The sleepy little village of Millbrook lies in a lovely part of Bedfordshire, close to the historic market town of Ampthill, where it occupies a portion of an escarpment known as the Greensand Ridge. In this idyllic rural setting, it’s hard to imagine there’s such a lively and diverse range of outdoor activities going on in the local area.
Millbrook Proving Ground, one of the largest vehicle test facilities in Europe, is situated just outside the village, along with the Center Parcs Woburn Forest holiday centre, with the golf course positioned in between these two premises. However, due to the secluded woodland landscape, you’d hardly realise all three properties were near neighbours.
The course at Millbrook Golf Club was fashioned in the late 1970s by William Sutherland who updated James Braid's layout at Dunstanburgh Castle in the 1980s. Millbrook later changed its name to Lyshott Heath before reverting back to Millbrook when the club became member-owned in 2002, allowing revenues to be reinvested both on and off the course. This investment is reflected in the recently refurbished clubhouse lounge bar and the consistently good condition of tees, fairways and greens on the course.
Unusually, a round at Millbrook begins with back-to-back par fives and the first par three hole on the layout isn’t encountered until the 177-yard 7th, which plays to a green that slopes from front to back. Interestingly, the only fairway bunkers on the entire course are found on the 2nd, where a ditch crosses the fairway as it heads towards a shallow green.
The inward half plays to a par of 36 – two shots less than the front nine – with feature holes at the 420-yard 13th, a severe right doglegged par four that’s rated stroke index 2 and requires a testing uphill approach shot, and the 432-yard 18th, where out of bounds lies dangerously close to the right of (and beyond) the home green.
A number of county championships and inter-county matches have been held here, which is as good a measure as any of Millbrook’s quality. It’s location on the Greensand Ridge also enables golfers to play all year round and in all weather conditions, which is a major consideration nowadays for those seeking value for their annual club membership fees.
Professional Andrew Coleman was kind enough to contribute the following:
The stroke index is often your guide to how tough a hole will play however, here at The Millbrook, there are several difficult holes. I’d like to describe them as strong holes actually, where you are rewarded for playing good shots and par is a good score.
I'm highlighting our 2nd hole as a strong par five, measuring 593 yards from the Blue competition tees, 577 yards from the white tees and 556 yards from the yellows.
From the tee, generally playing into the wind, there’s plenty of driving space; just two small bunkers guard the right hand side. The fairway has a small rise guarding your view of a ditch that runs across the fairway which can catch you out for the second shot.
Avoiding the ditch, you play to a green guarded by bunkers left and right. The putting surface has only a few small breaks and this may well seem like a welcome relief after the previous 600 yards that you’ll have walked.
There are a number of contenders for the title of “signature hole” but I’m going to feature our 16th hole, a par three playing 165 yards from the Blue tees, 158 yards from the white tees and 152 yards from the yellows.
The tee sits on a high point, giving the best view of Bedfordshire overlooking the Millbrook Proving Ground. Further in the distance – and due to their enormous size – you will see the Cardington Hangers, famous for the Airships built there during the war.
Once you have returned your attention to the task in hand, you will see the pretty picture post card scene of the Millbrook Village Church, nestled in the trees – all in all, this hole provides a great memory coming towards the end of your round.
I loved playing this course, the weather was a huge factor in the round as mist fell toward the end which meant we ended up hitting blind to the greens which was weird but fun at the same time. Great looking course, be prepared it is very very up and down. I will be going back to play again in better weather, really worth a trip up the M1 from town for the day.
Millbrook Golf Club has an interesting layout, you cannot just come here and hit driver off every tee box and hope for the best, there are many doglegs, some even 90 degrees, so smart play is key. even the first hole is a tough one to play with a long dogleg up the hill. Distance control at this course is very important.
I had a good experience even though I didn't play well but still enjoyed it. I think playing here after knowing what lies around the corner of the hole is a massive benefit. I look forward to playing here again. I will attack it VERY differently.
This place could be by far and away the best course in beds, but has not been in very good condition for some years. It plays long, very long but lacks any visual presence. The greens were just about good enough the bunkers although being improved still need work whilst the fairways are just ok. If someone comes along and throws some money at this place it will clean up until then it will just continue to saunter along
Millbrook is well worth a visit and a course that I describe as good and very good in places that has a few interesting talking points - you may substitute talking points for love or hate moments! The course has been around for around forty years but in its current look and under the Millbrook name for only about fifteen.
The opening hole is a par-5 at only around 450 yards but is very strategic – playing it for the first time I imagine it will not be a favourite. The tee shot needs to be left as anything right will cause problems as the hole turns 90 degrees right at 250 yards into a valley and then steeply uphill to the green, it may seem an unfair hole as both 2nd and 3rd shots could be blind for most. The 2nd tee gives a great view, to the left is the 3rd and to the right is the 15th, all three holes nicely separate though. The 2nd green is one of Millbrook’s three massive double greens, which is a great feature of the course – this one doubles up with the 14th.
The club are in the process of a bunker upgrade and there are great examples of the completed style at the 3rd green, bunkers that would not look out of place on courses ranked much higher. A short par-4 at the 4th is a great birdie chance and the 5th and 6th holes; both strong par-4’s need a lot of attention, especially the second shot to the 6th, crossing water to an offset shaped green. The par-3 7th is an ok hole but is crying out for one of the new style bunkers short and right of the green – at the moment the grass valley is nowhere near enough protection.
The best driving hole on the front nine is the 8th, where a slight draw is ideal but with the hole at around 580 yards, it is probably the second shot that is the most important. The 9th is the next ‘talking’ point – a par-4 under 300 yards with a drive across a valley to a very small landing strip; good drives can be punished too severely here if slightly right. The back nine starts strong with a par-3 at around 185 yards but is all carry as the green is raised and is not that deep – par is not easily achieved here.
The next and last talking point is the 11th tee shot – the hole is short par-4 at 310 yards but the tee shot needs to be placed through a smallish gap between trees, so driver is not the sensible play – this shot needs to be played a few times without a doubt. The par-5 12th tee shot is a little like the same shot on the 8th hole – another great driving hole and then at the green (another double with the 5th) a delicate approach is required.
The final third of the course is strong; the 13th is over 400 yards and has a sharp dog-leg to the right half-way and two great bunkers just short of the green but it is the 17th that is my favourite hole on the course. At 311-355 yards, this is not a long par-4 but there is a right kink in the fairway at 200 yards and the trees on the right, narrow the fairway meaning tee shots can be pulled a little left. This hole is one of the few that are completed surrounded by trees all the way from tee to green, which gives a little feel of ‘near neighbour’ Woburn’s Duchess course.
If you need a par on the 18th then you need two decent shots to get to the 430 yard final hole and I would just say that the stroke indexes of the last two holes should be switched (currently 17th is 6 and the 18th is 10). There is a friendly welcome at Millbrook and it is clear that the staff are working hard to make the course (great greens) and the club as good as can be – worth a visit and being aware of the course ‘talking points’ ahead of your game will definitely help with the experience.