Golf Course Review of King's Lynn Golf Club
King's Lynn Golf Course
Reviewed by Ed Battye -
Quick Summary: A tight, tree-lined woodland wonder
Our 5 Star Rating: 4.0
Firstly, I need to state I personally don’t think that tight, tree-lined courses generally produce the best of golf. Strategy is diminished, playing surfaces can be affected and repeatedly asking a golfer to simply keep his ball on the straight and narrow, and punishing them if they don’t, doesn’t really do it for me. I prefer angles and wide open spaces.
There is, however, a ‘but’ coming and King’s Lynn gets a pass from me. This is largely because the terrain, particularly on the front nine, is fabulous for golf and although there is a large premium on accuracy (I measured the second fairway at just 14 paces wide!) you are actually asked to work the ball through the narrow corridors and use the lay of the land to your advantage. Shaping the ball off the tee is essential at King’s Lynn and is its trump card.
It also gets the benefit of the doubt because the turf is excellent. Carved through Castle Rising Forest the property is free draining, fast running and the greens were beautifully firm yet receptive on my visit. Finally, whilst this is one of the narrowest golf courses I’ve ever played a lot of tree clearance is continually being done and sometimes you do have chance of a risky progression if you wander offline; hit a wide one and the game’s not completely over.
The Club was founded in 1923 but moved to its present location in 1975 when Dave Thomas and Peter Allis created the course as their debut work together. It’s an impressive property, exceptionally pretty, easily accessible yet lovely and tranquil.
The first five holes are a brilliant example of how to route a golf course through woodland. Yes, they could be a bit wider but the round starts with four modest two-shotters followed by a dainty par-three, so you don’t really require any big hitting.
The first is a fine getaway hole and standing on the tee, which funnels down to the fairway with the green in the distance, you are immediately introduced to the cramped nature of King’s Lynn. At the other end the hole has a lovely two-tiered green complex and gets you off and running, hopefully with a nice regulation par.
If the first is good, and it is, then the next three are exceptional and had me under a spell. With the land twisting and turning through prime woodland and played to wonderful green sites you’re asked to work the ball both ways from the tee through snaking, undulating fairways before exciting approaches to lofty greens.
The angled putting surface at the second is a treat as it slopes away towards a large dip on the left, the raised nature of the green at the third is really classy whilst the sharp uphill approach to the next, which dog-legs hard around a heather-clad hillside, means you’re not quite sure just how close you’ve hit it. Once up there though not only do you find out but you also get a lovely view down the length of the next hole – a 133-yarder – framed by established trees and fronted by a deep bunker.
The sixth and seventh are more pedestrian, parkland-style holes, but the front side finishes strongly with the curving, rising eighth and the superb par-five ninth. The latter looks fairly innocuous from the tee on this ruler straight 513-yarder but a ridge approximately 200-yards from the tee can shorten or lengthen a drive significantly should one hit the upslope or downslope. And it gets even better as you approach the green with a large swale in front of the putting surface to complicate matters.
The ninth is the first of three par-fives but they are all done and dusted by the 13th as they come in the space of just five holes. The 10th and 13th are both under 500-yards from the back tees but again are tight and a ditch (dry on my visit) must be negotiated at the latter which may result in less than a driver being required from the tee.
The back-nine is a more prosaic affair than the outer half for sure. The land is flatter, the holes are straighter and there is more of an ‘up and down’ feel. That said, there are some fine holes and not a poor one amongst them. King’s Lynn certainly delivers consistency throughout its 18 holes. Although the inward yardage is only 60 yards greater than the front-nine it does seem to play much longer but is also a touch wider.
The 12th is a fine example of a long, flat par-three whilst holes 17 and 18 provide a very good finish to the round. The 17th in fact is one of the best on the course as it slings round to the left and offers a wide section of the fairway to hit a long iron into but narrows for those wielding a driver.
Fairway bunkering is minimal throughout (it’s not really needed with so many trees) but the approach and greenside bunkering is very good. The style is a little old fashioned but all the better for it; no frilly edges here. A number of traps are positioned a little way short of the greens creating a visual deception which can easily catch out a first-time visitor. But most first-time visitors won’t be that for long because there will be a high desire to return.
A number of lone specimen trees can be spotted throughout the round. There’s a lovely one to the left of the third hole but I couldn’t quite get my head round why a solitary tree has been left slap bang in the middle of the sixth fairway! The course would benefit from significant tree removal especially since there are large amounts of heather under many of them. I presume there are restrictions as to what can be done but if they could be cut back to allow the heather to flourish it could elevate the course to something really special; make it more playable and visually quite stunning.
Total par for the course is 72 with a maximum yardage of 6,609. You need accuracy and patience, certainly more than what I have, to score well at King’s Lynn although I would relish the opportunity to test myself under competitive conditions round here. The artful golfer will be rewarded here.
King’s Lynn reminded me a little bit of Worksop in Nottinghamshire and The Duchess course at Woburn. It’s perhaps best described as a hybrid of both of those for those who know them. It has its limitations for sure but there is also a bit of individuality to it, bags of character, and as far as woodland courses go this is one of the best. In terms of location it is close to Hunstanton and Brancaster and would be a welcome contrast for anybody wishing to move inland away from the coast during their time in Norfolk.
Club Website: www.kingslynngolfclub.co.uk
Tournaments: Open golf competitions at King's Lynn Golf Club.
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