Belton Park Golf Club came into existence in 1890, making it the oldest club in Lincolnshire. The club’s initial course was a 9-hole affair, laid out on land made available by Lord Brownlow, who became the inaugural president. By 1908, the golfing layout had been extended to eighteen holes which stretched over 5,416 yards.
The club was closed during the Great War years, with the course used as an army camp and the clubhouse converted into an officers’ mess. When the war ended, the Notts professional Tom Williamson was called upon to redesign the layout and it opened with an exhibition match involving Harry Vardon, Ted Ray, Arthur Havers and Tom Williamson in 1923.
The course remained open during World War II and the club was used by airmen from the USAAF base at Barkston Heath, some of whom managed to supply the club with golf balls flown in from overseas. After the war, the greens were fenced off to prevent damage from grazing sheep and deer and it took until 1975 to remove these obstacles when the course was finally enclosed from the rest of the park.
An additional nine holes were planned with advice from Peter Alliss and Dave Thomas and the resulting 18-hole courses were named Brownlow (1-18), Ancaster (1-9 and 19-27) and Belmont (10-27). The sale of the Belton Estate to the National Trust in the 1980s has allowed further improvements to be made, including the installation of fairway irrigation in the late 1990s.
Always a pleasant surprise to be the 1st to review a course on Top 100.
Having played The Brownlow today, this 27 hole complex, laid out in National Trust grounds of Belton House is certainly worth a visit if your idea of a good golf course is one laid out over rather flat land, parkland in style, generoud fairways and where a courses main protection is the greens.
Whilst the course does have some rise and fall, mainly in the further reaches of the course away from the clubhouse, the flat land does dominate. The holes are separated by small trees and long grasses and this openess meant that on a breezy day the wind constantly swirled, making club selection difficult.
There are quite a number of dog leg holes, too many in my view, but the best is the 1st hole (SI 2). A tight tee shot through large trees encroaching left and right, with a bunker situated to catch too long a drive, the dog leg left hole plays to a green which slopes back to front, with bunkers protecting the entrance and run off banking at the rear to punish any over hit approach shot. Whilst many would appreciate the ability to get the Big Dog out, this more nuanced approach does set the tone for the round.
Position off the tee is vital and it helped playing with a member. Fairway bunkers did come into play. But it was around the greens where the main defence of the course was. Run off areas would gobble up any slightly straying approach; bunkers strategically positioned to also catch errant approaches, but it was the greens themselves, running at 9.2 on the stimp, that had very subtle movement in them, especially around the flagstick.
The course starts with a good combination- short par 4, medium length par 5, short par 4, medium par 3 , par 5 and then par 3. For me the par 3s were generally the standout holes on the course. The pick was hole 14, played out of woodland and over water. The worse par 3 was the 4th, a bland 203 yard long slog into the wind. The quirkiest was the 17th where your ideal lime is over a large tree which guard and blocks access to the green.
The land rises between holes 14 - 16, before playing back down the hill. This area is also where the most mature trees stood.
The 3 loops of nine all start and finish at the clubhouse giving members plenty of options. We played holes 19 - 27 as a texas scramble and found it fun. The shortest of the 3 loops it none the less still posed questions of your game especially with the wind blowing.
Conditioning was excellent and it was thoroughly enjoyable round of golf. That said I think there are more interesting course designs to play in this mid table and would rank Market Rasen and Lincoln higher, based on design of the holes and more interesting routing. Belton Park reminded me of Wollaton in Nottingham, even down to the deer that wandered across the 1st fairway.
Only Spalding now to complete all the ranked Lincolnshire courses....