Howling HUNSTANTON Golf Club
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Twinning Hunstanton (pronounced locally as Hunston) and Brancaster is as natural as pairing English mustard and roast beef, however, apart from the punishing wind and out and back routings, the similarities of the two ends there. Separated by a mere six or so miles of Norfolk coastline, the clubs and courses couldn’t be much different. Brancaster hides its light in the seamarsh while Hunstanton has a long and proud history of hosting major amateur events including the Brabazon Trophy five times, a trio of English Amateurs and six Ladies British Amateurs. Brancaster uses the seamarsh to great effect while Hunstanton uses drainage ditches to heighten excitement. Hunstanton is far tighter off the tee while Brancaster in the main gives the golfer elbow room. Brancaster offers some beguiling water views while Hunstanton doesn’t offer much in this regard. Hunstanton is generally thought to be the sterner test due to some changes after the arrival of the Haskell, yet it does offer several All England candidates in #s 6, 7, 13 & 17.
Hard on the Wash, a long line of dunes runs through middle of the links with the River Hun half having a few holes which are less of a links character. Mr Patric Dickinson, artful writer that he was described the difference between the subdivisions thusly: “ …the first five holes are more like seaside visitors than real inhabitants. They are good visitors; they wear the right clothes and behave with decorum, yet so to speak, when they strip for the sea they shiver, or laugh too heartily, and their arms and legs are white. Do not imagine, however, that they are easy. Their character may be inland but their nature is seaside, like fisherman’s children who have gone to make money in the midlands.” From the sixth forward Hunstanton is as delightful as it is demanding.
Excepting, of course, the sleepered bunker to be carried on the opening hole, the first show stopper is #6. The hole is quite a modest length for a par 4, but the root of admiration is centred on the green some 15 feet above the fairway. In a strong wind from any direction the approach can prove to be overwhelming.
Judging the correct strength and flight on the short 7th is crucial to success. A lion’s mouth bunker is agape and waiting for the ill-conceived tee shot.
The drive on #13 is rather like of that of Rye’s 16th, playing diagonally over a ridge. The second is wholly another thing. At Rye we see it all; Hunstanton’s 13th offers no such luxury. The approach is blind to a “green like one of those little lost civilizations in some valley encircled by impassable mountains” (borrowing again from Dickinson).
#14 is a long par 3 played over the central dune ridge but the final 50 or so yards is aided by a downward slope.
The pretty as a post card 16th does have some bite despite a remarkable feat pulled off here by one Bob Taylor in 1974. This Leicestershire County player holed out in one on three successive occasions using God’s iron (the ole #1), a 6 iron and a 6 iron.
The two finishing holes are relatively new (that is to say and come straight back the house. #17 is Kate Moss thin and seems to be part of the ridge rather than near it. Holding the cruelly narrow and sloping toward the Wash fairway can on many days feel an impossible task. The approach too calls for uncommon precision. Thankfully, once on the green it shouldn’t be overly problematic to save a bogey 5 with a two putt. The difficult final hole seems rather easy in comparison to the 17th. There is space out toward the beach huts on the right, but as on 17, the green is benched into the dune and not overly difficult. Directly under the house windows, many a golfer will rest easy with pint in hand ready to watch others stumble home.
Just down the road is the fabulous Royal West Norfolk GC. Often marooned by tides, this venerable links oozes charm.