost precariously, on the water’s edge. With a little squint you can make out a few wind-whipped flagsticks on the holes that stretch directly east from there and, depending on the time of day, it may seem as though they rumble out on an impossibly slim peninsula.

I have only played this course in late August when the high tide creates almost a 9-metre swell which fills in the marsh completely and shows the course in its most enigmatic state. Its peak is often around 8.30am, so anyone wanting to play the course when the salty waters engorge the course fully had to be down the road by 7am as access becomes impossible for several hours.

Both the course and the clubhouse have stood the test of time and are relentless with their pursuit of preserving the past. However, it is said that Martin Ebert has drafted a master plan for improvements. This further buts RWN into a category of its own, in that it has unmatched quirk, antiquity, history and will be of championship standard.

The facilities at RWN are good with a grass range close to the Pro Shop and a small chipping green nearby. In recent years, the club has even invested in an indoor simulator. Something that very much comes in handy when you have made the trip to the course, only for the wind to be unplayable and the tide in behind you. Playing Augusta at Royal West Norfolk in the rain and 50mph winds is a strange scenario to find oneself in.

As with Sunningdale and many old school traditional English clubs, a dog is a prerequisite. They’re great company and love the links just as much as we do. I have played RWN with my best friend, K and his father. I thank them and their family for their relentless hospitality and tremendous cooking and wine!

The entrance to the course is unique, a wrought iron gate. Two granite gateposts bear the names of members who fell in the two Great Wars. Pushing hard on the heavy handle, that gate squeaks open and you step across the threshold. Let the games begin.

October 22, 2020
9 / 10
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James

Ah, to be playing Royal West Norfolk this fine July day. To set out for the links and plant soft buried steps as we cross the powder sand, twixt the club and the first tee. And look on, to the shared fairway. The first tee and green nestling into the dune side. The course disappearing into the horizon before us. Squeezed between the salty marshes on the landward side, lapped by tides, and the rolling, wave like dune, that never breaks on its emerald beach below.

Just beyond the ragged, fraying shore. Under the plaintiff clarion cry of a castaway gul, silhouetted against the furious dawn sky. A crucible of nebulous fire. House martins are dipping and darting over the wind washed grasses. Their full speed murmurations fantastic and evanescent.

The course is a borrowed promontory amongst all this wonderful nature. Exquisite. A symphony of harmonies by the lake like lazy sea. Sighing gently on the newly sodden sand. This is a feast for the whelk fed golfer.

I can’t wait to come back and play it. Achingly I had to stop by the gate. No visitors until September. It looked in fine condition. Immaculate. I will be back.

JCB LAY

July 19, 2020
8 / 10
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