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.
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!
interesting review but 5 balls is very generous for a course that you describe as only "good"
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
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.
Ryder Cup history, and still a great inland course, despite some recent negative comments. Beautiful layout in a parkland style. Signature hole 11 phantastic to play, and other holes like 18, 3, 17, etc with a magnificent lay out.
Club house is a must do with lot of history and pictures of history of English golf
Played The Brabazon in October 2016, they had some pretty decent deals going so I signed up on my own and was paired with a friendly bunch of guys.
It's an enjoyable course with many championship styled holes, and as mentioned numerous times water pretty much everywhere... One of my favourite holes was the 10th "signature" hole, a fun hole which makes you want to go for green! Obviously the 18th is a great finish and a worth while experince considering the history behind it.
I'm glad I played the Brabazon but I didnt get the temptation to want to play it again after my round. I think with its history it can be overhyped by some.
It's deffinetly one to tick of the bucket list but I wouldnt be rushing back anytime soon.
I have really mixed feelings about staying at the Belfry as a resort but playing The Brabazon course was one of the positive aspects of my weekend there. Playing any course in November is quite risky, but we were lucky as although it was damp it didn't rain too much! The course was in good order and the greens were great. Lots of fallen leaves around, which made ball spotting challenging at times. As a female player, we can sometimes have a different experience from a golf course to our male counterparts, however apart from a few very small teeing off areas, it was really a good experience for me and I found many of the holes wonderfully interesting. I could have played the 10th time and time again! Strong 18th finishing hole too, although as the Belfry has introduced a shotgun start you only had a one in 18 chance of having the 18th as a final hole. Some of the holes were not particularly memorable but all in all it is a fabulous course. A big negative for me though is that the Belfry does not feel like at all like a golf club and feels more like a fairly smart hotel specialising as a Wedding, Hen and Stag party venue with a couple of golf courses attached. I also thought food and drink here was far too expensive - £5.20 for a black coffee???? The Belfry is a 4* resort with 5* London hotel prices. The Spa and pool was absolutely heaving with people too, so no relaxing there! Saying all of this, I would still go and play golf there again, given the opportunity. Maybe in the summer next time.