Situated on the southern edge of the New Forest in the village of Brockenhurst, the 18-hole layout at Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club (if anyone knows what happened to the absent "c" please let us know) opened for play in 1919, four years after the golf club was founded. The course – one of Harry Colt’s lesser known designs – is a pleasant, unassuming, woodland track that extends to a modest 6,222 yards from the tips with a par of 70.
Fairways are not as constricted by trees as you might imagine and water plays a part on only a few occasions where small streams cross a couple of fairways. The main defenders of par on the course are the well-placed bunkers and undulating greens, particularly those on the charming par three holes.Most unusually, the fairways at Brokenhurst Manor are configured in three 6-hole returning loops, the most interesting of which is the “middle circuit” where tough back-to-back par fours in excess of 440 yards at holes 8 and 9 are followed by a brace of challenging par threes at the 10th and 12th holes.
I was rather impressed with Brokenhurst Manor when I teed it up here yesterday afternoon in warm sunshine. The routing is slightly quirky but rather intriguing with three six-hole loops that cleverly return you back to the clubhouse. The downside is that there’s a bit of a hot spot around the 1st and 5th greens and the 2nd and 6th tees, but this is a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things, as I can’t think of any other course that has a routing like this.
There’s undeniably a heathland look and feel to the entire layout but there’s a distinct lack of heather (they are trying to introduce it in places), and despite a tree-clearing programme, I still feel there’s an opportunity to open the site up a little more. However, its meagre yardage and fast running fairways meant that many holes played short – five par fours under 350 yards is perhaps one too many (and I love short par fours). The two par fives measure a fraction more than 500 yards and both were comfortably reachable with a driver and mid iron due to the firm conditions.
Did I play to my handicap? No I didn’t. Which just goes to show that short doesn’t mean easy. The greens at Brokenhurst are big. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the pin, getting down in two requires a deft touch.
The stars of the show are the one-shot holes. Harry Colt often designed the par threes such that they look longer than they actually play and this is 100% true at Brokenhurst. The quartet of short holes (despite three of them being of a similar length) are nothing short of fabulous, as you’ll see from the two images of the 5th and the 12th, which require forced carries across valleys. I didn’t notice the heart-shaped bunker on #12 until I studied the photo after the round, which just goes to show how easy it is to miss these little architectural nuances when you have a golf club in your hand.
Brokenhurst has a feeling of Hankley Common in places and a sprinkling of Swinley Forest here and there (at least at the par threes). It doesn’t have the grand scale of Hankley Common (but it’s every bit as peaceful here in the New Forest), nor does it have the style of Swinley Forest (but it does share the architectural simplicity and the woodland). And I was surprised that this gem is clearly better known than I gave it credit for, as a big group of Korean golfers teed off behind us.
For me Brokenhurst Manor is 4.5 on our rating scale, but as we don’t have half marks I’ll be generous, as I often am, and award it a 5-ball rating. It’s most definitely one of the best courses in the region and worth travelling miles to play (just ask those Koreans) and I’d be very happy to be a member at Brokenhurst if I lived in this neck of the forest.
As a final word, I was most surprised on the way back from the golf club to see a group of ponies ambling down Brockenhurst high street. I snapped the picture from the car window while waiting in a long queue of traffic for the horses to slowly cross the road, oblivious to the vehicles.
I last played this course in the late 90's and remembered it being great in condition and good in layout. The woodland management program the club has undertaken has transformed the look and it's now fantastic! Living in the shadows perhaps of the neighbouring Bournemouth courses but in my opinion now better value, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this Colt classic. Picturesque, great wildlife and a superb mix of holes that do not require length to make them a challenge. We played after heavy rain which in years gone by would have been awkward but superb course management and presentation made a fantastic day for myself and a friend playing the course for the first time. The professional made his day thoroughly enjoyable as well, offering a first class welcome, information on the course and showing a real interest in a visiting golfer. The variety of holes at this hidden gem are unique and every hole has its own individual signature. I can't wait to go back and would certainly advise anyone to play this course, especially mixed groups/senior golfers or anyone holidaying on the south coast. Definitely worth an excellent rating for reasons of condition, improvements and value. Too many nice holes to list, pretty par 3's, memorable par 4's and challenging par 5's. A great day, thanks BMGC!