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Sheringham

Yardage
6558
Par
70
SSS
72
Built
1891
Architect(s)
Tom Dunn
Nature:
Finest cliff-top downland course in GB&I. Fine grasses, gorse, hilly, with sea views.
Location/Address:
North east Norfolk coast. NR26 8HG
http://www.sheringhamgolfclub.co.uk
Secretary
Neal Milton
Telephone
01263 823488
Professional
Mike Jubb
Green Keeper
David Childs
sheringham golf club,
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
Welcome on a lead
Open Meetings:
Fees in 1960s
50p
Fees today
£90 - 2020

Review

Sheringham has everything going for it as the finest cliff-top downland course in GB&I with spectacular sea views, strong movement in the ground around Skelding Hill and now the ever increasing fine perennial grasses that give the firm turf of true running-golf.

The course did go through a period in the doldrums, following the 1980/90s fashion of having  ‘lush, soft, target-golf’ surfaces. It is to be applauded that the Club leadership recognising its past folly have now put the course back on the right lines and are encouraging the low input conservation greenkeeping regime of course manager David Child’s team, under the advice of Gordon Irvine MG, who follows the ‘Bible of greenkeeping’ written by the late Jim Arthur, the world’s leading golf agronomist.

The drive at the iconic fifth.

It was Henry Broadhurst MP, following he founding Royal Cromer Golf Club nearby in 1889, who persuaded the Upcher family, who were committed local philanthropists and owned most of the land along Skelding Hill, to support the founding of Sheringham GC in 1891.

Tom Dunn, the professional at Tooting Bec (which was Broadhurst’s home club) came up and laid out the first nine holes, which were extended to 18 in 1898, the same year that the North Norfolk railway line was built on the southern side of the course, running out to the village of Holt and which provides the inland boundary for the last four holes.

There have been a few changes to the course occasioned predominantly through being a cliff-top course that suffers occasional erosion when high tides coincide with storm surges with the wind from an unhelpful north easterly direction.

MetOffice graph of accurately measured sea level rise at North Shields from 1900 to present.

Sea-level rise is of less erosion concern to sensible golfers, as it is generally agreed to have risen on average only 1.8 mm per year for the last 150 years and it is unlikely to suddenly increase seven-fold to a metre rise by 2100 as Extinction Rebellion extremists suggest, based on some sort of predictive computer modelling. And as the editor listened to world-renowned atmospheric physicist Emeritus Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, author of over 200 papers on meteorology and climatology and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, put it in a lecture in London recently: “Sea-level has been increasing at about eight inches per century for hundreds of years, and we have clearly been able to deal with it”. See FineGolf’s recent ‘sea defence’ article that identifies some courses that are under threat not from sea level rise but from quango bureaucrats stopping them reinforcing their sea defences.

sheringham golf club,

Gordon Irvine on the sixth tee

The course changes have come at the fifth hole (‘Fulmars’) – named after the birds that nest on the cliffs – and the sixth (‘Old Hythe’) – named after the old lifeguard station positioned at the lowest part of the cliffs – have both had their greens moved southwards away from the cliffs. The old third par three that became dangerous for cliff-top walkers was closed allowing the second (‘Town view’) to be extended into a par five – with the fairway hazards renovated recently – and a new par three was added at eight (‘Pretty corner’).

The seventeenth new green

The other major change was the extending of the length of the seventeenth hole into a fine two-shotter, played down into the valley and then up to a new shelf green cut into the side of Skelding Hill. The second shot requires one to avoid the row of cross-bunkers in echelon across the fairway at 60 to 100 yards shy of the green.

sheringham golf club,

Joyce Wethered

The slight downside to this alteration was the loss of the previous historic seventeenth green where Joyce Wethered famously made the response, when in the process of beating Cecil Leitch in the English Ladies championship final in 1920, “what train?” after a wag remarked that she had ignored a nearby puffing train. Joyce had been concentrating so hard on her putting that she claimed not to have heard it! I know of at least two other courses whose members also lay claim to this fun story but it actually happened (at least first) at Sheringham.

Cecil Leitch was the dominant character, the big noise of ladies golf and “competant” judges asserted their belief that she would win. In June the course was bone hard and for example both ladies drove at the twelfth 296 yards to be pin high. Joyce afterwards said that “perhaps I was able to disappear into a cocoon of concentration that I was never mesmerized by Cecil, like others were. She gave the ball a marvellous thump but her rythm was not to copy in that it was very hard, very fast. Four down with nine to play in the 36 hole final, Joyce had a run of threes at 11, 12, and 13 and won on the seventeenth.

sheringham golf club,

The drive at the tenth.

This beautifully laid out course of normally 6250 yards (though it can be stretched to 6560, par 70, SSS 72) has many interesting holes which are made all the more challenging by firm predominantly fine grassed small greens of which nine are less than 30 feet in depth and all are less than 35 feet.

There is an excellent balance of tight shortish par fours with long stretchy ones and one can also recognise the Tom Dunn design in the straightness of most of them, though a dogleg has been added at nine, following the addition of the new eigth hole.

Though there is much undulation in the land it is only at thirteen, sixteen and perhaps seventeen that the hill is noticeable, the other climb-ups all being more gradual.

sheringham golf club,

The clubhouse

The first hole, an uphill dogleg in front of the imposing clubhouse built in 1912, is called ‘Henry Craske’ after the secretary of the Club who was in service to the club from 1903 to 1973, a period of office which exceeds John Sutherland’s at Dornoch by twelve years and I would not be surprised if Henry’s is a world record. This hole’s 320 yards requires a good second shot to find a small side-shelf green under some foliage on the side of Skelding Hill.

Hickory players Tapio Pekkola and Anitti Paatola on the second tee

The second tee gives a fine view of the town of Sheringham while the third hole is less notable and runs in the opposite direction requiring two slogs up the hill.

The fourth brings into play the first of the abundant gorse on the course and requires an accurate drive to a sloping fairway to set up a pitch to another small green surrounded by gorse sited on top of the Skelding hill.

The fifth is the iconic hole requiring a rampant drive from a high tee across a valley to a sloping fairway positioned in echelon which demands a precise judgement of length into the prevailing wind that can easily blow your ball over the cliff running down the right hand side of the hole. The green is reached with a screaming long iron played under the wind and avoiding numerous humps either side of the approach. This is 450 yards of proper downland golf.

If you have successfully conquered Sheringham’s finest hole, the sixth at 200 yards again from a high tee, is down to a distant green, well bunkered, should energise you further with one’s best approach being run in from the left side of the green.

The par three eigth

After a straight par five over a hill comes the new eighth between some attractive trees, rather spoilt by its ‘parkland type’ name ‘Pretty Corner’, followed by a hole that is downhill dogleg right and is named after the Upchers family.

At the tenth we are back facing a proper open downland challenge with a drive to a rising fairway and a long approach.

The par three eleventh

The eleventh is the shortest of the four par threes and is set under the west side of Skelding Hill and ringed with bunkers.

We now turn away from home again for a classic downhill right-hand dogleg through a valley which needs an approach shot that is run-in to a green that slopes away. As the aprons and green run-offs on this course are ever improving in their true firmness from the fine grassed agronomy, this shot can be played with some confidence, whereas an inland type high ball may be blown off course, as well as likely to bounce through the green.

The thirteenth (‘Spinney’) is one of five par fours of less than 350 yards and is the most difficult one, requiring an uphill drive curving left and then an approach to a small green that is well protected with a false front and bunker biting in from the left.

sheringham golf club,

The ‘Poppy Line’ train

This course is not a slicer’s paradise! On four holes going out one could easily be on the beach and the last four coming in starting at the par three fifteenth, one can easily land on the railway line, which is called ‘The Poppy Line’ and enjoys old fashioned steam trains.

The sixteenth

Sixteen (‘The Pit’) is another well bunkered short par four that uses the severe movement in the ground and the nearby O.O.B. railway line as protection.

This most enjoyable course finishes with another straight fine par four over a hill and down into a corner away from the Clubhouse.

It might be argued that Sheringham’s greatest period was in the 1930s, which were years of prosperity with 150 caddies obtaining two or even three bags every day. The club has been well served by  some long standing staff, not only Henry Craske but pros Ernest Risebro, who had a course eclectic score of 32 and nephew Lusher as well as Malcolm Leeder.

Sheringham is certainly one of the finest downland cliff-top courses in GB&I and with its greenkeeping now headed in the right agronomic direction after a period of heavy over-watering which made the greens too lush; it has returned onto the Fine Golfer’s visit list and will provide that wonderful ‘joy-to-be-alive’ feeling.

Reader Comments

On January 8th, 2019 Bill Branch said:

This course is great fun to play, and for me the next best thing in Norfolk after RWN & Hunstanton.

And it sounds like playability at Sheringham is only going to improve in 2019. Nice!

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