Bramshaw Golf Club can trace its origins back to 1880 though it was another decade before golfers competed for the first monthly Gold Medal, with fourteen players taking part in this event. Appropriately enough, it was retired Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Augustus Champion de Crespigny, the man who set out the original Forest course, who won this inaugural competition.
The club became a limited company in 1953, with Sir Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre and his family becoming the new owners, and they have been at the helm ever since then, steering the club through good times and bad. A second course, the Manor, was designed by club professional Wilf Wiltshire and built on an adjacent property at the start of the 1970s and a new clubhouse followed in 1983.
The largely bunkerless Forest course, the oldest golfing layout in Hampshire, provides a fun round of golf at Bramshaw but more serious golfers will probably prefer to play the 6,400-yard Manor course, which is laid out on land on the other side of the 200 year-old Bell Inn, the former clubhouse that now operates as a 27-bedroomed hotel with bar and restaurant.
The Manor course has matured into a fine parkland layout, featuring tight, tree-lined holes that offer a real test of golf to players of all abilities. There may be only thirty or so bunkers dotted around this layout but they’re well-positioned, especially around the greens, where wayward approach shots will be suitably punished by these sand traps.
Notable holes on the Manor front nine include the 410-yard 3rd, a long and narrow par four requiring an approach shot to be threaded between two oaks situated a hundred yards from the green, and the intriguing 188-yard 9th, a par three with a green fronted by a strategically-positioned circular bunker which forms the “clapper” of the bell-shaped putting surface.
Two of the first three holes on the inward half are slightly right doglegged short par fours and both present decent birdie opportunities. The 352-yard 14th also bends right to the target but this hole’s a far tougher proposition as a ditch cuts across the fairway at the point where it veers at a 45-degree angle to a left-to-right sloping green.
Bramshaw is a course I have played a number of times over the years. The trip to the New Forest is part of the day and is always interesting with ponies, cattle, sheep, donkies and even pigs rambling across local roads. The courses can get very wet (something to be aware of) but on my latest visit in November 2018 The Manor Course played nicely with the greens in their normal reasonable condition. A manufactured parkland course with many mature trees lining fairways and in some instances requiring accuracy to avoid, for example the trees either side of the narrow 4th fairway make this a good straight par 4. A couple of good par 5's on the front nine, the 2nd has a tricky and very penal ditch in front of the green, and the 5th has a very clever dog-leg about 100 yards from the green. The par 3 7th plays quite long into a narrow target and there are good dog-leg par 4's at 8, 11 and 14. The 14th is probably my favourite as it requires an accurate strategic tee shot followed by a short iron to a wicked sloping green where two putts is not guaranteed. Overall I find the course really interesting (and good) up to the drive on the 15th (a dog-leg par 5) but for some reason as soon as I turn the corner on this hole I feel let down by the finish with (in my opinion) a couple of bland holes at 16 (straight uphill) and 17 (straight downhill). The 18th is also not my favourite finishing hole, which once (after many visits) you have learn't the correct club to hit off the tee to suit the dog-leg you are still playing off a steep downslope and trying to get elevation across a ditch to a green which appears to be above you. Overall though I do enjoy Bramshaw for a pleasant days golf, with the Manor Course providing a totally contrasting golf course to The Forest Course. Not quite a 4 ball rating for me but a decent course well worth playing,
The Manor course is not yet 50 years old, in contrast to the 150 years of the Forest course, also at Bramshaw. The Manor like the Forest course is in the New Forest but in a much more landscaped area giving a regular parkland feel with many really strong holes. The 3rd was an early favourite of mine; 410 yards, lined by mature trees on the left that cut in a little 100 yards out from the green. The very next hole, a par-3 at 150 yards has a brilliant false front just over a pot bunker short of the green. The longest par-3 across both Bramshaw courses is the Manor’s 7th – at 225 yards is not just a brute is a good looking brute, with the whole hole surrounded by the great hardwood trees.
Although the tee shot at the 318 yard 10th hole is blind (watch out for the bunkers at 240-260 yards), I really loved this hole and another with great trees all around the green that has a great step through it’s middle. The 15th is a worth a mention too; 550 yards and has to be called ‘a big hole’ – a slight draw from the tee needed and then an accurate lay-up to approach a three bunkered green.
The Manor finishes very well; the 17th is 440 yards with the course boundary down the left-side which pushes drives to the right but the fairway slopes right also, so getting on in two, needs your best shots not just in length but a precise tee shot is a must. At 335 yards the final hole is short but unless your tee shot is at least 220 yards and straight, you will not see the green on this severe dog-leg left.
My visit to Bramshaw in September was to play both courses and to stay onsite at the Bell Inn and I have to say that I would recommend all elements – all I say, especially for the Forest course is to do your homework prior to get the maximum out of a visit. I would expect to see the Manor get a county ranking position next time.