Brancepeth Castle Golf Club is located near the famous, and historic cathedral city of Durham, in the pleasant, leafy village of Brancepeth. The club was founded in 1924, and Harry Colt, one of the world’s finest architects, designed the course on the estate's former deer park.
Brancepeth Castle is a lovely parkland course, set in historic surroundings. The castle dates back to Anglo-Saxon days, unfortunately the club did not have the finances to buy it when it came to market in the early 1980s, and so it has been the castellated home of the Dobson family ever since. St Brandon’s Parish Church, dating back to Norman times, is located near the 18th green. Sadly, the church was devastated by fire in 1998 but has since been restored.
The rolling fairways of Brancepeth are immaculately maintained. The course measures 6,300 yards, so it’s not overly long by today’s standards, but the lowly par of 70, provides a stern test for many leading amateurs. Brancepeth has played host to the final of the English County Championships, the Ladies British Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship and the English Ladies Amateur Championship.
There is a great deal of variation to the holes, and the famous deep ravine, cutting through the course on eight of the holes makes for exciting – and at times terrifying – golf. The suspended walkways, crossing the ravine, are a challenge in their own right. Especially if you are acrophobic!
“There is one monumental hole; the 220-yard 9th,” commented Tom Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses, “playing from an elevated tee through a narrow gap in the trees and across the length of a deep ravine, to a small plateau green clinging to the opposite hillside. Yet I’ve heard others cite the par-3 10th as their favorite.”
The 202-yard 10th, going back across the ravine with the castle at your back, is equally as difficult as the “garden hole” 9th. But don’t take our word for it; you should experience Brancepeth’s fascinations and occasional consternations for yourself.
There are a couple of lasting memories of Brancepeth Castle from my last visit, 10+ years ago, the undulating topography and the 'Castle holes'. As for the rest of the course, it is nice to be re-acquainted. We find the course in great condition, with pacey greens compared to other courses I have played recently, and a fair set up. There are a number of blind drives, that benefit from course knowledge and personal confidence but it is the par 3s that are 'stand out' for me. Beautifully designed holes that sit comfortably in the landscape and offer a great challenge in distance control and line.
An interesting site for a golf course, Brancepeth is a Harry Colt design not far from Durham in the North East of England. As with Garforth, Brancepeth has lots of rumpled fairways (but the odd flat spot to aim for). The 1st gets you thinking straight away, with lots of options off the tee, and if not going for the short par 4 in one off the tee, position is key in the layup.
The real standout holes are Brancepeths version of ‘amen corner’- 8-9-10. Right next to the castle that gives the course its name, there’s a huge ravine which these holes play over and back. The 8th is a par 4 with a carry over the ravine, but the 9th and 10th are back to back tough par 3s, both fairly long with small targets to hit. Despite the challenge, these are both memorable and fun tee shots.
Another stand out hole is the short par 4 14th, where again placing yourself in a good position of the tee is key. The 14th has an interesting, undulating green, something which is evident throughout the course and provides intrigue throughout.
Brancepeth is a hilly site and a hard walk but still a place that features a lot of fun shots. I’ve played a lot at Edgbaston GC which is also a Colt design and seeing the renovation there from Frank Pont, it would be great to see him do some of his work here. Either way, Brancepeth Castle is worth a visit.
As a former member, I had a fabulous 18 months here, and had it not been for the travelling, I’d still be there today.
Easily one of the best in the county, with some truly memorable par 3, the 2nd across the ravine being the stand out for me, whilst the 9th is also quite something, with the castle in the background. A shot hit right is a potential card wrecker, and a 2 putt on this green is a job well done!
It’s critical the keep the ball on the fairways as many holes are heavily tree lined with big slopes, further damaging any wayward shots.
A really challenging golf course, one which I rarely played to my handicap in all honestly, but one you can never get bored with. Always well manicured, lovely terrain, and always gets the brain ticking. When the wind blows, it makes club selection very difficult.
Worthy of a day out, and a good choice if you’re looking for a fairly inexpensive golf trip. The only downside is the clubhouse, which I feel lacks a little bit of atmosphere, and where the course isn’t visible from it.
Brancepeth Castle is an exhilarating parkland course played across good turf on the outskirts of Durham.
The first tee is located down a lovely wooded path from the clubhouse (formerly the stables and coach house for the deer park) and this sets a lovely tone for the round where you traverse some beautiful countryside.
A deep ravine cuts through the heart of the property and provides some particularly challenging shots and in essence this is what elevates Brancepeth above other golf courses of similar ilk.
Indeed Colt has created a set of par-threes which are as exciting and also as dangerous as they come. Four of the five must directly cross the hazard with the 154-yard second hole an early introduction to the splendour of these daring short holes.
If you can get through the back-to-back ninth and tenth holes, one-shotters topping the 200-yard mark which cross the hazard in opposite directions, in a reasonable score your job isn’t quite done but you will be well on your way to a good round because there are some birdie chances from here on in.
It was also pleasing to find that the greens played nice and firm despite recent rainfall. You could hold a ball from the fairway with spin but out of the rough you really had to think carefully about where you needed to land the ball.
I played a number of other top-end parkland courses around the same time as I did Brancepeth and whilst it might just be edged out by some of the more prestigious venues down in Hertfordshire and surrounding counties it stands proud as one of the best fast-running inland courses in the North of England.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Great variety in lovely surroundings. No play from fairways in march, hence value rates, but didn't detract from a fun game of sporting golf. Nice turf, some challenging long irons to play, highly recommended.
Played brancepth most weeks for past 7 months. Greens haven't always been in best condition during winter, but still better than some courses I have played in the summer. The par 3's are all great and challenging, with the 2nd being my personal favourite. Can't wait to play it in summer when conditions are at their best.
Ive played this course about 5 times a week for the past 9 months, and can say it is definitely one of the best courses of the north. The golf course sits beautifully in the stunning landscape, which with its steep slopes and ravines lengthens the course considerably. Accuracy on the approach shots is a must as the greens often slope front to back and have some very steep natural contours. The atmosphere in the clubhouse is excellent although if playing with the locals, be sure not to take their blunt comments to heart!