The following edited extract is taken from John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming’s book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses:
“The 6th Earl of Fitzwilliam was a keen golfer and had a private course in his back garden at Milton Hall. A far-sighted man, the earl recognized that Peterborough was a town ripe for development. Rather than permit his land to be purchased for housing or industry, he invited two local 9-hole clubs [Peterborough and Milton Park] to amalgamate and play on a new 18-hole course to replace his own 9-hole layout.
James Braid was invited to design the course, visited in 1934 and the new course opened in 1937, following several visits by [contractor] John Stutt. It appears Braid dealt with the earl and Stutt with the newly formed committee. Braid played in the opening day exhibition match on 20th May 1937.
It is a parkland course which suffered severely from Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s and a tree planting programme was set into operation to repair the damage. Each hole is much as Braid intended it, but the order of play has been changed. This has resulted in a challenging finish, as Braid would have desired.
Peterborough Milton, although very flat, has extremely subtly contoured greens which are consistently fast throughout the year. The 10th has a two-tier green to add to the problems set by the drive and the long second, made more problematical by the deep swale at the start of the fringe. This hole so impressed Sir Henry Cotton that it became known as Cotton’s Fancy.
Braid’s bunkering was also craftily conceived on the flattest holes. The par threes offer great variety, the 16th at only 118 yards being especially hazardous when the hole is tucked behind the huge, long bunker at the front left of the deep, hourglass-shaped green.
Thanks to the placing of new trees and Braid’s use of those existing, Peterborough Milton offers an enjoyable and rewarding round to the player capable of accurate judgment of distance and a feel for fast greens.”
Peterborough Milton Golf Club is affiliated to the Northamptonshire Golf Union despite its location in Cambridgeshire, so that’s why the course is assigned a position in our Northamptonshire Best in County rankings.
Peterborough Milton is a well established and attractive parkland course located next door to Milton Hall, the largest private house in Cambridgeshire. The course began life during the 1920's as nine holes in the grounds of the Hall. A decade later James Braid arrived to construct a new 18 hole layout and the original thatched clubhouse can still be seen just behind the 13th green. Following boundary changes, the course now lies in Cambridgeshire but retains its affiliation to the Northamptonshire Golf Union.
The round begins with a strategic par five, where a good drive can easily reach a lake that splits the fairway. A blocked second shot can also find the water down the right side of the hole. Strong par fours dominate the front nine, the 4th "Rabbits Corner" stretches to almost 450 yards and the 7th measuring 422 yards has a pronounced ridge running from back to front in the green potentially leaving a very difficult putt.
I liked the variety of the short holes, the 2nd and 9th are mid to long iron shots, both protected by a combination of trees and bunkers. The 11th"Cedar" has a tree to contend with thirty yards short of the green and the 16th "The Dell" plays to a small and sloping hourglass green which is heavily defended by sand. Only 134 yards from the back tee, this little beauty is a fine example of how much fun a short par three can be.
This was a day of firsts for me. My first visit to the course coincided with watching the greenkeepers shed go up in flames, another first! And all in the good company of my host Dave, the Chairman of Greens. Fortunately, the greens staff were still on site when a mower self-ignited and the fire service were able to save the day before too much damage was done. With everything under control and the smell of burnt-out Torro in the autumnal air we turned our attention to the 10th "Cottons Fancy" a classic dogleg par four and probably my favourite hole on the course. Two excellent shots are required to reach a bunkerless green which is superbly defended by a diagonal gully fronting a tricky multi-tiered green.
The bunkering at Peterborough Milton is visually and strategically good with many of them having been expertly renovated in recent times. The par-five 13th has eight to contend with whilst at the same time offering the best view of the Hall. The memorable feature on 14 is a "Ha-Ha" running the full length of the hole which I somehow managed to find from the tee and two strong par fours bring the round to an enjoyable conclusion, that's if you can avoid water from the tee on the last.
As we departed the 18th green one member asked if the fire might have been a terrorist attack. You never have to look far to find a comedian at a golf club!