If Northamptonshire County Golf Club was located closer to London, it would not only be better known, but perhaps more highly ranked within our English Top 100.
“It is possible, to those unfamiliar with these parts, that the nearness of Northampton suggests a course overlooking a predominantly urban scene,” wrote Donald Steel in The Golf Courses Guide, “but Church Brampton, in keeping with its delightful name, enjoys a fine rural setting and offers, as well an escape, a test of inland golf that, of its type, is as good as any.
James Braid, who with J. H. Taylor, Ben Sayers and Tom Ball, opened the course in 1910, returned after the last war to bring it up to date but, broadly speaking, there have been few major alterations since H. S. Colt designed the layout on a site acquired from Earl Spencer.”
Originally nominated as a Gem by Paul, and added to pages of the Top 100 platform in January 2008, Northamptonshire County was ranked for the first time in our 2016 English Top 100 and it's undeniably Northamptonshire's premier layout. Paul’s original nomination article follows, which paints a very pretty picture of this relatively undiscovered centurion.
“Northamptonshire County Golf Club borders the Althorp Estate and is set in the village of Church Brampton. It is a very traditional course and although parkland in style, it has a heathland feel to it. Designed by Harry Colt in 1909 and standing the test of time very well after a bunker layout change in 1947 by James Braid, the club is now extending the course further with many new tees opening in spring 2008 to lengthen the layout to over 6,700 yards.
The course is rather unique with three extra holes – designed by course architect Cameron Sinclair – added to the front nine layout giving players who are looking to play only nine holes the option to play 7a, 8a & 9a, which return back to the clubhouse leaving the 18-hole circuit clear after the first six holes for those playing a full round. These new holes have a feel of Woburn about them and are well worth playing if you fancy 27 holes in one day. The greens are very true with some very difficult pin positions available and the whole course is always well presented.
For many years now the course has been used as a regional open qualifying venue and has staged the British Girls Open Tournament and recently the PGA Seniors Club Professional Championship. The club itself is very friendly and the members are very courteous towards visitors with a good selection of food available in the clubhouse.
This is a course with a very good pedigree and offers a great golfing challenge any time of the year as it drains very well during the winter months.”
I have played Northamptonshire County a few times over the years and have always found it a good parkland course. It has a tough start with a straight but long 454yard par 4 followed by an equally straight par 5 . The short 3rd is a nice looking par 3 and a good par 4 follows and these are my favourite holes on the course; strong par 4's at 5 and 7 and an interesting short par 4 at 8 follow. Holes 10-14 are the other side of the railway line and for some reason (and unlike other reviewers) when ever I play these holes I don't enjoy them as much as the rest of the course. Once you return over the railway line the finishing four holes are good with a nice par 3, two strong par 4's and a fairly narrow par 5 to finish. I haven't played any other of the Northamptonshire courses to compare it with, but for me I'd put it behind Little Aston in terms of parkland courses I have played and some way behind a number of heathland courses. A good course (not great) and worthy of a day out so suits a 4 ball rating for me.
Is this the most underrated course in England, possibly. To not get into the top 100 makes a bit of a mockery of the top 100, because not only does this deserve to be in the top 100, it is actually far better than many of the courses that get in the top 50 in my opinion. It is long, but playable and there is a good range of holes, with the par 4 4th being a particularly good hole. The best holes are however the far side of the railway bridge, with the stretch from 10 to 13 being up there with any of the courses on this list. The course has like many done a vast amount of tree clearance which has improved the course, if it had been down to me at the back of 13 and 15 where the trees have been completely removed, I would have left two or three trees to add to the character of the holes. Overall a great course in a great location and a very smart clubhouse. Underrated, definitely, and just looking at the reviews on this website, it needs to enter the top 100.
"if it was closer to London it would be a regular top 100 contender".....what bias...surely where a course is located has no bearing on if it should be a contender or not; talk about a North South divide....Anyway what are my thoughts. Fantastic course in the same bucket as places like Notts, Fulford, Sherwood Forest etc etc and therefore should sit comfortably inside the Top 100 in England. I feel it has no weak holes and it is an excellent par 70 test of golf where, classically you think a short 130 yd par 3 will give you a respite, but it does not. If you keep driving up and down the M1 past J16 take the time to turn east for about 10 min and go an play.
I returned to Northamptonshire County Golf Club after a gap of just over three years - this is a course that I loved more or less on arrival back in 2015. It was an easy 5-ball ranking then and that is still true now, probably more so. The club are investing on the course with some great looking updated bunkers plus in the always needed woodland management/tree clearance program on heathland - views across the course and now so much better and that extra light and air that hits the course can only help.
A beautiful sunny February day helped enjoy the course which looked a picture so early in the year especially after the beating English courses took during the 2018 heatwave. Over the years I have played many English courses in the first quarter of the year and the greens here on the County course played the best ever for me; very true, pretty quick and the subtle borrows making balls react as though it was the height of summer.
I mentioned my favourite holes in the posted review below from 21/10/15 and they remain the same but the collection of all of the holes offer so much variety and so much fun throughout the round.
I think on and off the course there is a very positive attitude to making the member and visitor experience first class and I recommend the County course here at Church Brampton in a big way - I can only see positive opinions from golfers that play here.
Northamptonshire County Golf Club at Church Brampton is a big, bold and at times intimating heathland course that provides one of the sternest inland tests in the country.
It’s a venue that seems to go somewhat under the radar, even within golfing circles around the Midlands, but can and does hold its own against most of its peers.
It’s not a heathland layout in the mould of those on the sandbelt South-West of London; there is very little heather to be found here, however, there is firm, sandy, well-draining turf and an abundance of gorse. So much so in fact that coupled with lots of other shrubbery and trees it feels very claustrophobic, at times overly so.
A number of the tee-shots have limited visibility and although this adds to the overgrown feel I quite like the intimidation factor that this presents in a similar way to Alwoodley Golf Club in Yorkshire.
On many of the holes you are asked to work your ball from left-to-right and often into the lie of the land. As a consequence this can make the course play even longer but there is such an onus on being on the fairway it is imperative that you don’t try and force it around here.
If the playability factor of Northamptonshire County improved, by clearing out a lot of the undergrowth, I think I would rank this course much higher. As it stands I was still very impressed by my first visit to this fine club and hope to make it an annual visit.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.