Braintree Golf Club was founded in 1891, which makes it the third oldest in Essex. The club’s original course was located at Chapel Farm on the outskirts of Braintree, serving the club for thirty years until it relocated to Chapel Hill in 1921 after a 2-year notice to quit the property was issued by the landlord.
Fifty years further down the line, with the possibility of the Braintree by-pass cutting through the course, the club moved to Stisted, with Fred Hawtree given the task of laying out a new 18-hole course for the membership. Work started in earnest in 1971 and was completed two years later.
Today, the course extends to 6,185 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 70. Holes are arranged in two distinct returning loops; the shorter outward half to the north of the estate is a mix of par threes and par fours, while the inward half to the south features several fairways that skirt the meandering River Blackwater.
Feature holes include the right doglegging short par four 5th (“Plantation”), the heavily sand- protected 130-yard 10th (“White Gates”), the toughest par four on the card – rated stroke index 1 – at the 394-yard 15th (“Chapel Hill”), and the closing 18th (“The Falls”) which snakes its way to the home green.
I enjoyed my recent visit to Braintree Golf Club in charity golf day. The holes are framed by mature trees making it an attractive layout on the eye, turf quality of the fairways was carpet like and pleasure to hit off, despite being warned the rough was extra thick due to overseeding it wasn’t especially penal and have played much worse recently. The tight fairways were a bigger challenge (and small greens), not a course to pull out the driver on every holes unless you want to risk some heroic lines (a resultant ball loss) on the numerous dog legs, a majority of the time a more measured approach using a hybrid or long iron from the tee pays dividends leaving nothing more than a mid-iron into the majority greens.
Notwithstanding it being high summer when most courses are at their best the greens were disappointing, very inconsistent with numerous fluffy long patches blighting almost all of them, it looked as if they needed a good roll to flatten them out so the mowers could get a good cut. The hole routing is very much dictated by a relatively small site, you don’t see the first par 5 until the 12th and only one more on the 18th, these were very much compromised by the limited space, on 12 only real option is an iron/hybrid off the tee and 18 same again unless you can hit a high fade with your driver. The par 3’s offered the best variety and fun, a good mix of long, mid and short holes which get most of your irons out of the bag.
Overall Braintree is worth a stop if you’re in the area, a solid parkland course in a tranquil locale and friendly club with great facilities.
The course at Braintree is a tale of two nines; a par-34 front with no par-5’s and no par-4’s over 400 yards and the back nine being a much tougher test, around 250 yards longer, tougher par-4’s and a couple of par-5’s. It is a pretty course, plenty of fun to play and greens that roll perfectly.
The course opens up with two mid length par-4’s but it is the 3rd that is first to catch the eye. Just a yard under 400 yards in length and dog-legging left and with plenty of trouble along the way, this is a cracker. When I first played the hole, I found it difficult to get the line from the tee as the tee ground is set-up pointing a touch left towards the lone bunker on the turn. It is only 175 yards from the tee, so not really in play for most but the tip here is to aim further right of the hazard than you first think; a shot of 210-220 yards is ideal. There is a pond to contend with around 100 yards from the green on the right and should be in-between shots for most but for some it is reachable at around 270 yards.
There is some great bunker protection short of the next two holes (four of them on both); the 198-yard par-3 4th to an offset green is strong and then the near 90-degree dog-leg to the right par-4 5th hole. The 5th has the stroke index of 2 and a tee shot of anything under 200 yards and down the right side, will not give a clear shot to the green. The 3rd to the 5th is a great stretch of holes.
Of the front, only the 7th in my opinion could do with ‘something’. A par-3 of medium length at 176 yards and near the course boundary, just looks a touch of out of place in relation to the others – not a bad hole but with less flow than the other eight going out.
The half ends with the toughest par-4 for me, even though SI-10 begs to differ. A 388-yard hole that kinks left after about 230 yards, meaning the tee shot is certainly the most important here to set-up the approach to the green. My gut feeling says that there will be a much bigger percentage of 6’s than 4’s on this hole.
The back nine, starts with a beauty, a little beauty of 131 yards – a touch downhill with six bunkers protecting and strong run-offs left and rear – and the smartest tee box around – all in all, a real feel good hole.
As mentioned at the top, the back nine is different and has a different character; ‘bigger’ holes, more land and much less fiddly – many more holes that you can actually lay into from the tee.
I like the 15th a lot, teeing up with the River Blackwater behind – at just under 400 yards and as with the 5th hole, a severe dog-leg to the right but this time plays a fair bit more uphill and SI-1 for a reason. There are three bunkers to protect the front of the green and do take one more club to approach here.
Braintree only has a couple of par-5’s; the 12th and the final hole and it is the 18th that stands out. 544 yards long and for the regular golfer with a modest handicap index, two long shots set-up the approach. Need to avoid a couple of strong bunkers along the way though, one at around 190 on the right from the tee and one about 100 yards from the green on the left. Approach is to a slim green with the clubhouse in sight on the right.
Overall, I would say a round at Braintree is a good experience, the highs are not too high and the lows are minimal and the course is presented in a very positive way. I do feel that the members here are a happy bunch and have a course to be proud of. A mid-range county ranking feels about right and although you cannot call Braintree a stunner, I think visitors will have a decent time trying to get near to handicap on this par 70 course.
A decent parkland course in a very pretty setting. Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the course, I wasn’t left feeling disappointed.
After two holes you cross the lane to play on what feels like the “newer” piece of land. Whilst the holes are good here, I can’t help but prefer the clubhouse side of the course where the trees are more mature and there is more of an established feel to the course.
Holes 9, 10 and 11 were my favourite stretch around the old Manor House but to be fair, there aren’t many weak holes on the course and for a modest green fee, you can’t really complain!
I have played Braintree a number of times over the course of the year. Most recently was 04/12/2019.
Braintree is a lovely club, with a nice feel in the clubhouse and pro shop, making guests feel very welcome. Green tees for guests with a member is £25, but there is also a twilight rate.
The club has a nice range of practice facilities, and a good practice putting green, right in front of the clubhouse.
The course is parkland style, with lots of old, established trees lining the fairways. It is not particularly long, but is tricky as you have to be accurate with your tee shots. The course is always in great condition, and the greens are some of the best I have played this year.
I really like some of the additions they have added over the years, in particularly the pond by the 6th and 7th; and the brook across the 13th.
All in all, for a good day out, with excellent golf and good dining experience, then give Braintree a go!