Despite its early royal connections, Royal Cromer Golf Club owes its beginnings to a stonemason and prominent trade unionist, Henry Broadhurst MP. He represented four Midlands constituencies during his career but liked to holiday in Norfolk… and was buried in Overstrand, a mile from the course. On one trip, he noted that the land seaward of the ‘new’ lighthouse (the current building) would make an excellent location for a links course.
With the support of a number of prominent locals, a club was formed in 1887, at the height of the Great British golfing boom. The land in question was duly rented out by Lord Suffield and royal patronage was granted by the then Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VII.
Early in 1888 the first tee shot was struck on the 9-hole course by local notary and founder member, Benjamin Bond Cabbell. The Prince of Wales never actually played here but several royals, and numerous writers, including Tennyson, Conan-Doyle and Wilde, did enjoy the course. The popularity of the Club in those early years was helped by a boom in railway travel and the popular appeal of ‘Poppyland’ – the name given to the area by visiting artists and writers.
Old Tom Morris
Although not responsible for the original nine holes, Old Tom Morris was instrumental in planning the course as it moved to 18 holes. His imprint, the man who helped design Carnoustie, Muirfield and St Andrews Old Course among others, can still be seen in parts of today’s course.
Cliff falls, and some serious financial problems, beset the early committees, but by 1914 the Club was relatively stable. The First Word War changed that of course, but matters were helped by the then Club President, Lord Suffield, waiving the annual rent during that uncertain economic period. It was in 1905 that the Ladies British Amateur Open Championship was held at Royal Cromer. Prior to the event, attended by players from around Britain, Ireland and the United States, a number of friendly international matches were organised. It was after one of these events that sisters Margaret and Harriet Curtis, from the US, offered to provide a trophy for future such matches. The idea of the Curtis Cup, Great Britain and Ireland amateur ladies versus the US, was conceived… although its birth didn’t actually arrive until 1932.
Taylor and Braid
Major course developments around 1911 were overseen by noted designer J H Taylor (Aldeburgh and Ipswich, Purdis Heath) and then in the mid-1920s further significant improvements were made by the noted Scottish course architect, James Braid (Gleneagles, Kings and Royal Troon, Old).
After the world wars golf at Royal Cromer settled down to a more regular pattern. Some notable exhibition matches were arranged; Tony Jacklin kindly described our 14th hole as one of the best he had ever played.
The History Room
Many more details of both course and Club developments, plus artefacts, maps and photographs from our history, can all be seen around the Clubhouse and specifically in The ‘History Room’ now officially called the Henry Broadhurst room. This room is worth a visit, if only to remind yourself that, in playing at Royal Cromer, you are a small part of a very long and prestigious tradition.