The picturesque upland tract of Charnwood Forest extends to around 6,100 acres at an elevation of 600 feet and upwards, with many interesting recreational sites available for woodland walks, hillwalking and rock climbing.
Charnwood Forest Golf Club lies fives mile to the south of Loughborough, where a 9-hole heathland course was first set out in 1890 within what was then the Beaumanor Estate. When the property was broken up after WWII, the club purchased the 77-acre course for £2,570.
Local Vicar, the Reverend Robert Colquhoun Faithfull, set out the original holes and the club states the layout “has changed many times in the past 100 years”. It also asserts that the course is “influenced by the James Braid style of design” without actually saying that he re-designed it.
John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming in their book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses refer to a visit Braid may have made in 1927: “a clubhouse fire in 1977 meant the destruction of many of the records, including the Braid link, allegedly relating to the remodelling of the course.
Originally the course was private, belonging to the Herrick family. They rented it to the club at some stage. The club finally acquired it in 1946. It is a spectacular moorland course running round a granite outcrop in the forest from which it takes its name. There are no bunkers because the bracken, gorse and granite outcrops present enough hazards.
Comparing two cards from 1912 and 1981, one notes 442 yards difference in favour of the latter year, and it is difficult to match up any of the holes except a medium-length par three.”
The search for evidence that Braid did more than “influence” the design of the layout continues at the club…
Charnwood Forest is one the most interesting, natural and best nine-holers I have played. It’s a fascinating course that loops round the Hanging Stone Rocks, dated back over 600 million years, located in a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The course in early March 2015 was dry as a bone and you could tell from the turf that you are going to get good quality all-year round play at this delightful heathland gem.
The greens are quite small but fit in really well with their surrounds, cut as they are into the hillside, and have lots of little drops-offs to the front and sides which makes it tricky to save par if you miss them. There are few flat lies on the course too with many of the holes playing across a gentle side slope.
My favourite hole was the eighth where you discover a lovely green setting after curving your ball round the sweeping fairway, or in my case after chipping out of the trees on the left. The last is also a good hole as you play over a swathe of heather to a green that falls away from you. Equally I could mention the second with its blind approach or the fourth where a wall must be hurdled with either your drive or approach.
There’s a lot of good things going on at Leicestershire’s oldest course, designed bunkerless by James Braid in 1890, and all-in-all Charnwood Forest is well worth a play, especially as it is located so close to the M1 motorway.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.