A storied nine-hole course in England’s Suffolk County, the Royal Worlington & Newmarket Golf Club was established in 1893 as the home course of Cambridge University golfers. The layout, which was first created by Tom Dunn and later modified by Harry Colt, has remained untouched for the best part of a century, yet it still provides a strong challenge to modern golfers thanks to its fiercely angled greens, strategic routing and diverse range of holes.
The routing of these nine holes is pure genius, with the best features of the virgin ground incorporated into the design and every hole an individual entity of its own. The routing also changes direction regularly, and Dunn/Colt were unafraid to set tees in positions where drives were played over preceding greens. The right-turning 9th hole also hits across a public road.
Despite being bordered by forest, the course itself has only a single row of trees with the holes laid across an open, prairie-links type setting. There are several absolute crackers here, including the brilliant 3rd hole, which plays firstly across the 2nd green and a series of trench-like traps, to a bumpy and narrowing hogsback fairway and then into a large, strategically angled green site. What’s charming about the 3rd and others here is that you don’t really need to hit a big, booming drive but the apparent width and the severity of the sloping green tempts many to overplay their balls and find themselves out of position.
Another gem is the expansive 4th, its rolling fairway leading beautifully to a rear-leaning green tucked beyond the final undulation. The 5th is then a superb short hole, with an angled putting surface set on a spine and falling sharply away on both sides. The 7th green is another subtle wonder, the natural half-pipe target set beyond a small ridge and angled in from the front and rear.
Bernard Darwin once described Royal Worlington & Newmarket as ‘The Sacred Nine’, and there are few better nine-hole courses anywhere on the planet. What’s most precious about this golf course, however, is that they welcome outside play. For those visiting the Suffolk region of England and looking for a place to golf, this has to be your first port of call.
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