Off the beaten track it may be, but Great Yarmouth & Caister Golf Club - beside one of East Anglia’s best known horse racing courses - is worth travelling the extra mile to discover.
Positioned next to a caravan site, the initial signs aren’t encouraging. But with a series of testing links holes soon coming at you, the challenge of this historic course soon has your full attention.
These twin seaside resorts have seen better days and during my visit only one customer popped in to the pro shop. But after my round on the 130-year-old course, it was impossible not to feel a warm glow about a club the locals refer to as ‘Caister’.
The course signage isn’t great here. It took a little while to find the first tee and, furthermore, having hit the fairway with my tee shot I discovered I’d aimed for the flag on the 8th!
Suffice to say, the first three holes aren’t likely to get your juices flowing but stand on the fourth tee and links land suddenly emerges with gorse to the left and a series of wooden-slatted cross bunkers to negotiate.
It’s time to play your best or get duffed up.
Among the demanding holes is the short par-4 sixth with its large waste bunker - where you can ground your club without incurring a penalty - and plateau green. The next is tough, too - a par-3 with a massive three-tier green. Three of the next four are par-4s that generally play into the prevailing wind off the North Sea - of which you get your first glimpse from the elevated 12th green.
The enjoyable challenge continues all the way home but there are blemishes.
It would be remiss not to mention the foreboding presence of the racecourse on several holes. Stray onto the track you’re inevitably faced with a penalty shot as you hack back into play from thick grass - trimmed only when the race course is in operation. The race track rail is also intrusive at the par-4 18th, which otherwise would be a good hole.
It was interesting, therefore to learn that there is talk of the 14th becoming the opening hole and the current 11th (a belting par-4), 12th (a scenic par-3) and 13th (a downwind par-5 that brings you back to the clubhouse) as the closing holes. And if the weaker early holes could be disguised mid-round it would transform the course into a great place to play golf with stronger holes in the right places.
The Pro View
Head pro Gary Potter says: “The course plays much longer than the yardage suggests and is reflected in the scores when we have events here. I would say it’s quite a tough course off the back tees and all the good players from around Norwich come here to help get their games in shape. They know it’s a challenge.
“First and foremost, it’s a classic links course, which is unusual in East Anglia, with the sand dunes and the bouncy terrain. It’s an old fashioned type of course.
“My favourite hole? The par-4 11th is the signature hole – it’s a fine example of a links hole with dunes on the left and right as well as behind the green, defining it. At 423 yards off the back tees and even into a relatively light wind off the sea, it can play two woods as you funnel the ball through the middle.
“But there are a lot of good links holes and it’s sand-based and drains marvellously.”
The changing facilities are practical rather than pretty, while the bar area is quietly convivial with its largely locally-drawn members, offering gentle hospitality. Food and drink are reasonably priced, while a raised part of the lounge offers views out onto the course.
Here’s the Deal
Every Monday is Public Day, so for £15 visitors can turn up to play on this historic links. For those that fancy adding some variety to their golf, for £250 you can obtain a ‘second membership’.
In a Nutshell
Definitely an under-rated golf course, far from overplayed and usually in great condition. With the adjoining racecourse it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but the golf there deserves wider recognition.
Address: Yarmouth Road, Caister-on- Sea, Norfolk, NR30 5TD
Contact: 01493 728699
Green fees: £40 (18 holes); £50 (day); £15 (Mondays); £20 (twilight and member’s guest); £120 (fourball offer)
Course: Par 70; 6,300 yards (white); 6,150 yards (yellow)
Out of 10
Golf experience: 8
Greens/course condition: 8.5