West Midlands of England – Best in County Rankings 2019
Hard on the heels of the last news item about our re-ranking of courses in the East Midlands region of England, we now publish our latest findings for the West Midlands, presenting fifty courses across the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Extending to five thousand square miles, with a population of six million people, the West Midlands region is anchored by the city of Birmingham, England's second largest city. Unfortunately, like the neighbouring East Midlands region, this area doesn’t attract too many visiting golfers.
Currently, four tracks in the West Midlands occupy places in the Top 100 for England and one of them also makes it into the more prestigious Great Britain & Ireland listings. It’ll be interesting to see next month if that situation improves when we revise those other important standings.
For now, we’re concentrating solely on manoeuvres within the above named county charts in this English heartland location, so let’s crack on and take a look at what we believe to be the best golf course offerings in the West Midlands.
It’s a case of “as you were” for this county as all five courses remain in the same position, which means Kington holds on to the top spot in Herefordshire. The course was designed in the mid-1920s by Cecil Key Hutchison – who also had a hand in the development of highly regarded layouts at Gleneagles, North Berwick and Turnberry. Fairways are laid out at altitude on Bradnor Hill, affording sensational views of the surrounding Brecon Beacons, Malvern Hills and Black Mountains.
Kington Golf Club
Measuring less than 6,000 yards from the back tees, and with no sand or water in play, this short and quirky course features a set of unique and fascinating greensites the likes of which you will never come across elsewhere. In recent years, Kington has slowly but surely built up something of a cult following with well-travelled golfers.
|3||Burghill Valley||No change|
|4||Sapey (Rowan)||No change|
Our No. 1 course in Shropshire, Llanymynech, enjoys something of a split personality because it straddles the border between two different countries. Most of the fairways of this tree-lined track lie within Wales but the club has always been affiliated through the local county golf union with England Golf. Extending to just over 6,000 yards and playing to a par of 70, it’s a terrific little hilltop layout that offers an engaging test of golf from start to finish.
Llanymynech Golf Club
Astbury, the course built a decade ago by K.K. Downing, the former band member of heavy metal group Judas Priest, has now closed and is due to re-open after refurbishment sometime next year. In the meantime, it’s dropped out of our Top 10 chart for Shropshire, replaced at number nine by the Championship course at Hawkstone Park, which Brian Hugget designed in the mid-1990s.
|2||Hawkstone Park (Hawkstone)||No change|
|5||Church Stretton||Up 1|
|6||Lilleshall Hall||Up 1|
|9||Hawkstone Park (Championship)||New entry|
With fifty golf clubs located inside its boundary lines, Staffordshire is the strongest of the five counties in the West Midlands, a fact underlined when we compiled a one-off Top 10 table for the region two years ago, discovering that half the chart was comprised of entries from this county. You might imagine any newcomer would struggle to get into the Staffordshire Top 10 but you’d be wrong. In fact, not only has a new design broken into the chart, it’s gone straight in at No. 1.
JCB Golf & Country Club
JCB Golf & Country Club in Rocester only opened last year but it’s already causing quite a stir in Midlands golfing circles and beyond. Laid out by Robin Hiseman from European Golf Design, it’s a big budget affair that has taken quite a few people by surprise, especially our editor-in-chief, Keith Baxter, who played there a few weeks ago.
“Rarely do I describe five holes in any review,” wrote Keith in his post last week, “but at JCB virtually every hole is worthy of narration… I have not seen a better set of green complexes on any English course built after the Second World War… JCB is a fabulous course that’s primed for the Top 100. Which 100? We’ll simply have to wait and see.” All should be revealed in the next few weeks during our current re-ranking process, so standby for further announcements on that front.
Whittington Heath was directly in the path of the new HS2 (High Speed Two) rail link, consequently the club is in the middle of a construction program which is expected to complete in April 2020. The course is currently in flux, so it remains to be seen whether or not the refashioned layout when fully open will receive more or less affection than the original.
|1||JCB G&CC||New entry|
|2||Little Aston||Down 1|
|3||Beau Desert||Down 1|
|4||Enville (Highgate)||Down 1|
|6||Enville (Lodge)||Up 2|
|7||Sandwell Park||Down 1|
|8||Whittington Heath||Down 4|
|9||South Staffordshire||Down 2|
|10||Brocton Hall||Down 1|
There’s little movement in our Top 15 for Warwickshire, where eight of the Top 10 courses stay in exactly the same position, including the No. 1 layout, the Brabazon at The Belfry. Scene of four epic Ryder Cups between 1985 and 2002, The Belfry is an astonishing success story for the PGA, and for Peter Alliss, in particular. In the late 1970s, he convinced the professional golfers’ governing body to take over a struggling hotel business in Sutton Coldfield then transform the property into its headquarters – and the PGA has never looked back since.
The Belfry Brabazon course
Dave Thomas, in conjunction with Peter Alliss, designed the Brabazon course and Thomas returned for a multi-million pound makeover twenty years later, ensuring there was a strong level of aquatic challenge, especially on the closing stretch of holes. As modern parkland courses go, this one is right up there with the best and recent reviews on this site have been generally positive, even though one or two peripheral issues have been mentioned in passing.
|1||Belfry (Brabazon)||No change|
|2||Sutton Coldfield||No change|
|4||Forest of Arden (Arden)||No change|
|5||Copt Heath||No change|
|6||Ladbrook Park||Up 1|
|8||Robin Hood||No change|
|11||Moor Hall||Up 1|
|13||Belfry (PGA National)||Up 1|
|14||Warwickshire (Earls)||Down 1|
The course at Blackwell is still the No. 1 course in Worcestershire. The club dates back to 1893 but the layout is thirty years younger, having been designed by Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson in 1923. Frank Pont was appointed a few years ago to breathe new life into the layout, mainly by removing trees that were restricting lines of play and restoring bunkers that had become rather neglected.
Blackwell Golf Club
Frank told us the in-house team under Course Manager Rhys Thomas is methodically working through a ten-year program that will ultimately see every hole undergo some form of upgrade. When everything’s been done, this classic old track will then be in its best shape ever – and in good time for the club to celebrate the centenary of its design.
|3||The Worcestershire||Up 1|
|5||Fulford Heath||No change|
|8||Kings Norton (Weatheroak)||No change|
|10||Vale (International)||No change|
The next English region to be reappraised is the North West and the three counties to come under scrutiny in that edition are Cheshire, Cumbria and Lancashire.
Top 100 Golf Courses