The Belfry may steal the limelight, but West Midlands golf isn't just confined to this Ryder Cup host venue
West Midlands golf: the highlights
The Belfry – Brabazon
Stats: par 72, 6,871 yards
GF: £160 per round
For any golf fan, driving in past the Brabazon’s iconic 10th hole and wandering round the terrace to gaze back down 18 are enough to set the pulse racing and bring the memories flooding back. As the only four-time Ryder Cup host course, so much history and drama has been played out over these verdant fairways, from Europe’s breakthrough 1985 triumph to victory again under Sam Torrance in 2002.
The 10th is, of course, golf’s ultimate risk-reward hole, daring you to take on its long, narrow green flanked by water, slopes and sand. The 18th then demands two sizable carries over water, with the position you leave yourself in after the first dictating whether or not the second to a long, three-tiered green is even on!
These two holes have stolen the headlines over the years, but there are many other strong holes, both visually and tactically. The 3rd is a stirring par 5, where finding the right position off the tee may tempt you into taking on the green over water, while the remodelled 6th serves up more water all the way down the hole and on the approach to a new green. On the 9th, even if you find position A off the tee, you’ll have to balance the need to clear water and sand with an equally pressing need not to stray above the hole on its treacherously sloping green.
Heading home, the 12th and 14th are both strong par 3s, while the dogleg par-5 17th may reward anyone brave enough to take the corner on with a chance of perhaps getting to the green in two.
Stats: par 71, 6,468 yards
GF: £40 per round
Few courses offer a more pleasant visual surprise relative to their final approaches than Sandwell Park, wedged between the M5 and the A41 in West Bromwich. Google Maps hails it a “venerable Victorian golf links” and that’s not a bad description of this Harry Colt heathland course, opened in 1895.
From what I would call a proper golf clubhouse, there’s a delightful outlook over the 18th and a fairly generous opener, where you don’t want to miss the green left. The 4th is a superb par 3, while the dogleg 13th boasts a gorgeous bunker set into a mound 40 yards short of the green. The greens throughout were superb.
Stats: par 71, 6,503 yards
GF: £50wd per round, £65wd per day
Ladbrook Park is another HS Colt creation blessed with fine greens. The opening par 5 brings a good early birdie chance, while the short par-4 4th poses a test beyond its yardage with the drive really funnelling down, and a huge sentinel oak guarding the green front left.
On the par 5 9th, the drive must be fired over a crest and between fairway bunkers, with a pond then lying in wait for any approaches pushed right. The strong par-4 13th plays up and round to a small, unbunkered green, while the three bunkers in the bank short of the 17th green are perhaps the visual highlight of the entire round.
Stats: par 72, 6,704 yards
GF: £90wd and Sun per round, £135wd and Sun per day
This highly regarded Harry Vardon course plays over parkland in the grounds of the former Little Aston Hall estate. With just three par 5s and three par 3s, there’s a strong and varied cast of par 4s ranging from the testing 446-yard 2nd – where a well-bunkered, narrow final approach makes par hard to come by – to the 317-yard 4th, which is eminently more scorable if you can stay out of the trees flanking both sides.
The approach to the 17th will test your nerve as the green is surrounded by water on three sides, with steep banks running down into it.
Stats: par 70, 6,325 yards
GF: £60wd per round, £80wd per day, £70we per round
Handsworth, like close neighbour Sandwell Park, is another 1895 vintage, with the fledgling nine-hole club extending to 18 in 1899. The overall test is not long, but with 70 bunkers, acres of trees and the occasional water hazard to negotiate, you need to be accurate. Water on the right keeps you on your toes on the 1st tee, but length isn’t really an issue until the 8th and 9th, two of the toughest par 4s on the golf course. The 13th is then the shortest par 4, but with a narrow fairway, out of bounds right and a well-guarded green, it’s not one to be taken lightly.