The Forest course at Bramshaw Golf Club dates back to the mid-1860s, fifteen years before the club was actually founded, making it the oldest golfing layout in Hampshire. Retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Augustus Champion de Crespigny set out the course, though it’s thought he may have built it without first obtaining the requisite planning permissions.
The newly formed club formed an alliance with another 9-hole club which was situated in nearby Lyndhurst and for a time during the 1890s this New Forest Golf Club played on both courses until de Crespigny created a further nine holes at Brook in 1907, allowing members to play a full 18-hole round without a 5-mile journey in between the nines.
Shortly after World War II ended, the club examined the prospect of engaging Harry Colt to advise on improvements but his estimate of £750.00 was deemed too expensive, as was his revised proposal for a partial course upgrade. Instead, renovations were limited to reworking the 1st tee and the 18th green.
The club became a limited company in 1953, with Sir Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre and his family becoming the new owners, and they have steered the club on the path to prosperity ever since. A second course, the Manor was constructed on neighbouring private parkland in the early 1970s and the modern day clubhouse was brought into use in 1983.
The Forest course is set within the boundary of the New Forest National Park on land owned by the Forestry Commission and it’s subject to many covenants, including locals having the right to graze their livestock. Special restrictions apply here as the property is designated a site of special scientific interest, a special area of conservation and a special protection area.
Following a long period of consultation, the course was reconfigured in 2018 to “enable commoning practices to continue to thrive alongside a leisure activity that is enjoyed by many” and this involved building a new par four 15th to replace the old par three hole and redesigning the old 1st hole (now the 4th), altering it from a short par four to a long par three.
The King’s Garn Gutter stream affects many of the holes on the Forest course and there are bunkers on only one hole, the par three 12th. Of local interest, it’s said that the left doglegged 14th – known as “Rustler’s Oak” – is where the last known criminal was hung in chains in England and a fallen tree to the left of the fairway is a reminder of that story.
The Forest Course can’t be considered the premier course at Bramshaw, but being a complete contrast to its sister course, the Manor, the Forest will be the one to attract the purists. This is the oldest course in Hampshire, dating back to 1865, and it’s played over commonland so the experience is much like taking a step back in time.
If I was that way inclined, a set of hickories hauled over one shoulder would seem the appropriate way to play here, for the course is charming, yet raw and wild. Course maintenance is truly minimal, a limitation set upon the club by its location in the New Forest National Park, but this is a course worth seeking out for those of you who may have a penchant for back-to-basics golf.
The Forest Course provides fun in spades and it’s playable for all standards of golfer. Driver dispersion patterns matter not since there are no fairways to speak of since the grass height is generally reduced to the length dictated by the animals who graze here. Wild ponies, pigs and cattle will likely be obstacles during the round and the rudimentary fenced-off greens provide the necessary protection for the putting surfaces from any overly inquisitive bovine.
There’s more to the course than simply taking a step back into yesteryear though as there’s a handful of really quality holes. These tend to be concentrated around the far end of the course where a narrow stream cuts through the ground and has helped provide some elevation change. In particular, the two sunken greens at 6 and 9 as well as the raised green site at 11 being the holes that particularly etched themselves into my memory.
Admittedly, you’re not going to have a course that’s staying true to its 19th century roots without some of the holes being a little clunky in their design. The 8th for example is a blind par three that asks you to clear a brow of a hill before running heavily downhill to a green that’s backed up tight against a stream. The bunkers at the rear of the 12th, the only examples of sand on the whole course, are hidden from view and seem a little unnecessary. They’d honestly benefit from being reshaped into mounding but even so, this is clearly the standout par three across the course. The changes they’ve made to turn the 15th into a par four have been awkwardly laid out too meaning that it doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly tee-to-green as the other holes. These are minor quibbles though since a day out on the Forest Course shouldn’t be assessed for its standout architecture, nor is it a course that’s ever going to climb particularly high in the county rankings, but it’s a beautiful place to spend a lazy Summer’s afternoon and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who’d prefer to play golf that’s in keeping with the game’s origins.
A unique course and a bit of fun. Played this course yesterday, the first round since lockdown easing. The last 4 courses I played were in March and included Birkdale and Royal Liverpool. As I teed of I mentioned to my playing partner that at this time of year my game is usually on and we would be heading off in the next few weeks somewhere. This years plan was northern Spain for golf and wine tasting.
With neither of these happening I stood on the tee just happy to play and hit a massive slice right off the toe. On this course however it was okay and after hitting a wedge over some trees, a wedge on to the green and making my putt i realised. What unique experience this was and that the greens are good.
Play with someone who know the layout, be warned of streams, ditches and ferns. There are some really nice holes. I liked 6, 8, 9, 11 and 12.
Would I go back, for the price if I’m the area and you want quick round, yes I would.
Bramshaw offers great value golf in a beautiful, unspoilt location with a very friendly club with excellent home made food making it an excellent Society venue. I've played the Forest Course a number of times, most recently in the hot and dry Summer of 2019.
Recommended to check in at the club then drive the short hop to the course car park.
Since this is protected common land the course has the minimum possible impact other than true, quick greens. Whilst not everyone's cup of tea, i find it charming with some classic lie of the land holes across rolling open terrain shared with horses, cows, walkers and a cricket pitch ! As our helpful starter pointed out, if you can't see the ground ahead there's a stream there...great fun, and a pleasure to support a true community club.
Natural, old, beautiful surroundings, grazing animals and totally different, The Forest course is an absolute delight. Most people seem to prefer the Manor Course but I know there are a few of us who veer towards The Forest as a preference. It's a bit like playing Royal North Devon in the New Forest and is not everyone's cup of tea. There are a few bland holes but number of very good holes with lots of natural hazards including gullies, ditches and trees to negotiate. Stand-out hole for me is the 9th (on the new layout) which is a fabulous hole with trouble everywhere and a hole that would grace any course; at only 341 yards it requires an accurate drive (don't go right) to set up a short iron to a small green with a ditch right across the front and down the left hand side of the green, also with trees left and a bank to the right. Other good holes are the tough 1st, the 6th (a real risk/reward par 5 with the green in a hollow beyond a ditch), 7th, the tough 11th, the short 12th (with the only bunkers I can recall), dog-legs at 13 and 14, and I also like the 18th (a short tight par 4 which tempts you to hit driver). The course is a real gem but condition not always great and for that reason I give it a solid 3 ball.
First thing about Bramshaw’s Forest course is that this is a great golf experience and if you do some research and plan well then your expectations will be at the correct place before you hit the first tee shot. This is a heathland course in the heart of the New Forest, which is most famous for the roaming ponies and deer and evidence of them and where they have been is all around! There are many places, especially early in the round where it is difficult the define the holes and this is where you need those expectations set at the right level as this is golf at its most basic level in terms of the course. For me it was when I approached the 6th hole that I breathed a sigh of relief as the site of the green at the end of this par-5 is beautiful; an amphitheatre with the green surrounded by trees and a brook to cross. In contrast, the 200 yard par-3 8th is near impossible – a blind shot that really is hit and hope; yes it’s natural but a good hole? Not for me. Very quickly the 9th gives something back – 340 yards to another great green site and one of the course’s best holes.
Consistently you are reminded of where you are with many holes just being ‘tee-field-green’ – but that is what it is, embrace it or you will have an un-happy time, this is as far from a manicured course that I have ever played – Augusta National it is not. I hear that because of the living lawn-mowers walking the course, the mechanical mowers are only allowed out twice a year.
The par-3 12th is brilliant and the first time you would have seen any bunkers to this point; this hole at 140 yards, crossing the brook again would not look out of place on any of the big hitting heathland courses.
The remaining third of the course continues well and probably gives the best section of holes but still with the New Forest ‘rough around the edges’ feel. The Forest course would probably get 50% repeat business as this will split opinion like no other – I’ll play again without a doubt but maybe I’ll leave it for a few years though. My 3-ball ranking is one with a smile on my face and with a more regular style of course in The Manor also at Bramshaw there is some great variety. Accommodation at the onsite Bell Inn gets my vote too.