The Belfry played host to the 1985 Ryder Cup and was also host in 1989, 1993 and 2002. No other club has staged three Ryder Cups, let alone four, so The Belfry’s Brabazon course has become a Ryder Cup synonym. 1985 was a breakthrough year for Europe when Sam Torrance holed the winning birdie putt. Europe 16 ½ - USA 11 ½. The 1989 Ryder Cup matches were halved and this event heralded the commercial coming of age for the Ryder Cup, which featured the largest tented village ever seen at a sporting event in Britain. Europe 14 - USA 14. 1993 was the year of the US veterans Chip Beck and Raymond Floyd who claimed five points from a possible six. Payne Stewart and Jim Gallacher were also on form for the US. USA 15 - Europe 13. Delayed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the 2002 Ryder Cup was decided by a strong European singles performance that was sealed by Paul McGinley’s 8-foot par putt on the 18th, which secured a halve against Jim Furyk. Europe 15 ½ - USA 12 ½. The Ryder Cup was played at PGA National in 1983, Muirfield Village in 1987, Kiawah Island in 1991, Oak Hill in 1995, the Country Club, Brookline in 1999 and Oakland Hills in 2004.
The Brabazon course at The Belfry doesn't need introducing. After all, it's unique. This course has played host to more Ryder Cups than any other course on the planet – four in total. The Americans must dislike it, because team USA has only once triumphed here. Additionally, and for only the second time in Ryder Cup history, the 1989 biennial match was halved, but Europe retained the trophy because they were still the cup holders following their win in 1987 at Muirfield Village, Ohio.
The Belfry itself owes much to the vision and determination of one man, Colin Snape. In the mid 70s, Snape was the director of the financially struggling PGA. Over a pie and a pint, Peter Alliss told him that an old hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham was available as a potential new location for the PGA HQ. In 1977, The Brabazon (named after former PGA president, Lord Brabazon) opened for play with a challenge match, Seve Ballesteros and Johnny Miller against Tony Jacklin and Brian Barnes. The Belfry has never looked back.
Alliss and Thomas were given an unremarkable piece of farmland, which required significant sculpting to turn it into a remarkable golf course. For many visiting golfers, The Belfry (and The Brabazon course, in particular) is Mecca. Everyone wants to play here; it's an exciting golfing venue, drawing thousands of visitors each year.
The excitement comes from playing memorable and familiar holes. And, following Dave Thomas's £2.7m makeover in the late 90s, there is more water on The Brabazon than just about any other inland course in the British Isles – take a few extra balls. The course has two outstanding holes, which have been popularised by television – the 10th and 18th. The former is a unique short par four, measuring about 300 yards, with water running along the right hand side of the fairway. It is driveable – you've seen Seve do it – so go on, go for it.
The 18th is another hole that is totally dominated by water and it's terrifying. This dramatic, par four closing hole, rewards the brave. Cut off as much of the water as you can chew from the tee, and you will be left with a shorter approach shot, which must carry a lake on its way to a long, narrow, triple-tiered green. This hole has seen more Ryder Cup emotion than any other hole in the world. For this reason alone, to follow in the footsteps of golf's greatest legends, The Brabazon is a must-play course. But it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Tom Doak commented as follows in his original Confidential Guide to Golf Courses: “For some reason the designers have tried to bring American design concepts to British soil, but the stylized, Trent Jones-style bunkers and multiple-tiered greens, and an utterly failed attempt to imitate Pete Dye’s telephone poles to line a bunker (it looks like a bunch of Lincoln logs on end in a sandbox), imitate the worst elements possible.”
The bunkers have changed since a young Doak penned the above comments and he tempered his words in the latest series of confidential guides. Interestingly, his rating also improved, up from 4 to 5 (out of 10), so maybe the Brabazon is not so bad after all.
Played in a corporate day early summer, a great venue for hosting a large group of people with 3 courses on site.
With the Ryder cup connection the course is iconic, especially 10 and 18. I actually started on 10 in a shotgun format so now time to get into the groove before trying to emulate my hero Seve and driving the green.
This was the 3rd time I have played the course, and I found it in the best condition having previously been disappointed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and agree everyone needs to get the Brabazon off the list.
Simply a great course and the real home if the Ryder Cup.
Iconic water holes especially 10 and 18 and plenty of other challenging shots all round the course.
If you haven’t played it you really should.
Lots of class here, and one to tick off the list..
Looks very good when finished for an event, but a little hotel golf like the rest of the time.
The course itself has some great holes (1,3,6,9,10,18) however i would recommend to anyone who plays it to make sure its in the summer months, i played here in late March and i thought it was in poor condition, i can see this be worth the trip when the course is in good condition, however there are some poor holes on the course which do bring down the overall rating.
From the moment you drive into the Belfry you are reminded of it’s Ryder Cup history. In front of the first tee is a huge stone plaque commemorating the four time host and from that position in front of the hotel, you can see the approaches to the 9th, 18th and the 10th hole in all its glory. Prior to starting, we were reminded about some of the great shots and moments from Ryder Cup history by the excellent starter.
As we stood on the first tee, we looked down a gentle opening hole and immediately the conditioning looked amazing - immaculate fairways, thick lush rough contouring punishing green he wayward shots. The greens somewhat let the course down, but with the European Tour visiting in a couple of weeks, the grass was growing to protect the greens ahead of this event, which was understandable if not frustrating.
Unfortunately, that is the best things about the course. Outside of a few holes, the course meanders back and forth on uninspiring land and really does feel like it’s set up for a matchplay event - a lot of holes offering massive risk for the rewards on offer, not only forcing a lot of lay-ups on par 4s, but also slowing the pace of play down immensely (3hour front 9 anyone?). Thankfully the Marshalls did their job and the back 9 was completed in a much more palatable 2hr 15.
To experience the Brabazon is one thing and there are some outstanding holes, however the eye-watering £175 green fee pays for the history of the course and not the quality of golf.
If you want to walk the footsteps of Seve, play a course steeped in history it’s well worth a visit, but don’t be surprised if you walk away feeling slightly stung by the price
For the time of year the course was in decent condition. Clear definition of fairways (unlike the PGA at Belfry) and the greens were true.
The course itself is a proper match play course. The first 10 holes are all proper golf holes. A nice opening 2 holes to ease in before it really gets going and the golfer is faced with a lot of "Do I, Don't I" questions.
The iconic 10th is really pretty to the eye with an audience watching you...but even driving the green or near it still leaves a testing putt along a long sloping green. I went for the boring 7 irons, GW route for par.
The back 8 holes are somewhat forgettable bar the beautiful 12th par 3 (best par 3 I've played in a long time) and the other iconic Belfry hole, the 18th. In all honesty, it's a par 5 for most amateur golfers, and with us facing a strong into wind....it played Driver, PW to lay up and a 5 wood up to the green!
Much better condition, much more pleasing to the eye, nice bunkers (bar 1 on Hole 2 that was thin on sand) and lovely greens. If the 6 holes on back 9 maintained the character and look of the other 12 holes, this would have scored "outstanding" for me...the Perfection lost due to the scandalous drink prices around the resort....!
A nice golf course, but over hyped for me. The 10th and 18th lovely holes but other than that it isn’t better than most parkland courses through the country.
Greens are always in good condition, but fairways can be very heavy with little rain.
I think familiarity can be confused with affection when it comes to golf courses as famous as the Brabazon. It is clearly (outside of the Open courses), one of the modern golf’s most iconic courses residing in the British Isles and its association with the Ryder Cup elevates it to bucket list status.
We’ll get the negatives out early however. The land here is not particularly inspiring and although the trees lining the fairways are moderately mature, the course doesn’t blow me over aesthetically. Value for money wise, I think you are paying 50% of the green fee for the Ryder Cup association, the other 50% is for the quality of the course. Design wise, I think the match play nature of the courses layout detracts from the overall flow of the course. You’re in for a slow round as people reload on the various hero shot holes 3/4/6/10/18.
In terms of the course, everybody knows about 10 and 18 and to be honest, those two shots are the ones most will remember. The routing is memorable enough that I can recall it without need for prompting, but that may be helped by having seen it so much on TV. I thought holes 6 and 8 were the strongest holes on the front 9, although 6 in particular could be a true card wrecker with the wrong wind blowing.
Coming home, 10 and 18 book end a run of holes that are largely average with the exception of 16 which I enjoyed. The finishing 4 are set up for a risk reward swashbuckling end to a Ryder cup, which is a feeling it’s difficult not to get caught up in when you play them for the first time.
In summary, you will find quality course conditions, plenty of Ryder cup associated memorabilia and photo opportunities and two holes you won’t forget playing in a hurry. The rest of the course is okay, but no more than that. It’s definitely a course I’m glad to have played but I won’t be hurrying to return.
You know the saying, opinions are like ... well you get the gist. Everyone has them, and if you're at least semi serious about golf you'd have one on the Belfry. "6 good holes", "hackers paradise" "£175 a round is a joke" blah blah blah. Opinions are not a bad thing however, I'm here giving my two cents to whoever wants to read right now, but you have to do your best to wipe your conscience of it to really give an unbiased view.
The Brabazon course features a vast amount of two or even three tiered greens, making approach shots incredibly important. I would say it's an almost American type style course with big imposing bunkers and the beforementioned tiered greens.
Bearing that in mind, I was actually quite surprised. We'd gone up on the Sunday and played Little Aston. Stayed the night and the Belfry and played the Derby in the morning (probably the worst course I've played) lining up to play the Brabazon in the afternoon. We managed to get off a little early even after asking the poor starter for the inevitable picture next to the sign which he would've most likely done countless times.
The condition despite playing at 3pm was very good, a few of the fairways had been dressed with sand recently but the greens and other fairways were top notch. I started well putting my approach on the first to 5 foot which gave me some much needed confidence! I felt very unlucky on the second when my slightly pulled approach from the fairway landed dead on a sprinkler head, only about 10 feet from the hole and then proceeded to jump the green and give me a far far more difficult up and down! Bogey!
The third is a great hole, bunkers left and right make the tee shot difficult then offering an ultimatum whether to risk the big lake of water short or lay up. I managed to hit the green in two!! Only to find myself a 50 ft putt which I just about managed to scramble a birdie out of. There is water on every hole on the front nine apart from the first, providing a lot of consideration for what you should hit and where.
Some pretty holes follow until you get to the 9th with the green next to the 18th over the same lake. The 10th is what everyone talks about, people staying in the hotel will stand and watch, as did the group behind us as everyone waits for the green to clear on this signature hole. And you can't blame them, most people will never get even close but they've paid their green fee you might as well have a go, see if you can recreate some of the shots you will have seen in the 4, yes 4 Ryder cups this course has hosted.
Everyone has their story on the 10th. We played off yellow tees making the hole only about 230, I hit my 2 iron amazingly, just a tad left causing it to hit the giant mound just left of the green and to then bounce right towards the green, my heart was in my mouth as I watched it then hit the wooden sleeper 7 ft away from the left pin position only to see it then bounce back into the water! Agonisingly close but hey ho! From the dropzone I hit a great flop shot which finished 6 inches short to cap off one of the more eventful pars I'll ever have! The rest of the back nine is lovely as expected, a few holes which people will say are boring or uneventful but it is impossibly hard to create 18 golf holes which leave a mark on you, especially with a parkland course.
The twelfth is worth a mention, a great long par 3 with water short which creeps up towards the right hand side to a sort of paddling rock pool. My tee shot to 5 foot was probably my shot of the day if I had managed to sink the putt!
The 15th and 17th are great par 5's. the former with a giant bunker in the middle of the fairway short of the elevated green leaves a decision for those lucky enough to find the small gap between the trees to the fairway. Whilst 17 requires the bigger hitters to trust themselves and cut the corner off as a hook will leave you chipping out to get there in three (exactly like me!) All that leaves the 18th, someone had told me the day before it's the best closing hole you can play, and I don't think I'll be arguing here. One of the only bonuses for playing a 4 1/2 hour round as a two ball left me to really think about where I need to be, and after consulting google maps I figured I needed to aim well left comfortably over the treeline on the left. I hit the tee shot of the day, it ended in the rough but only with 170 to the green! The yellow tees were placed next to the white blocks (strange) on this hole so I was immensely proud. Only to slightly pull my second and leave myself probably the hardest chip of the year, having to stop it deadweight at the top of the three tiered green to then roll down towards the hole. There's a reason the pros are so good and it's because they can put these within 2 ft. I cannot so I had to settle for bogey!
To sum up.. Everyone has heard of the Belfry, it's held more Ryder Cups than any course and it's hard not to forget that with plaques on the course and even showing you where the team rooms are if you don't get lost looking! The only criticism is the pairings and the time of round. It's annoying to spend almost £200 and to have to be paired with another two ball. We were lucky enough to play without that but I can feel the frustration of those who do. They seem to let anyone with the money play the Brab making it painfully slow, it's part and parcel of it I suppose so I won't hold a grudge. It's a fabulous golf course, in great condition and that's why it attracts thousands of visitors each year. The complex itself is fantastic although incredibly pricy £42 for two burgers and two cokes is a little more than I'm used to paying but you don't come here every day!
I’ve not played The Belfry’s Brabazon Course in 30 years. I’d returned a few times and had stopped off for a coffee or a bite to eat and had watched enviously as, like a conveyor belt, golfers teed off, hoping to emulate some of golfs greatest moments. For this isn’t just another golf course. This is the home of the Ryder Cup. It’s the place where Seve and Olle tamed the Americans. Where Sam lifted his arms aloft in that red jumper and again lifted the trophy. On every hole a moment of magic has occurred. If you love golf you’ll happily walk round the hotel looking at the hundreds of framed photographs. It’s a shame their isn’t more memorabilia on show. Where is Christys 2 iron now? Sam’s tartan Captains jacket or Nicks Bridgestone golf ball?
Ultimately this is why we all come to play here. It’s also the reason the club gets to charge £175.00 per round. For if it hadn’t held those 4 competitive matches I can’t imagine many of us would want to pay such a fee. We come here to replicate, or at least try to, some of those great shots. Don’t get me wrong the course is great, the greens are world class, the tees flat, the rough is thick and consistent and the fairways are…. Ok.
Having spent some time in front of the hotel on the practice green it was my time to tee off. Sadly I watched as 2 more buggies drove off in front of me. I’d hoped the buggies would have sped the hackers up. I was wrong. Playing from the white tees the first two holes are straight forward pleasant short par 4s. You are reminded on the first tee by the Brabazon 8ft wall that you are playing the Ryder Cup Course. As if you needed reminding. The 3rd is when you find they have water on virtually every hole on the front 9. I thought this was a great matchplay hole. Do you go for it in 2 or lay up? The 4th and 5th are again good holes before you play the terrifying 6th. With a vast lake on your left that plays all the way to the green, bailing out right off the tee only serves in finding more water. I found both.
The first and only par 3 on the front 9, 7th, is where I realised just how tough the rough is around the green. With the flag tucked left I’d made it over the water and bunker but came up just short of the green. I was playing the course just a week after the English Masters and playing a buried ball just a couple of yards from the putting surface reminded me just how great the guys at the top really must be.
The 8th and 9th are just great golf holes. You must hit driver if you hope to land it on either green with water in front of both. Yet on the 8th especially the lake that claimed by ball on the 6th is waiting for another contribution.
After a 2 1/2 hour front 9 I reached the famous 10th. As a huge Seve fan I’d watched him drive it in a Ryder Cup Fourball match. A plaque sits to the side honouring his achievement in the 1978 Hennessy Cup. It was sadly lost on the 8 blokes stood on the tee, each with a beer in their hand from the halfway house. I doubt they’d hit a fairway all day yet here they cheered each other on, to go for the green. Realising my plight and frustration a kind Marshall duly drove me to the 11th and suggested I return after the 18th to play it. For me this is where The Belfry didn’t reach a 5 1/2! For alas it’s a corporate golf course. I wonder how many members they have? How many actual golfers who play their regularly? Sadly it appears if you say “oh I play”, and you pay, they let you on. I imagine this is the hole in which 90% of the worlds lake ball industry makes its money from.
So after the alright 11th I reached the magnificent par 3 12th. 209 yards over water and a stream to the right I was clapped by the next fourball, I caught up, in front of me after my 4 iron to 6ft. I’m sure the shot is what caused them to allow me through. After the unmemorable 13th I again was met by the plaque reminding me that Sir Nick Faldo had aced it in 1993. In a way if makes the course special. I’d have loved to have seen more plaques. The 18th for one needed a ‘Christy hit a 2 iron….’, one. After all the hotel is covered in pictures and signs telling you the rooms that teams used etc, so why not more around the course?
15th is a good par 5 without being anything special and 16 is again another par 4 that on any other course wouldn’t be remembered. The green however is quite deceiving and once on it you’ll find a double tier that takes you lower on the left. I had by this point joined up with another 1-ball who had also grown older playing behind yet another group who didn’t know raking bunkers was a thing.
After not cutting off enough of the dog leg 17th I laid up on the par 5, having to play the 3rd shot from short of the stream with a 5 iron. Again it’s a great matchplay hole. The water on the back 9 is rare compared to its over eager front 9 but it’s strategically placed here and doesn’t punish one to the point of throwing the hole away but merely makes you play into the green from further back.
Then finally I’d reached the 18th (my 17th). From the tee, if you don’t know the hole, you probably won’t know where to aim. The clever golfer will play towards the bunker, lay up then play on for 3. Making a 5 is a good score for a mid handicapper. However, nobody sits in the bar after, telling anyone who’ll listen, how they made a solid bogey on the last! My new playing partner found the bunker (from the yellows) with his 3 wood. Bear in mind he was here alone, so had nobody to relay the story to anyway. I believed just left of the bunker was the line with the driver… at this point I had too much side spin and it landed a good 35 yards left of where I had wanted. I had presumed that was me ‘done’. Yet on making into the clearing my Titleist was indeed sat smiling by the 150 yard marker. I hadn’t intended to take such a tiger line but was rewarded for putting up with waiting on most tees. The second shot to the green sent goosebumps over my arms. On sighting my tee shot I considered doing a ‘Christy’ and thanking God, but thought better of it.
After finding the green and making par on the three tier green, I returned to the relatively, now quiet, 10th hole. Of course I hit two off the tee. A punched 7 iron and wedge brought me a simple par. Bizarrely I also emulated all those idiots by hitting a second with my driver. At just short of 300 yards, into a breeze, I could have predicted the result. Yet this is why we play the Brabazon course. We dream of hitting that one shot that such and such a player hit in 19…something. It’s why a 5 hour round doesn’t feel so bad. For virtually every hole you’ll want to take a picture. You want to have an extra putt on the unbelievably well and perfectly rolling greens. For this is the spiritual home of The Ryder Cup.