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Royal Cromer

Yardage
6528
Par
72
SSS
72
Built
1888
Architect(s)
Old Tom Morris, JH Taylor, James Braid, Donald Steel
Nature:
JH Taylor designed cliff-top downland with aspects of parkland. Lighthouse holes outstanding.
Location/Address:
North east Norfolk coast. NR27 0JH
http://www.royalcromergolfclub.com
Secretary
Jonathan Moore
Telephone
01263 512884
Professional
Green Keeper
Mark Heveran
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
50p
Fees today
£65 - 2018

Review

Of the 78 original members (twelve were ladies) only 35 were Cromer residents, with plenty of the others coming from aristocratic families. The Prince of Wales was happy to give his royal patronage in 1888, even before the Club had been legally founded, as the land was owned by the Prince’s friend Lord Suffield.

The north Norfolk coast was being opened up to tourism by the building of railways and Henry Broadhurst MP recognised the hilly and sandy terrain around the lighthouse as being ideal for golf.

He set-out the original nine holes assisted by George Fernie, the pro at the Great Yarmouth and Caister club.
One A.C. Jarvis had the illustrious honour of being the first golfer to complete the nine holes twice with a score under 100. Subsequently he was listed as a scratch golfer.

The sixth hole with cliff. Click to enlarge

It is interesting to note that much scientific work has been done on the erosion of the nearby cliffs. As in many other fields, the experts may differ but the club website says it is now widely held that, owing to the unusual and complex geology of this coast, ground water within the cliffs is a major factor in causing frequent land-slips. Following a large slip which carried away part of the then 17th fairway in 1962 there have been fortunately few land slips in more recent times, though the cliff along the sixth hole does suffer periodically.

The British Ladies Championship was held here in 1905 but something must have gone wrong in relationships as in 1909 saw the committee vote against the staging of the English Amateur Championship at Royal Cromer, if it were to be managed by a committee from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews!

I am told In 1906 the Club, to the intense disgust of all concerned, received a demand for payment of income tax in the sum of £2. However, strong letters to the Inspector of Taxes from some influential members caused the demand to be withdrawn. Ah! Happy days!

JH Taylor, Harry Vardon and James Braid sitting.

Old Tom Morris from St Andrews was asked for his advice as was Harry Colt but it was JH Taylor, a member of the Great Triumvirate with James Braid and Harry Vardon who dominated professional golf in the Edwardian era, who designed the new 18 hole course that opened in 1913. James Braid was to do some re-bunkering with two new greens in the 1920s.

An artisans club was formed in 1921 but was absorbed into the main club in 1979 around the time when the Club bought the land from Hon. Doris Harbord, grand-daughter of Lord Suffield.

The eigth green

The fiftieth anniversary in 1938 was commemorated with a tournament that included Frank Pennink, Cyril Tolley, RH Oppenheimer, ‘Laddie’ Lucas (who also attended the centenary event in 1988), Henry Longhurst, along with the third Lord Suffield as President of the Club.

There has been a member of the Clements family on the grenkeeping team from the very beginning and George was head greenkeeper from 1924 until he retired in 1978.

Mark Heveran, the very able course manager

The current course manager is Mark Heveran previously at Royal Liverpool, appointed in 2010. Mark was able to attract Alistair Beggs of the STRI as consultant agronomist (as he is also of Royal Liverpool and a member of FineGolf’s Advisory Panel). These two have set about upgrading the course and though there is still some way to go to fully alter the holes particularly at the end of the course that are lusher and have more of a parkland than downland feel, the agronomy is moving towards fine grasses and . The most famous holes on top of the hill around the lighthouse would be welcomed by any course in the country.

The first green

Royal Cromer opens with a good hole (‘The osiers’) to a doglegged plateau green. The third is the first of four short par fours, all of around 300 yards and is a sharp left hand dogleg to a raised shelf green and, with the eighth across a deep valley to a hill-top green, both are enjoyable and characteristic.

The course measures 6528 yards from the back tees with a par of 72, SSS 72. There are a number of straightish par fours and three par fives that beat up and down parallel to the coast now separated by some trees (following a review by Donald Steel) and there three par threes.

The thirteenth par three. An Old Tom Morris hole

Undoubtedly it is the trio of holes from the thirteenth to the fifteenth that would bring you back to Royal Cromer apart, that is, from the outstanding welcome visitors receive, for which I will always be grateful.

The description of the thirteenth as ‘Windy Ridge’ is accurate and requires an accurate shot to a small unprotected green that is out of sight over a ridge at 182 yards, up the side of the hill. The prevailing wind here blows across and to find oneself on the green gives much satisfaction.

The lighthouse next to the fourteenth green

The fourteenth (‘Lighthouse’) is 395 yards with a difficult drive across scrub to a fairway with undulations on a left-hand dogleg which, depending on the wind direction, will give you a long iron to a flat large green under the lighthouse.

The drive at the fifteenth

The fifteenth (‘Valley’) has an audacious drive across to a narrow valley fairway that climbs up to a well bunkered green bending to the right. Measuring again a mere 395 yards, but running in the opposite direction to the fourteenth, this is a beauty.

The views from along the sixteenth (‘Hogs back’) to the sea and inland are spectacular, after which there is a 115 yard par three on the side of the hill (Kestrel view’) before a good finish (‘Home view’) to a double-tier green above and to the side of the recently upgraded clubhouse.

Royal Cromer, though having a distinguished history, was not in Frank Pennink’s Golfers Companion of some of the 128 finest courses in GB&I published in 1962 but now, since the work on the course since Mark Heveran arrived in 2010, it justifies inclusion in FineGolf’s 200 finest running-golf courses in GB&I and is well worth playing when visiting north Norfolk along with Sheringham or further along Royal West Norfolk and Hunstanton.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith in 2018.

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