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, you've got to 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 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.
OK how has the Ryder Cup been played here? FOUR TIMES! And currently bidding for a fifth!
The facilities and the whole property is great. ‘World Travel Awards’ England’s Leading Resort Winner 2019 is a fair commendation. I could live in the shop and on the range all day. Three 18-hole layouts. Awesome Mini Golf course. Great bar. Impressive (but corporate) hotel. A nightclub. The list goes on.
But for now we are going to talk about The Brabazon.
A small group of players from the University of the West of England Golf Team got up early and travelled from Bristol, along the M5 north to The Belfry Hotel & Resort. A cold and damp February – granted not the best day to visit. The itinerary was 18-holes on The Brabazon, Dinner and one nights stay.
I can only remember 2 holes from this course and I am sure you can all guess which ones they are. The course is dull. Thank goodness for the rest of the property.
The story goes 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 awful because they had some dramatic holes and no-one was really doing a golf course architecture examination with the Ryder Cup going on.
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 – some of the highest rated golf courses in the WORLD. 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. Lucky them.
Having said that, 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 layup and wedge. Most will remember the footage of Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros hitting the green.
We all had fun over this weekend. We played a course that hosted 5 Ryder Cups. Came up close to history. Got merry. But I am in no rush to go back. Sorry if I have burst the Belfry bubble.
Judging from previous reviews it seems like The Brabazon is somewhat of a marmite course. Without wanting to generalise or make too many assumptions I think it’s fair to say the keen golf course aficionado (less pompous names are available) find the place a bit over-rated, and were it not for it’s Ryder Cup heritage, wouldn’t be held up in such high esteem. And despite not being somebody who’s had the privilege of playing the truly great courses of the world, I can understand this opinion. American style target golf courses are ten a penny across England these days and there’s not too much stuff in terms of course architecture that you won’t find elsewhere.
However, all that to one side, if you take The Belfry for what is unashamedly is, a quality but accessible resort, I think there are very few experiences the average golfer would enjoy more.
Personally I find the course really good fun, especially the front nine. #2, #3, #4, #6, #8 are all really good holes. There’s plenty of challenge off the tee and some really dramatic, nerve-jangling water carries to contend with.
I think the 9th is one of the most underrated holes on the course. A long par 4 that suits a draw off the tee. The closer you dare take it to the fairway bunker, the better angle you have into a severely sloping green that wraps around the back of a lake. Bail out to the right, away from the bunker on your tee shot and you’ll find yourself blocked out by tall trees. Bail out to the left on your approach and you’re pitching out from either a bunker or from downhill lie onto a green below your feet running away from you.
After that it’s number 10 and there’s no dispute as to how good a hole it is. The only downside is you can end up waiting quite a while to tee off as everybody wants to try and drive the green. But who can blame them? You’ve got to give it a go.
To be fair I think the rest of the back 9 is a bit weaker, although I do like the 12th. A long, downhill par 3 over a lake. But other than that it’s a little forgettable (relatively speaking) until you get to #18, to which again, there’s no disputing how good a par 4 it is. If you manage to find the fairway, the approach over the lake towards that enormous three tiered green is iconic.
Overall I think the Belfry is a great day out or weekend away. I think you’d have to be mad to pay the full £160 green fee, but in reality you can get on for much cheaper. Either by booking more last minute when they seem to reduce the prices, (I’ve scored a midweek tee time for as little as £60) or by staying over a night or two and getting on one of their multi course deals.
So in summary, yes, if you’re somebody who really appreciates tradition, great golf architecture and unique golfing experiences, the Belfry isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for a fun golfing getaway with your mates, and a chance to recreate some famous shots on a famous, well maintained course, it won’t disappoint.
As one of the best known courses in the UK, most people have fairly set views of the Brabazon. Having played it a number of years ago I was looking forward to seeing how it has aged. Playing it at the end of September it was much better than I remembered. The greens were quick, true and with some very difficult pin positions. The slope rat8ng for each tee is very high and understandably as there is trouble off every tee and no easy holes. The round took 4 hours 20 minutes which wasn’t bad considering it’s difficulty and not once we’re we held up which was a welcome change.
Beware of the Lake on the left of the 6th as my brother managed to lose his whole trolley, bag and clubs in it!
There are talks of the, bidding for the 2030 Ryder Cup but this would be on a new course made from the current PGA and the Derby as the Brabazon doesn’t have the space for the crowds but it would be great to see it return here.
The Belfry during the COVID crisis was a strange experience. To their huge credit, the management and staff organised social distancing brilliantly but there was no hum about the place and teeing off at the 'spiritual home of the Ryder Cup' was very muted. Usually, the welcome is jolly and players are told a potted history of the course as well as told where the will probably come a cropper. The super-slick practice greens which are usually packed with excited golfers were closed as was the normally bubbly clubhouse. The consequence was that we were only charged £80 for a round which felt about right, given that bunkers couldn't be raked and the course wasn't quite as pristine as we remembered it.
I think the Brabazon gets a bad press - maybe because it is too tricky for some reviewers. This time, we felt as if we were managing to pick our way around with greater stealth than a couple of years ago but our scores scarcely reflected progress. Card-wreckers were the 18th where Mrs W and I both succumbed to the water in front of the tee and ahead of the green and the 12th - a par three over water where club selection bamboozled us both. Nevertheless, Mrs W was able to bathe in her birdie three on the famous 10th (no she certainly didn't drive the hole) among several successes. We didn't conquer the Brabazon but it yielded enough for us to think we could. Inevitably, that means we must return - hopefully when it is back to its brasher self.
Pretty much smack bang in the middle of England, the Belfry is a pleasant resort course that has hosted the Ryder Cup four times. It is built on farming land, that can get wet and boggy if it rains, and so is potentially not the most suitable location for some great golf. However, water is used throughout to try and generate interest in the holes, none more so than on the 10th and 18th. If players are playing from the correct tees, these can be great risk reward holes. The 10th was made famous by Seve, who took on the water guarding the front of the green on the short par 4. This hole set up nicely for me, as I normally play a fade (slice!). Players who draw the ball are more rewarded on the 18th, a hole that at first dog legs sharply left, and then the 2nd is played over a big lake to a massive three tiered green. This is a very tough par 4, that leaves people with the option of going for the heroic carry with their second. Apart from these two holes that can be interesting to play them in different ways, the layout can be quite bland and repetitive. It’s nice to try the shots the pros have hit once, but I feel this course would get quite samey quite quickly. I would encourage players to go and explore nearby courses such as Blackwell, Edgbaston or Little Aston before venturing here.
The Belfry will always be a special place to me growing up through numerous Ryder Cup victories, partying on the roof…the 18th hole causing even the best player to collapse but outside of the history the course is good but not excellent. There are some fantastic holes such as 9 and 10 and the architect did a nice job creating some risk and reward holes on an average bit of terrain. The greens were excellent when we played and the golfer needs to have some kind of strategy on each hole as the bunkers are well placed although not overly difficult to extricate yourself from. The 18th is a brute….a real risk and reward always temping you to bite off more than you should so to leave a shorter approach to this well designed green. The experience at The Belfry is excellent and alongside Little Aston is probably one of the better courses in the area. Played Sept 19.
The Belfry is not my cup of tea. The course is very repetitive with holes 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17 all being very boring and merging into one. However, i do think it's worth playing just because of its Ryder Cup Pedigree. It's not amazing, and it shouldn't be in Englands top 100, but you may swell take them up on one of the many deals they offer and enjoy trying to drive the 10th green.
There are three reasons to play the Brabazon course at The Belfry. The first is to play the course that has hosted more Ryder Cups than any other course in history. If one is a long hitter, then having a go at the driveable tenth green much like Seve Ballesteros did is worth playing the rest of the course. Finally, this is a course made for the better, longer player who wants to test their driving ability as this course is all about the tee shot.
I do not care much for the course because as an American who has played a lot of “big” courses with lakes/ponds I do not find anything unique about the Brabzon other than the tenth hole. The course seems overly manufactured to make up for the shortcomings of the land. There is a repetitiveness to the course in both the placement and style of bunkers as well as the land itself is not interesting. Several greens have a similar “narrow” look at the entrance. Water is as prevalent here as it is on a course in Florida.
I do like the routing from Dave Thomas/Peter Allis with both nines going out and back to the clubhouse in opposite circles. I also like that this parkland-like course does not allow trees to overwhelm the golf course as there are plenty of defenses.
The key to a good round here is avoiding the bunkers as the water is pretty easy to avoid unless one hits a truly bad shot. The greens are not overly difficult to read, even the three-tiered green is easy to figure out the line. Figuring out the speed is a bit more difficult on some greens but generally once the pace is learned on the first few holes it should not be a problem. The ninth has a nice sloping green.
Like many, I would note that the tenth and eighteenth are two of the better holes with both holes requiring decisions. If one does not have the length to try to drive the tenth, then if you have confidence in your wedge game you will still have a good chance at birdie unless the pin is placed closer to the edge of the green bordering the water. The green itself is somewhat flat and easy to read. The eighteenth is a fine hole with two shots over the water. One could argue the green is overly tricked up – much too wide and long with those three tiers but on the other hand it is a unique green. One may find the best approach is to lay up for their third and wedge the next shot as close as possible. The bunkers are not that difficult to extract one’s ball.
I do like how the routing incorporated streams on many holes such as on the second, fourth, fifth, eighth, eleventh, twelfth and seventeenth. As for the lakes/ponds, they did not do much for me other than they are visually pleasing. As an aside, I do not think any of them qualify to be called lakes, they simply are not big enough, but maybe that is just my personal definition.
The par 3’s are all longer. I like the seventh the best due to the elevated green and vertical bunker at the front. While the twelfth is the harder par 3 due to its length and uphill green, I did not find enough interesting about it nor the fourteenth.
The par 5’are all three shot holes for me and four and fifteen feel a bit similar. Seventeen has a sharp dogleg that makes it standout from the two others.
The par 4’s vary more by which hole has a lake/pond as it seems as if every green complex had the same bunkers on either side. Other than ten and eighteen, I like the eleventh and thirteenth.
I played the Belfry twice, twenty years apart. The course seemed to be exactly the same as when I first played it. Perhaps that is because they do not want to touch the “Ryder Cup” course or perhaps it is financially difficult to maintain three courses, one of which The Derby course, is one of the worst courses I have ever played. For me, I would only play the Brabazon for the three reasons I mentioned. With the benefit of hindsight, I did not need to go back as I do not find it to be interesting enough to play. It does have its challenges, due to length, the amount of water, and the number of bunkers, but visually it is repetitively boring and not particularly memorable. With regards to my American friends, I tell them to play here only if they are heading to Liverpool from London on the morning they land and want to play a round of golf before finding their hotel room. Otherwise, drive all the way to Liverpool.
The Brabazon at the Belfry is personally the best ‘golfing experience’ that I’ve ever had. Many reviewers describe a poor service and overall experience at the Belfry, personally I couldn’t disagree more.
I have been lucky enough to play some of the best courses in the uk (Royal County Down and Royal St George’s just a couple highlights) over the last few years of playing the game. The Brabazon is the best experience for a number of reasons. Firstly, like St Andrews, you know you are driving into history as you turn off onto the drive towards the hotel. Everything about the place is big. The nightclub, the 10th on your left as you drive in with corporate flags flying around the tee, and the immaculate practice facilities available before the round. Many reviewers clearly didn’t like this ‘business like’ feel of the course. Personally, I don’t mind it, in-fact, I actually rather like it. Of course it’s not your Royal Portrush traditional clubhouse or St George’s tie and suit tradition, but this isn’t what the Belfry is. The Belfry is quite simply the ‘St Andrews’ of the midlands in which tourists and golfers flock to, just to experience the world famous ‘Home of the Ryder Cup course’. Of course, I much prefer a traditional club, but for a one off, this style of golf doesn’t do me any harm and is a good experience as you are constantly reminded of the importance of the place. Just remember, this is a business, not a traditional members club, now enjoy the day!
The course, for those who have never experienced a championship course as they have come to the Belfry for the deals, is very good. There’s lots of water, lots of big bunkers and very quick greens in the summer months. It’s a typical Ryder cup course, very pretty and American. To those who have played some of the best courses in the world, you may be slightly let down when you see quite a few straight holes with bunkers left and right, nothing to knock your socks off. This doesn’t mean the course is bad though, in fact, far from it! The course is long, many risk/reward shots and punishing to stray shots.
The greens can be lightning quick and fairways are plush and pure. This is what you expect from one of the most famous courses in the country? Yes, but with the amount of use the Brabazon gets from golfers 364 days of the year, the condition is unbelievably good.
Overall, the Brabazon is a great experience. Testing, beautiful and historical. It’s the ‘picture on the 10th tee box’ and ‘burger in sam’s bar’ after a long round with your golfing mates that makes this place special. Don’t come here expecting a golfing masterclass that batters you from 1-18, expect a tourist attraction with a good course and a good laugh with your mates. If you can overlook this or, like myself, rather enjoy it, you’ll have a great day out with your mates on the 4 time Ryder cup Golf course!
A strong course with excellent facilities, in terms of practice and the pro shop you really cant ask for much more, that and the fact it has some of the most iconic holes in ryder cup history make this a course worth playing. A rwallt good challenge of golf so unless your a bandit dont expect to break your handicap at first attempt. Course management is key to beating this course so swallow your pride and keep the big sticks in the bag unless you are playing one of the few open holes. The one negative would be because its got a lot of water on it i would stay away from it when its had some decent rain as parts of the course will certainly bog you down.
Definitely worth a stay and play, well worth a visit