Situated only a couple of miles from the Clifton Suspension Bridge which spans the Avon Gorge, Bristol & Clifton Golf Club was formed in 1891, some twenty-seven years after the bridge first carried traffic across the River Avon. The company operating the iconic bridge was only too happy to assist early members of the club residing on the other side of the river by offering discounted season tickets costing five shillings.
It’s not known who set out the initial 9-hole course but it was quickly extended to an 18-hole layout by March of 1895, playing to an overall length of 5,831 yards and a par of 73, with a pair of par five holes completing the round. Members used this course until April 1948 when C.K. Cotton redesigned the layout (one of many that he reconstructed immediately after World War II) by introducing holes 2, 4 and 14, reversing the nines and reducing the par by three strokes.
An additional tract of almost fifty acres has since been purchased to allow for future course development, enabling the existing layout to be modified or additional holes to be added. The last major course alterations took place in 2004/5 when three holes were lengthened and almost two dozen fairway bunkers were installed around the course to tighten up the driving lines. A new irrigation system has also recently been put in place.
The course extends to 6,413 yards from the back tees, configured as two returning nines, each of which concludes with a doglegging par five. Accuracy is the watchword here, as trees bordering the fairways and bunkers protecting the greens will punish wayward play. Feature holes include the tricky short par fours at the 5th, 10th and 15th whilst the tightly bunkered back-to-back par threes at the 6th and 7th are delightful one-shot holes.
Bristol & Clifton proudly hosted the English Senior Men’s Amateur Championship in 2013. The 125th anniversary of the club was then marked three years later when it held the English Women’s Amateur Championship. England under-16 player and rising star Emily Price from Cleobury Golf Club in Worcestershire won this prestigious event by two strokes with a seven under par aggregate score of 285.
Bristol and Clifton is an odd course. It is without question a good test of golf. In fact, it is a tough course, although fairer than its more picturesque, but almost equally tough neighbour, Long Ashton.
However it lacks any sort of architectural coherence, so there is little flow from hole to hole. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th are very good holes, as are the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 18th. I like the 14th, but I can understand why people would dislike the almost blind shot into the green. The 15th is plain silly, a tricked up short par 4 with a wall running down what should be the fairway, and the 16th is a tough but unfair uphill par 4 with a sloping fairway which punishes a straight drive.
Having said all of that, B&C is still probably the best course in the Bristol area.
Bristol & Clifton is arguably one of the better courses in the Bristol area. Parkland in nature it has quite a few changes in elevation and with only two par 5's (at 9 and 18) the par 70 (at just over 6400 yards) is not easy, especially in the wind. B&C has quite a nice mixture of short and long par 4's, and the back to back par 3's at 6/7 is quite unusual. I guess the signature hole would be the steeply downhill 13th, a par 3 of just over 200 yards. This starts quite an odd hilly stretch of holes from 13 to 16 which I can't really work out whether I like or not, especially as sometimes it seems to result in delays. Hole 14 is uphill all the way to a blind flag (not a good hole). This is followed by a very quirky downhill par 4 of only 293 yards with little in the way of lay-up areas, walls crossing the fairway. trees to left of green and OB right; I say take driver and aim for bunkers at front of green, but you do have to hit it straight. Hole 16 is uphill again with the second shot (often off a sloping lie) needing to carry a small quarry. The round finishes as it starts with a couple of flattish holes. Overall an interesting course to play