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.
Beau Desert is like a good book, a real page turner. After finishing each hole you just can't wait to play the next.
The course has 18 fantastic chapters. The first few set the scene, you are then taken on a wondrous journey, with a few twists along the way, before the closing stretch crescendos to a suspenseful finale and a very satisfying conclusion.
What Herbert Fowler has created here at Cannock Chase is sublime. Beau Desert borders on greatness. And whilst it doesn't quite reach the dizzy heights of a Sunningdale or St. George's Hill it comes extremely close and is much more than a very fine example of heathland golf.
Perhaps it is the par three's that hold it back slightly. Aside from the truly excellent seventh the others (3rd, 10th & 16th) are all good holes but lack the complexity that the rest of the course possesses. However, on my most recent visit here I played the 10th from the yellow tees and although much shorter the change of angle and increased visibility made a refreshing change.
Although new tees have recently been added at half a dozen holes, still only stretching the course to less than 6,500 yards, it is not length that is the main defence at this Staffordshire masterpiece. The greens are among the best, most challenging and enjoyable to putt on that I have ever encountered. Blessed with sneaky borrows putting really does become a game within a game at Beau Desert.
The intricacy of not only the putting surfaces, but the green surrounds too, is a fabulous test of your short game. Many of the greens feature drop-offs and gullies towards the back and sides requiring delicate recovery shots. On occasion you may find yourself chipping to avoid double-bogey rather than to save par.
The photogenic course is now played through spectacular woodland providing tranquillity throughout the round. The scenery is also outstanding making this one of the most enchanting places to play golf.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Just wonderful, great variety of holes, most isolated , firm, fast greens. On a par with any Surrey/Berkshire course a must play if you are in the Birmingham area.
Best course in The Midlands by a long way, including Little Aston.
When talking to a fellow member the other day, who gets to play a lot more golf than I do, he said that every time he plays somewhere new he asks himself the question – “would I like to play here every day”. So far, he has found nowhere else and I can well understand his reasoning.
So, as a player who invites the odd guest or two, how do I rate this course? Simply outstanding!! Biased, I like to think not, simply honest. Fellow reviewers are correct when they say that it is not the longest course in the country (although we are working on that) but it makes up for this perceived ‘weakness’ in so many other ways.
Beau is a beautiful course set in some of the most stunning woodlands in the country. Each tree-lined fairway has its own uniqueness as it shields the golfer from players on other fairways. Whilst you can often hear the sound of the driver meeting ball, you are always hard pressed to see where they are. It’s a real pleasure at times to just walk around the course and simply soak up the scenery and views across Staffordshire. People have said that it would not be out of place in the Surrey Commuter belt and they are not wrong.
Many of the fairways have subtle slopes to them, meaning that players who have played here more than once perhaps have an advantage over their companions. With a good memory, they may recall which line to choose from the tee as it is not a course where hitting the ball far as you can helps. More often than not, a well-placed long iron or three-wood to the correct side of the fairway will deliver a much easier opportunity of hitting the green in regulation. The ‘Desert’ as it is known locally is definitely a thinking man’s course – constantly asking you a question.
When you reach the greens, some would say the challenge truly begins. There is no doubt that the quality of the greens, with their many subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) borrows, make many people question their ability to read a green. Some of the best putters that I know, have come away scratching their heads. However, when you do read one well, you also know that the year round quality of the putting surface will mean that your ball has a more than fair chance of finding the bottom of the cup.
Special holes – I personally like the course from the 6th tee onwards but the stroke 1 hole (5th) with its right to left dogleg and humpback green, is always one that stays in my friends memories. I love the challenge that the short 9th brings – at just 260 yards from the back tee, there is a real risk / reward feel to it and it’s so hard not to just reach for your driver and have a go. This hole for me sits so well against the backdrop of the trees and is perhaps one of the most picturesque holes on the course.
However, there are many special holes and I would encourage anyone who has not visited us to put it on their list of ‘must-play’s – you will not be disappointed.
It is interesting what an extra 238 yards can do to just a few holes – seven have been changed over the 2011/12 winter. To the average club golfer, the drive from the new tees is quite daunting and it will be interesting to see how the ‘lower handicappers’ manage them over the coming months. As a Club, we wait with baited breath before considering any further development as we are always mindful of our great heritage here at Beau Desert. William Herbert Fowler was one of the truly great architects of his time and we in no rush to push through any more changes unless we are certain they will add something to an already great course.
In his design of Beau Desert, Fowler has again proved the old adage – ‘length is not everything!’ Steve Mainwaring General Manager Beau Desert Golf Club