- Neil White
“Situated on the North Norfolk coast twixt pine and sea, Sheringham Golf Course encompasses everything that is beautiful about the game,” claims the professionally produced video.
We were lured to take on a six-hour round-trip by promises of a “hearty welcome” and “gorse-lined clifftops.”
The target sticks have no flags on the club video – but seem adorned by a cross between Chinese lanterns and raffia.
And the exotic images are supplemented by those of the steam train chugging alongside a course so pretty that it looks too good to be true.
I couldn’t help feeling that Sheringham over-promises. Sure, this is an attractive part of the world and the vistas along the coast are handsome. But the course didn’t live up to the superlatives.
To be fair, the welcome in a clubhouse which impressively meshes history with modern times, was on point as was the plentiful lunch.
But the first issue was highlighted by a practice putting green with speed which was never replicated on the course.
Sheringham begins with a tame, uphill par-four. Decent placement from the tee and a short chip will yield a par or, possibly better.
The second is a par-five which bends down towards the sea and is another good opportunity if bunkers can be avoided.
The third is accompanied by the dire warning that players should not tee off if there is potential for a walker on the coastal path to be hit.
There must have been a dozen such boards and I can only presume they are the result of an incident or been demanded by an insurance company.
The fact is that, in good weather, the path is busy and runs parallel with the course. Consequently, there is always the danger of an errant drive going towards ramblers and if heed were paid to the notices, nobody would play.
The great views of Sheringham begin to emerge on the fourth green, another short part-four with hedges to the right and a steeply sloping fairway down to the left.
This was the first time it became clear how slow the greens were. It seemed that from then on at least one of us was having to smash the ball to get it near to the target. Curiously and consistently, it came to an abrupt halt, four feet short.
The fifth is the picture hole, played from a high tee along the cliff. The second shot is almost certainly blind as it drops steeply before coming up again to the green.
This is followed by a downhill par-three which prompts much anxiety over which club should be used. We played on a day during which the wind swirled so my five-iron strike landed short and the ball dug down into tufty rough.
The rough at Sheringham can be penal and easily found because of sudden gusts. I lost three balls - the most for quite a long time, so be prepared.
To be honest, two of them were over the fence separating the course from the steam railway line.
It’s a rather splendid distraction to see the vintage engines trundling past – I was glad to say I was not near hitting one although the drivers did have a habit of sounding their hooters just as we were on our down swings.
The passengers were not the only observers of our golf. Paragliders had bird’s eye views as they benefited from the breeze which became stronger as the game went on.
I digress. The back nine didn’t have quite the impact of some of the outward holes although the short 10thdown into a two-tiered green was memorable as was the par-four which followed, over the halfway hut.
Indeed, Sheringham didn’t leave as good an overall impression as I had expected. I’ve played a lot of seaside golf lately and it was way below the condition of West Lancs, Goswick and Seaton Carew.
Aside of the slower greens, there were many bare patches on the fairways and the graduation into the rough was inconsistent.
On reflection, I would have been happy to have played if I had been holidaying in Norfolk but it had not been worth a three-hour drive.
Interestingly, I had been at Luffenham Heath the day before and thought it was more deserving of a spot in England’s top 100.