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.
Date: June 08, 2020