King’s Lynn was once the third most significant sea port in England because of the importance of its 14th century trade with Europe. It was also home to Dad’s Army actor Arthur Lowe, who played Captain Mainwaring.
And as Michael Caine might say: “Not a lotta people know that!”
This Norfolk town on the edge of The Wash boasts an impressive parkland golf course, designed by Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas in the 1970s, that has more than a touch of Woburn class about it.
Unfolding through mature woodland on the edge of the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, it’s not overly long but you need to be precise off the tee. Blaze away and your score will likely fade away.
This is a course that rewards the straight hitter and the master strategist. It suits those who think before they drive!
The first hole offers a taste of the daunting challenge ahead. At 370 yards off the yellow tees a claustrophobic feeling creeps in each time you glance down the fairway. Resist any natural inclination to reach for the driver. First priority: ball in play!
The first nine continues to be pretty demanding and if there is a slight grumble it’s that with seven demanding par-4s it’s unrelenting.
The 390-yard uphill third demands a 5-wood approach to a raised green where danger lurks for anything leaked, with a steep run off to the right. No surprise to hear it’s Stroke Index 1.
It’s not until the ninth that any kind of relief emerges with a cracking 500-yard par-5. But even this requires a tee shot avoiding fairway bunkers and a well positioned second shot where more sand encroaches. Judge your pitch approach well too because a steep bank protects the green.
My favourite holes came back-to-back. At 392 yards the par-4 11th looks inviting with its green surrounded by pine trees. But ditches flanking the fairway demand precise driving to set up an approach to a green strategically bunkered.
Visually the 200-yard par-3 12th looked stunning especially in late spring with a colourful wall of rhododendron beside the tee.
There are several scoring opportunities on the back nine but take advantage before mounting the 18th tee. It’s a quality hole that doglegs back to the clubhouse, where your final strokes are likely to be scrutinised by a throng on the patio behind the green.
It’s a good course with many fine holes, rather than being simply a course with a few great holes - an observbation a golfer might level at nearby Royal West Norfolk.
Here the greens, with fescue and bent grass having been integrated alongside the meadow grass in recent times, were also a touch slower than ideal but they are a work in progress. But they run true and overall the condition of the course is well above average.
I also liked the way undergrowth and ferns in surrounding trees had been cleared. You might be stymied for your escape but at least if you clatter into them you can still find your ball.
The pro’s view
“The key is to hit the fairways,” says Lynn’s assistant pro Richard Gayton. “You don’t have to be long and if you end up in the trees, don’t go for the miracle shot - just get the ball back in play.
“The first four holes are tough. Make a steady start and try to make your score late on. My favourite is the par-5 13th. It’s a great hole to attack.”
While the club has existed since 1923, it has been located in its present site since 1975. General manager Matthew Bowman, who has been a member since he was 14, portrays a ‘very active membership’. There are regular roll-ups for ladies and seniors and plenty of competitions. There are also Opens for seniors, ladies and mixed pairs. A new 10-bay practice range is set to be unveiled this summer, too.
King’s Lynn really wins in this category. Everyone you bump into is friendly, the facilities are excellent and the catering was spot-on. I took my beef baguette, Victoria sponge and lager – all with change from a tenner – to watch other golfers weave their way up the closing hole from the excellent vantage point of the clubhouse terrace.
Here’s the deal…
At £55 for a day’s golf, the King’s Lynn experience is good value. It is the sort of course that you want to play with the benefit of hindsight – especially the front nine – so 18 in the morning followed by a post-lunch game is likely to appeal. Bear in mind too the twilight golf offer. After 3pm from Monday to Thursday, £30 for £18 holes on a track of this quality is exceptional.
Golf experience 7.5/10
Greens and course condition 7/10
a. King’s Lynn Golf Club, Castle Rising, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, PE31 6BD
t. (01553) 631654