What we say
Whether you call it Royal West Norfolk or Brancaster, one thing is clear: this is one of the best golf courses in England.
It is possible, likely even, that you will be charmed by Royal West Norfolk before setting foot on the 1st tee.
Turning left off the A149 in the village of Brancaster (the club’s oft-used name), you creep along the driveway between the reeds with the clubhouse a tantalising target in the distance.
The autumn-coloured gravel crunches beneath your feet as you leave your car and, even if it is blustery and cold, you look around and instantly know you are somewhere you want to be.
The neat but robust clubhouse and separate pro shop are further reason for a rise in anticipation; only the very best links have this kind of understated character off the course. Inside you receive a cheery welcome and will not be able to resist checking the wind gauge (as if you can do anything about it).
You might be tempted to stop for pre-round stimulus, if the weather promises to be exacting. Either way, spirits will be raised by the walk to the course, taking you along a sand-blown, sleepered path and through black wrought iron gates bookended by granite posts carrying the names of members who fell in the wars.
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Are we reaching golfing heaven? It does have that feel about it.
But before we reach nirvana, a dose of reality in the shape of the blackboard which tells us of the tide’s plans for the day and thus when we must make our retreat back along the drive. If visitors hadn’t realised it already, it is now clear you are about to play golf on a strip of land regularly cut off from the mainland.
Taking all this in as you rummage for a ball and some tees, you glance up to see what is expected of us first up. The good news is the large expanse of fairway; the bad news is that it is a par 4 of over 400 yards and the more you steer your drive away from the beach, the longer it gets. It may be played with the prevailing wind but it is a tough start, one reinforced by the two of over 400 yards that follow.
The 3rd is the pick of the trio and serves as a delicious appetiser for the fabulous short 4th, which appears almost to be on stilts owing to its sleepered surrounds.
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Then the 5th asks for a tee shot of nerveless faith as you are asked to pound your ball over the dunes and onto a fairway which the marker post signifies lies beyond. By now we are intoxicated by Brancaster’s mix of simple links holes on flatter land and ones which make you smile on much more quirky terrain.
Many point to the 8th and 9th as the highlights, as they encompass the parts of the course most affected by the tide and demand drives and approaches over water – but they wouldn’t rank among our favourites at Brancaster.
The approach over marsh to the 9th’s well-sleepered green offers views of the harbour of Brancaster Staithe and you may putt out to the clank of flag poles on boats rattling in the wind.
All very nice but turning round and playing the 10th was no letdown. Nor was the next, a tremendous par 5 which is short on the card but plays into the prevailing wind. The 12th is hardly weak either with another unique green while the exacting 14th requires a long approach to fly a large hill and then bounce down to a bowl-shaped green.
Then comes 15, an awesome par 3 with one of the most fearsome bunkers in GB&I; those who fear sand could be in there until the tide comes in. The climax marries awkward drives, approaches from odd angles and then a return to the flat expanse we had eyed up on the 1st tee.
It is almost as if Holcombe Ingleby, who designed Brancaster in 1892, decided we had all had quite enough fun and needed to calm down before retiring for refreshment. He was a prescient man.
One final thing: Brancaster is essentially a two-ball course. Some leeway does exist, but it almost seems sacrilege. Do play foursomes.
- Costs -
- TG Rating
- Players Rating
- Address Beach Road, Brancaster, KING'S LYNN
- Tel 01485 210087
- Website www.rwngc.org
|Course Length||6,457 yards (5,904 metres)|
- Course has: Bar
- Course does not have: Buggy Hire
- Course has: Driving Range
- Course does not have: Practice Green
- Course has: Pro Shop
- Course has: Restaurant
- Course has: Trolley Hire
- Course does not have: Dress Code
- Course has: Club Hire
- Course has: Handicap