The Belfry is synonymous with the Ryder Cup and represents the turning point between prior American domination and the current European stronghold on the event. For that reason, every amateur golfer has heard of the Brabazon course as many descend upon this venue to inevitably try their hand at replicating shots from yesteryear. It’s also located in the middle of the country meaning that the resort has easy access for most of England’s population. Whilst this must drive a phenomenal revenue through its gates, there’s just something a little gaudy about The Belfry. The arrival feels a bit like a business park as there are an array of red brick buildings that house offices and hotel accommodation, and you even pass a nightclub on the left hand side as you drive through the entrance. I hate to be considered the golfing equivalent to a Muso (a Guso?), but this attracts the less golf-educated and dare I say it, less refined visitor to The Belfry. By this, I mean stag parties and boys’ weekends, so when you arrive at the tee, it just feels like you’re being churned through the system. So if all of this isn’t your bag, then don’t bother reading the rest of my review as I’d suggest to steer clear.
In fairness, the course itself is pretty good. There’s plenty of water which you’ll need to avoid, the conditioning is par excellence, greens are immaculate and run at a good speed and there are some interesting, well contoured green sites. There’s also some well designed strategy in the hole design. Bunkers are well placed and in play off the tee where the golfer is forced into thinking their way through the hole, requiring more than just bashing the ball off every tee with the driver so I applaud that element of the design to get the most from what is otherwise fairly uninspired land.
The best holes are undoubtedly those around the water and some of these are excellent. Of the opening holes, I really enjoyed the 3rd, a par five that doglegs around a copse of trees and a small lake, playing into a two tiered green complex. The other standouts are the 9th and 18th. The finishing hole has not one, but two lake-carries whilst the 9th plays across the same greenside lake as 18, both of which are situated in front of the pretty ivy-clad clubhouse. The driveable risk-reward 10th also gets lots of attention, albeit it feels a little gimmicky to me, but it’s a fun and memorable risk-reward hole which is always a tick in the box. Despite these upsides, there are just too many forgettable holes for the Brabazon to deserve its reputation as one of the country’s premier courses. As the course inevitably has to move away from the lakeland holes at some point, it loses a bit of identity. The Belfry’s three courses are played across flat, arable land and the Brabazon’s design whilst being solid, lacks some visual interest from tee to green through parts of the course. So all in all, a good course, but please don’t pay three figures for the pleasure, there are better, lower cost and more intimate experiences that can be found elsewhere. 3.5 - 4 ball rating for me, but for the lack of atmosphere and absence of personal touch for the high green fee paid, I’ve decided to round down.
Date: October 17, 2019