Founded in 1905, Bramhall Golf Club started out with a 9-hole course which was set on local farmland, complete with a farmhouse that doubled up as a clubhouse. Before the onset of World War I, Alexander “Sandy” Herd, the professional at Huddersfield, was engaged to design an 18-hole layout for the club.
Sandy, the 1902 Open Champion, was busy both as a professional and a course architect, designing the course at Stockport and fashioning several others in Yorkshire, including Harrogate, Pannal and Wakefield. Soon after the Great War ended, Bramhall called in Alister MacKenzie to suggest course improvements.
This apparently involved remodelling and lengthening certain holes, along with adding bunkers where required. He also advised the club on mole draining to deal with damp underfoot conditions prevailing over large parts of the course. The work was duly completed in 1919 at a cost of around £250.00.
Further modifications have taken place since then – including relaying greens to USGA specifications – but the course in play today is largely the one finalised more than 100 years ago. Nowadays, it measures 6,347 yards in total and plays to a par of 70, with fairways routed through avenues of mature trees across a rolling landscape.
Feature holes include the only two par fives on the card. The first of these is the 502-yard 7th which doglegs right to the target, with a couple of intimidating cross bunkers to negotiate along the way. The other three-shotter – the 543-yard 13th – turns first to the right then left to the green, with out of bounds running along the right side of this hole.
Short par fours at the 4th and 15th present decent birdie opportunities but avoid the pond to the front right of the green at the former and the centreline fairway bunker at the latter to have any chance of posting a sub-par score at either of these holes.
The longest and shortest of the par threes are probably the best one-shot holes. The 205-yard 6th plays across a pond to a heavily contoured green with more water lurking left of the putting surface, while the 153-yard 14th requires laser-like accuracy from the tee to pierce through a chute of trees to a raised green with four protecting bunkers.
Bramhall is a pleasant and well maintained layout that lies six miles east of Manchester Airport. Like so many members courses in Cheshire, this is traditional parkland golf with no shortage of mature trees and a handful of deftly placed ponds to punish the loose shot. The fairways are also characterized by well placed bunkers and a number of depressions which add interest on many holes. Much of the course is surrounded by open farmland but a railway borders the 5th and the gardens of some rather nice looking houses form a boundary on the opening two holes.
The 1st gets the round off to a strong start, the tee shot must find either the left or right side of the fairway to avoid being blocked out by four centreline trees. A tough opener but a couple of fairly gentle par fours soon follow at the 2nd and 4th. Two genuine birdie opportunities for sure but a nest of bunkers on the 2nd and a greenside pond and ditch on the 4th will inevitably cause problems.
The run of holes from the 5th to the 12th are particularly good. This section contains two fine par threes, the long 6th measuring 205 yards with water to the left of the green and the well protected 12th, the putting surface ringed by sand with another pond lying in wait beyond. There are also four memorable par fours all stretching out over the 400-yard mark. The 5th running alongside the railway is a brute at 460 yards and I guess most would happily take a five and move on. The 8th and 9th might be a little easier but both have water to contend with and the dogleg 11th at 423 yards has five bunkers to negotiate.
There are only two par fives at Bramhall and the 7th at 502 yards is one of my favourite holes on the course. The tee shot must avoid a lone but seemingly magnetic fairway bunker as the hole doglegs to the right. A cross bunker must then be cleared with the second shot and an attractive pond and bunker lie in wait for anything to the right or long of the green on the approach.
From the remaining holes I like the picturesque 14th where a short iron must be threaded through a chute of trees to reach the green and the short par four 15th where a pond and large fairway bunker can cause problems. The 17th and 18th, both interesting par fours, provide a good and tricky finish.
Further tree clearance would undoubtedly benefit the course in a few areas and renovating of some of the least interesting bunkers would very much enhance matters visually but these are minor issues. Well worth a visit if you live within an hour or so but probably best to choose a nice day during the summer months.