the belfry (brabazon) - 15 POINTS
I wasn't sure whether to write a review of The Belfry. It was more than 5 years ago that I played the course and I can only really remember 3 things about the course. Having said that, I think the three things are relevant today still so here goes.
The conventional wisdom says that the European PGA built a very average course on a farmer's field and then decided to put the Ryder Cup there to help pay for their costs. They got lucky, in that the Ryder Cup caught fire in the 1980s and as a result no-one really minded the fact that the course was fairly rubbish because they had some great drama holes and no-one was really doing a golf course architecture examination with the Ryder Cup going on.
Now, choosing courses for the Ryder Cup is worthy of a blog post of its own. The European Tour have basically made it clear that they do not care two figs about the quality of the course which they take the Ryder Cup to as long as they are willing to pony up the cash and there is enough room to put up the vast array of hospitality tents required to earn millions upon millions of pounds. Why else the take it to the abomination that is the PGA Centenary course in Gleneagles?
Well, all of that started at The Belfry in `1985. The UK host courses before that had been Walton Heath, Royal Lytham, Muirfield and Royal Birkdale. The PGA decided that it was a good idea to take it to a newly opened converted potato field outside Birmingham. As it happens it provided drama, excitement and kick-started a period of dominance for the European team, the likes of which had never been seen before.
So, what about the course - and those three things I remember?
Firstly, the course has really matured. Looking at the video of 1985 you will see many of the trees were very new and the course did, in parts, have the look of a field. Well 30 years later that has changed as you'd expect. The course has matured very well and actually has a nice flow to it.
Secondly, the 10th and 18th holes must rate as two of the most memorable in English golf. The 10th is the short par 4 which begs you to have a crack at the green. The risk is a creek running in front and to the side and you have a choice whether to go for the green or take a short iron lay up and wedge. I actually had the wind with me and managed to get it up which shows it can't be too hard!
The 18th is another iconic hole. The Irishmen Christy O'Connor and Paul McGinley will always be associated with the 18th. An accurate tee shot is required to set up a long approach. I was forced to lay up and managed to get up and down from in front of the lake for a par. The stuff of dreams.
And the third thing I remember about the place is just having a lot of fun. The course is very playable, the greens were in good condition and it was a really great place to spend a few hours. Now, this is unashamedly corporate and hotel/resort golf. Do not think you are going to find an authentic corner of old English golf. You'll find a converted farmer's field which has grown up very nicely and where you can recreate some great memories from the history of European golf.
BOOKING THE COURSE
Well, the rate in the summer is £160 a round which is a lot of money for a 15 rated course. However, there are many deals to be found. This drops to £80 in the winter and £50 for winter tee times in the next couple of days.
Better still though are the package offers including hotel accommodation (which has benefitted from a much needed upgrade recently). For example, you can book for Summer 2016 for a night in the hotel, a round on the Brabazon and another round on the adjacent Derby course all for £185 through golfbreaks.com. That is cracking value.
You will find that many of the best green fees involving staying at the hotel on the course. It used to be a drab affair but has been refurbished recently and what's not to love about bedrooms inspired by the iconic Pringle diamond jumper and a bar called Sam's named after the great Sam Torrance. The other iconic part of The Belfry is the Belair nightclub. This is really, really random. In the middle of this golf course resort there is a nightclub which fills with the corporate masses in the week and then the locals at the weekend. It has had a refit and there are VIP booths and state of the art lighting. All a bit weird but an experience not to be missed!
In terms of other courses in the area you could give one of the others at the Belfry (the Derby or the National) a go, although reviews are not exactly glowing of either. Another option would be the close by Forest of Arden which has hosted both the British Masters and the English Open on the European tour. I can vouch for none of these unfortunately.
The Belfry Hotel & Resort
Tel: 0844 980 0600
Booking Enquires: firstname.lastname@example.org