Painswick sits atop Painswick Beacon and offers lovely views up and down the Cotswold escarpment. The course is on Trust land and as such the club must adhere to maintenance restrictions. Consequently, the player will not find a well-conditioned course. However, conditioning is not the reason why golfers should want to play Painswick. People should seek out Painswick purely for the joy of the game.
Numbers don’t really describe Painswick very well, but I will offer them in the hope that any prospective visitor will be intrigued. The course measures less than 5,000 yards with a par of 67. Don’t let these numbers deceive you because Painswick epitomizes what golf is all about. A straightforward, most natural course in a terrific setting. The club is modest and welcoming. The fees are affordable.
Humps, hollows and hills abound. Painswick is much more akin to links than to parkland. In fact, I don’t know of a links which can match Painswick for outrageousness. There are several holes which can only be described as extreme, but they are generally all the better for it. There are no bunkers except the one near the practice green. The 17th has the forward markers one yard longer than the back markers. Among the several blind shots there are few into and out of a 3000-year-old hill fort. There are seven par 3s. There is a stretch of six straight holes without a two shotter amongst them. The 10th sports the smallest green I have ever seen and it is blind by the way.
In short Painswick is quirky. If you are looking for some insight into how the game was played a century or so ago look no further. The turf isn’t brilliant and there are a few severe walks with dog walkers and folks in jeans are plentiful. But I promise you that a game at Painswick will not be forgotten. To stand on the 6th tee, take in the views and hit that shot is an experience not to be missed.
Article by Sean Arble.
Painswick has fast been gathering cult status, and as Tim reflects below, this has led to some well-respected rankings now including Painswick within their top 100 lists. Personally, I find all of this a little baffling and somewhat insulting to some clubs who have found themselves missing out, for Painswick is seriously fun golf, but is it great golf? Not by my own criteria.
Sadly, Painswick’s newly elevated status had left me with slightly unrealistic expectations entering the round. I’d taken it for granted that the course conditioning would be a little shabby, but there are a few too many weak holes that I just didn’t care for. My biggest concern however was that the flow of the round was all too often interrupted due to the limited course acreage. This is not land that’s fit for eighteen holes.
The most interesting part of the course comes when climbing around Painswick Beacon. These holes are completely unique and make Painswick worth the visit on at least one occasion. This piece of land is cross-country golf. It’s fun as a one-off, but I’d need some convincing to think that I’d want to play this style of golf every week.
The opening holes are frankly a little bland, with the steep gradient climb at the start of the round being a wicked way to activate those glutes. The 4th was the first hole of genuine note with its eye-catching sunken green, but then after another lung buster of a hill-climb to the top of the hill-fort at 5 comes the one legitimate world-class hole at the 6th. A long par three at over 200-yards, this hole is sublime and played across some beautifully bumpy links ground that would even enhance some of the best coastal courses in the country. There are other details at Painswick I enjoyed too, with a handful of the green-sites being excellent. Executing a decent shot into the speed slot approach at the 8th was a personal highlight whilst the climbing and blind entry into the par four 11th was the other standout hole across the eighteen. The 10th hole also plays across the same bizarre and linksy land formations, but landing your ball on the tiny punchbowl green felt like the golfing equivalent of needing to hit the bullseye. This all equated to golf on the edge of the extreme, but maybe it overstepped the mark a little too frequently for my own tastes.
The holes away from the beacon lack the same interesting qualities whilst the shared fairways across 2/14, 3/13 and 8/9 just aren’t wide enough to allow two groups to play safely side-by-side meaning long delays became a regular frustration. Some areas of the course would also benefit from vegetation clearance with the 7th, 14th and the drop-shot 15th all coming to mind, but sadly this is a club operating on a shoestring budget and won’t benefit from being able to spend money on such luxuries.
The 16th presented what I’d assume may be more grass covered iron-age structures meaning there were more interesting obstacles to negotiate from the tee, albeit this was another hole where fairways cross and you either need to be patient and wait for the 17th tee to clear or risk bringing the group ahead into play. And whilst I do enjoy playing commonland courses, I prefer it when walkers aren’t wandering blissfully unawares across fairways. All in all, with the various shared fairways where you cross paths with other golfers, the frequent delays became inevitable and led to a frustrating stop-start round of golf. We weren’t even playing on a particularly busy day. As for the end of the round, it’s probably best that I don’t expand too much on my safety concerns with the dogleg 17th, whilst the characterless short 18th brings a sad conclusion to the round.
I don’t mean to do Painswick a disservice. There are pockets of brilliant stuff here including some bizarre and wonderful land formations. There are also two or three genuinely excellent holes and a handful of particularly interesting green-sites, so come and take a look at Painswick and decide on its merits for yourself. Take the opportunity to play a fun and unique round of matchplay with your friends, but it ought not be a course that’s taken too seriously.
There are nearly 1900 golf courses in England and in Golf World’s latest ranking of the Top 100, Painswick comes in at No.91. This position surprises me, as for instance it sits a lowly 15th in the county of Gloucestershire according to the top100golfcourses.com list, and this county is not generally regarded as a ‘hotspot’ of English golf. So after three months of no golf in Lockdown, we ventured out in glorious Spring weather to learn more by playing the course.
The golf course is set out along a narrow ridge leading up to Painswick Beacon, with its magnificent views over Cheltenham and surrounding area from the edge of the Cotswolds. The area around the Beacon is rugged and very hilly with both golfers and numerous walkers, with their dogs, much in evidence.
The golf course is very old-fashioned and quite bewildering in style with criss-crossing fairways, blind shots, massive changes in elevation and a totally unique layout, measuring in length just 4800 yards. The front nine, for instance, starts with 4 par4s, only one of which is over 300 yards long, followed by 3 par3s and ending with 2 par5s which share the same fairway whilst going in opposite directions.
Conventional, Painswick is not, the undulating Common land makes consistent green-keeping nigh impossible, but the delightful old layout gives a remarkable insight into how golf was played in its formative years. The welcome from members was warm indeed, and the fun to be shared by playing their course should be experienced by any golfer interested in the game’s history.
In my view, Painswick is nowhere near the Top 100 of golf courses in England, but as an experience with no concern about the modern influences in the game, the course is right up there. It is cranky and gives endless enjoyment, although your scorecard seems quite irrelevant.
Painswick cannot really be considered as a great course in the sense of manicuring or flow. This is fair enough really, it is situated on a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and therefore no machinery can be used to maintain the course. In other words, greens are most likely trimmed by hand.
Yet I am delighted to say that Painswick is very good. Quirky in every sense of the word, but very good regardless. It doesn't start this way - the 1st is horrendously uphill up a virtual cliff face - but from the 3rd you catch sight of the beacon. This view is worthy of top 10 in the county alone.
And we reach the 5th, only 100 yards or so but played blind up the ramparts, a distinction which wielded the hole a ranking of 7th Most Extraordinary Golf Hole in GB and Ireland (you can find the book second hand online, a very entertaining read). The 6th and 7th are a pair of fabulous par threes, both downhill over crazy terrain. And after 2 par fives, we reach the 10th.
Now, I'm not too sure how to feel about the 10th. The greensite is amazing, sloping and titchy, but blind up the hill I feel makes the hole questionable. However, the hole would be better as a par three of 150 yards or so as you can make better use of the bowl green.
My favourite par four is 11, only 229 yards but through the ramparts to a wicked green. I really like the modest finishing stretch as well, and 17 and 18 while less interesting end the round fittingly.
The course should be considered for top 10 in the county. It's great fun, and a world away from what one would expect from an English golf course. Value here is amazing at just 22 quid per head, give it a play!
What an interesting course! Played in summer and was such good value for a green fee. Greens weren't great but the design of the course makes it a must play. Be prepared for some serious walking due to the huge elevations, with one par 3 seeing over 100ft of elevation (I didn't even know where the green was it was so high) which is what makes this such a unique and kinda crazy course.
On a recent drive from West Yorkshire to South Wales we decided to jump off the M5 and play a quick round at the highly unusual Painswick Golf Club. It proved to be one of the best decisions we’ve made.
With so many ordinary courses in the UK, serving up a full house of relatively mundane holes, Painswick should be applauded for the moments of brilliance and uniqueness that it shows during its 18.
It’s such an exciting course to play although perhaps not a great one for trying to keep a score on! At just 4,831 yards and with so many apparent birdie opportunities (on the scorecard at least) shooting a good total round here should be a doddle. This is certainly not the case and we quickly forgot about our tally and just enjoyed the course for what it is; sheer fun. The best example is perhaps the opening hole; the hardest 220 yard par four you will ever play. And, yes, that did say 220!
Admittedly, the course is fairly run of the mill for some holes, however, it still manages to engage the golfer with interesting green sites and various undulations in one form or another as it plays along a narrow ridge. So cramped in fact that several holes have a shared fairway on what is essentially an ‘out & back’ layout.
There are a number of varied short par fours during the round, seven all told, and a delightful par three towards the end with a green set deep in an amphitheatre of trees. Other things such as the cavernous grassy hollow on the first, the green location at the 4th, the excellently contoured putting surface of the 13th and the unusual drive at the 16th are all highlights on the course too.
However, these are not the moments why I will remember Painswick with great fondness. The real reason is for the run of holes between the 5th and the 11th where you play up to and then on top of a beacon that this section of the course is laid out over. Here you will discover four, arguably five holes, which are nothing short of sensational. Not necessarily great holes, with the exception of one, but they present challenges to the golfer that you will not easily find elsewhere.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
The course plays off matts from October-March ! Then from April -September off the GRASS tees !