Royal Norwich Golf Club has officially opened its new golf course, with Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter hitting the ceremonial tee shot at an official open day held for members and guests on September 16.
The course was designed by Ross McMurray of European Golf Design on a wooded site previously occupied by Weston Park Golf Club, 10 miles from the centre of Norwich, England. The club’s previous site in Hellesdon, close to the city, is being redeveloped for housing.
While some previous hole corridors have been used, the routing has been completely overhauled and now extends into open land to the north of the previous course. That has made room for a six-hole academy layout, short game area and putting green, all of which are close to the new clubhouse, a former stables block which offers a 200-seat restaurant and conference venue. There is also a microbrewery and a bakery onsite, while the estate offers a range of family nature trails.
Construction was completed by MJ Abbott, who worked alongside European Golf Design and Peter Todd, estates manager at Royal Norwich. A new state-of-the-art Rain Bird 1100 IC system has been installed, giving the club precise management over the application of water on the course. Soil amendments from Profile Products have helped to ensure the highest possible turf quality.
The 18-hole course features six tees on each hole, so that golfers can choose their challenge, from a 5,339-yard, three-hour round, all the way through to a 7,209-yard championship course. As well as traditional seven- and five-day memberships, the club has also been selling a new points-based membership for those who want to play more infrequently. Membership numbers across all categories is already over 1,000.
Phil Grice, general manager and director of Royal Norwich, said that a golf course on its own is no longer enough for a modern club to maintain a sustainable business. “I am not convinced that golf on its own is enough. You have got to create a community and a reason for people to be part of it,” he said.
“Royal Norwich suffered declining membership for 11 consecutive years, before we made the decision to move. The business was unsustainable. The challenge of having an older clubhouse, with an older membership, an older mentality and an older golf course was leaving us cut adrift.
“We’ve looked at what youngsters and families want and what fits today, more so than telling them what we offer and hoping they want it. We’ve taken a top-down approach as to what we can do – and a bottom-up approach as to what people actually want. We’re just ensuring the customer is getting exactly what they want.”