The Midlands is not necessarily considered a hot spot for golf courses but Beau Desert Golf Club is one of the few exceptions.
This is the Marquess of Anglesey’s golf course. He commissioned Herbert Fowler to design it and in 1913, Fowler completed the job. The golf club was formed seven years later, affording the poor Marquess some tax benefits and some income from the lease.
“About twenty-five miles away from Birmingham, near Hednesford, is Beaudesert, which Mr. Herbert Fowler originally laid out for Lord Anglesey. Here might be one of the very best courses,” wrote Bernard Darwin in The Golf Courses of Great Britain, “for the turf is excellent and there is a flavour of Gleneagles about it. It stands high and is pleasanter in hot weather than cold, for the wind can blow there with penetrating shrewdness.”
Beau Desert, or “Beautiful Wilderness”, is an unusual name for a golf course, especially for a course located in such a manicured landscape. The land once formed part of the Marquess’s Beaudesert Estate. Once upon a time, the area may well have been wild and woolly, but it isn’t anymore. These days acres of woodland frame this heathland course.
It’s certainly not a long course, measuring 6,485 yards from the tips, but it’s narrow, requiring accuracy from the tee. The greens are quite large, especially the 18th, and they are full of wicked borrows, so expect a few three putts. Additionally, the holes are varied and memorable. Beau Desert is no pushover; on numerous occasions it has hosted Open Championship qualifying rounds.
One of the treats at Beau Desert is that you play most holes in splendid isolation; you can lose yourself in the trees here. If you take Beau Desert alongside Whittington Heath and Little Aston, you will experience three of middle England's best inland courses.
Whilst playing golf around the world, I have been lucky enough to visit a number of places that have provided me with the most serene and special moments. The putting green at Royal Porthcawl, the sleepy clubhouse veranda at Kiawah Island and the 5th tee at Gávea in Brazil. I can now add the 7th green at Beau Desert to that list.
This heathland layout is relatively short on yardage but long on character and it is definitely one of the most tranquil golfing experiences I’ve enjoyed in England. The fairways and holes are routed relatively exclusively and the land bordering the course is a mixture of Cannock Chase forest interspersed with wide reaching fern covered meadows. This tranquility is all the more remarkable due to the courses relative proximity to the bustling metropolis of Birmingham.
I’ll come to the 7th green shortly, but from the moment you stare up the steadily rising 1st fairway and across the 18th green from the comfort of the clubhouse, you realise that you are in for both a treat and a testing day in equal measure. Undulation and heather are the evident foes to be battled in the scene surrounding the clubhouse but this is only a small snapshot of the character of the course.
The truest defence of the layout will reveal itself steadily throughout the round. I’ve played a spate of Herbert Fowler courses in recent months and one thing that binds them all together is the treachery around the greens. He made the punishment of being wrong sided an art form and here at Beau Desert, there is plenty of opportunity to display your powers of recovery from seemingly terminal positions.
Most holes share these characters traits of tranquility, undulating fairways lined with heather and treacherous greens, so to single out any would be to describe a lot of the course; however I’m about to do that anyway.
Deserving special mention is the run 5 thru 7, which to be quite frank, is one of my favourite three hole stretches I have played anywhere. Hole 5 is visually stimulating from the tee box and goads you into hitting a longer shot with a right to left shape to take advantage of the downhill slope of the fairway. The 6th is equally attractive from the tee, again played downhill but much tighter and as straight as an arrow. The green on the 6th is one of the more severe on the course tilting awkwardly from back right to front left. I am certain you will only leave yourself high sided once here, before realising that there is no score to be salvaged long and right of this green.
So to the 7th, the wonderful and tranquil par 3 nestled in the furthest corner of the course. It isn’t a Redan but the green is shaped in that way and we had the pin tucked in the back left position so it could be played as such. A quality shot is quite simply what is required here, most mishits and offline efforts will be rejected by the various slopes defending this green. It was only after putting out that I found myself gazing into the fern meadow to the left of the hole and revelling in the absolute peacefulness of this spot. However your game may be treating you, I implore you take time to soak this hole and this place in, it’s a special part of the course.
Hole 12 was probably my favourite hole on the course; a lengthy two shotter that favours one shot shaped in each direction. The other stretch to mention is the run for home, with a controversial and appetising mix of opportunity and potential card destruction. The green at 14 is otherworldly, it has to be seen to be seen to be believed. 15, like 18 is a par 5 where club selection from the tee is let’s say, interesting. Both share the trait that a conventional landing distance is littered with turmoil. How to negotiate it and what risks should be taken will depend on what your scorecard requires of you. The last 5 greens are like a symphony’s crescendo, with each seemingly displaying different variances of difficulty but somehow, in perfect tune with each other.
This round at Beau Desert was memorable from start to finish and as such, I now hold the course in high regard. It isn’t long, it isn’t terribly difficult but it is a fair examination of all aspects of your game and will expose any weaknesses. One could say that is the perfect design; opportunity for success and failure at every turn.
Beau Desert, opened in 1911 a typical Herbert Fowler masterpiece, with many trademark inclusions and that certain look and feel. Located in the middle of the beautiful Cannock chase the course is lined with pine trees, an abundance of ferns and purple flowering heather. Each hole is well defined, tight in places that certainly need accurate tee shots if you want to hit the right area of the greens (very important and local knowledge required), not the longest but it does play all of the yards on the card. Once on the green then the fun begins, good surfaces not super quick on the flat but the subtle undulations, make for some really trick putts, impossible if you get the wrong side of the hole, that can make you look silly. For me not a weak hole on the course, all good, the par 3s protected by clever bunkering and severe green slopes, the par 4s provide a good variety of straight and dog legs, the 2 par 5s are good but in my opinion would say they are possibly the weakest holes on the course once you get the correct line for the blind tee shot on 18 and second shot on 15, but this is by no way a critic.
A nice friendly welcome and food in the quaint clubhouse makes for an all round good experience. Definitely worth the extra cost for a trip here.
"Did you use the green behind the clubhouse for practice?", asked the friendly starter at the first-tee induction ahead of our am-am round at Beau Desert.
"Yes," we answered in unison. "Oh, dear. Next time try the one next to the 18th - it gives more of the idea of the contours on the course."
That was the soundest snippet of advice I have heard during the 18 visits to courses I have played in England's top 100.
Beau Desert is beautiful and no hole is out of reach in regulation from the white tees. However, its well-guarded greens are perilous.
While some of the borrows may be obvious some definitely aren't and more than once our intrepid band of four watched helplessly as balls drifted in completely unexpected directions.
Beau Desert catches the eye from the first tee shot across a cavern of heather. This was especially intimidating for me because I was needing restraint to nurse a bad back into the competition.
Luckily, it loosened up as the round progressed and, in any case, my playing pals were scarcely missing me, particularly on the opening six holes where the golf was matched by the splendour of Cannock Chase in which the course was seamlessly designed.
Sadly, we succumbed to the 7th - a peach of a par three playing steeply right to left and with bunkers ready to snaffle wayward drives (two out of four, actually) and the most treacherous of swirling greens which prompted a collection of three-putts.
There are several holes which initially seem innocuous and then breath fire - including the 260-yard par-four ninth whose green has dramatic fall-aways at the sides and rear. Both Mrs W and I fed very decent shots into it only to find our balls lingering sadly astray,
There are no par fives until late in the day but I shall speak up for both (not just because I achieved par on both of them). The 15th has a crater-like bunker which stretches across its middle and the most unaccepting of greens which feeds from front to back.
But Beau Desert's picture hole is the 18th where sand, heather, a right-to-left-leaning fairway and a path need to be conquered before facing very tricky green lines. Two points here were certainly hard-won.
Indeed, there were no giveaways on this most handsome course but neither was it so hard to prevent us agreeing that we must come back.
But when we do, we will be practising on the green in front of the clubhouse!
Thank you for that excellent review!! Very colourful, informative and enjoyable. I plan to include this course on a future Middle England trip as a result.
I agree with this website ranking the course just outside the top 100 in GB&I (other rankings have it inside). Good course no doubt and worth a visit. Outstanding last 5 holes which are both attractive and robust. The par 5 finishing hole is an absolute gem
A short and quirky track in the Midlands, this course is at its best when fast and firm, as brings a lot of the hazards into play.
Strategy is often prevalent off the tee, whether that’s avoiding the fairway bunkers or deciding how much to cut off of the many dog legs. It’s quite a narrow course, but the mostly large greens offer generous targets for the high handicapper, and the low handicapper must hit certain spots on the green to score well.
The 9th and 10th were standout holes for me, a short par 4 with a treacherous green followed by a fun par 3. 18 also sticks in the memory, with a cross hazard running across the fairway and then another guarding the last green, meaning decisions have to be made depending on the state of your match.
My trip through England’s Top 100 took me to the Midlands for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to expect as it’s not an area of Golf I’m familiar with, but if the other courses of the region are anything like Beau Desert, then I can’t wait to come back.
The welcome we received at Beau Desert (Latin for Beautiful Wilderness) was exceptionally friendly with multiple members coming up and telling us about the course, its history and how to score well. We were made to feel most welcome.
The course itself is on the short side, measuring 6,485 yards from the back tees, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy by any stretch. The course lay out is so fantastically disorientating that you need to shape a lot of shots to score well. Added to that, the greens are large and undulating. They are a real test. I imagine the members here are very good short game players. In fact the greens and surrounding areas are superb across the course.
There are some very good holes here, notably the picturesque Par 3 7th, the excellent short Par 4 9th, playing 260y, that is everything a short Par 4 should be. A fantastic risk/reward hole. The Par 5 15th and the Par 4 17th. The final hole is a lovely finishing hole playing downhill towards the clubhouse onto a large green. Beautiful finish.
My two slight criticisms would be that other than the Par 3 7th, the rest of the Par 3’s are fairly unremarkable and finally, whilst I like both the Par 5s on the course, you cannot have both where good drives are punished. A Par 5 for me should always afford you the chance of going for the green in 2 and should offer an element of risk/reward. One of our fourball hit his drive 270/280y down the middle and found himself in trouble on both. Unfair.
In conclusion this is charming and testing course, that despite its length, requires you to use a lot of shots and a variety of clubs. You would not get bored of playing this course week in week out and in my opinion is worthy of a Top 50 spot.
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Its wonderful to see Beau Desert getting the positive recognition it deserves.
However, I would never use the word "fair" to describe a hole or feature, I do find it interesting you think the 14th is unfair. The break in the fairway is clearly visible from the tee. If that was clearly visible water or large bunker would it be unfair? As for the 18th, I don't like the fairway blindly cut in two by humps and bunkers, but as it is the same for all it is fair.
From sorting the green fees (great value) out in the pro shop to a nice breakfast in the bar you are greeted with a friendly welcome by all and a real interest in your upcoming golf outing.
Considering its mid November the course was in fantastic condition.
It starts with a short uphill par 4 to ease you into your round, making the green in two shouldn't be an issue as long as the trees on the right are avoided! However this doesn't guarantee your Par, as with most greens on this course this is where the real challenge begins.
Its well thought out, with some great visuals from the tee boxes - keeping your ball in play is key around here.
All the par 3's were fun to play, with the driveable par 4 9th providing a real chance to improve your score.
The back 9 was just a strong as the front with two great finishing holes on 17 & 18!
I would recommend playing here more than once, if only to get a handle of the slopes and breaks of the greens.
A course well worthy of its place inside the top 60 and one that I would imagine will rise in time.
I agree with the previous reviewer in that if this was sat in the Home Counties it would rank so much higher and probably be a Top 100 UK Course.
This is such a gem and better imo than Little Aston at No1 in Staffordshire. Played this course at end MArch to get the Winter rates and what cracking value for money it was.
Off the beaten track the turn into the golf club from woodlands around is like stepping away from civilisation. Over a cup of tea and bacon roll you can look across to the 1st tee and the immediate chasm and uphill tee shot awaiting you. It’s a short par 4 despite being uphill so don’t be intimidated, just avoid the bunkers to the right of the fairway.
I thought the course was cleverly routed and the greens quick and undulating. The course is peaceful and picturesque.The stand outs for me were the par 3’s, especially the 7th and 10th. They have cleared some of the forest to the right of the course, so the 9th short par 4 looked different from the photos I’d seen but a gem of a short hole.
I’d play the 18th better if playing again as my 2nd ended up in the heather which is about 70 yards from the green. Either lay up or really go for it. A large sloping green helps makes the last a challenging and memorable hole.
Thoroughly enjoyed the round and hospitality from the club. A real gem and worthy of higher echelons.
How this sits at number 55 in England is anybodies guess...oh sorry forgot...it is not in the home counties. Having played may of the top 50 course on this websites list I feel Beau sits...for me...above the 3Ws, the Notts, Sherwood and Coxmoor trio, West Sussex et al...it is ony beaten by those bucket list courses ie Sunningdale, Walton, Swinley et al. 18 perfect golf holes where teh key is not hitting the fairway it is know what you ball will do when it lands on or near the green....miss the green and you will be looking at a minimum of 3 more shots unless you have a short game of a wizard. Just a great, great course!
It is not close to being better than Notts.
Beau's superior greens make it a match for Notts. As the courses are so different it is easy to understand why one might have strong preferences. Its a choice of Notts' more straight forward golf, with great use of the hill and excellent holes in 2, 3, 11, 12, 14 & 16 VS Beau's more adventurous shaping, creative greens and excellent holes in 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 14, 15 & 16. I think the two are evenly matched and each deserve more accolades than received. Both are comfortably Top 100 GB&I.
I like Beau but it has a number of fairly weak holes. Considerably more than Notts. The greens are always like car parks too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily play it every day. But Notts is an elite course imo. Beau is just a very very good course
There are a lot of positives that can be said about the course at Beau Desert as it makes a rise and fall through the outskirts of Cannock Chase, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The location is very pretty and the routing is excellent where few consecutive holes are played in the same direction.
Making your score on the greens is key to a successful round as they’re beautifully undulating. Sadly, they had been top-dressed in the weeks leading up to when we played, but I think they’d be a real health hazard come mid-Summer. The opening few holes are good holes, but I felt that the course really came to life in the stretch from 4 through 7, an area that takes you through some beautiful fir and pine woodland. On several tee shots across the course, you have to thread your ball through tree lined alleyways with the risk and reward 260-yard par four 9th being one of the best short par fours I’ve played. You must be careful not to fall foul of the sharp drop-off to the rear and side of the green or what looks like a birdie opportunity could end up being costly.
As good as the course is, it does have the potential to get better and climb the rankings. They have recently added some new teeing areas which create these tunnel-like tee shots, but the course could still be improved with some rework to the bunkers.
Oddly you must wait until the 15th for the first par five, which along with the other long hole at 18, are two of the best designed holes that incorporate a need for thought and strategy to make the best score. The ridge that crosses 17 also forces decision making and the wonderfully quirky last hole, where you have to negotiate with groupings of heather along the fairway and a gigantic green complex brings the round to an end on a high.