West Midlands Golf Club Feature Review
Review by Golfshake Ambassador Kevin Heggie
A stone's throw from Birmingham Airport sits West Midlands Golf Club, sharing its site with Barston Lakes, ideal for those that also like to fish. The course is relatively new, having opened in 2003, and is a modern affair, built to USGA specifications allowing for play all year round, supported by a fleet of 45 state of the art buggies with GPS screens and score tracking function.
Measuring at over 6,800 yards from the very back tees, the more friendly options from the whites and yellows are just over 6,500 and 6,200 respectively. In terms of par, it’s a par 74, which is quite unusual, but all will be explained within the review!
Also available on-site is a decent warm-up area with a reasonably sized driving range and putting green, and the bar area has a great patio to watch people close out their round and discuss how many shots you left out there.
Front 9 Overview
The start to the round is a relatively gentle par four, although for those that have a nervous disposition a lake is ready and waiting to swallow up those occasional topped tee shots which occur when not warmed up! Following that is a fun short par four - drivable by most due to the downhill nature of the design, but danger awaits along the right hand side, with internal out-of-bounds on the left.
Next up is a long, long par five even from the yellows - 580 yards but playing more due to the elevation changes. From the tee there’s water on the left-hand side of the first landing section of the fairway which most golfers will use, but for those who can confidently carry their drives over 230-240 yards the second half of the fairway comes into play. Assuming you find either part of the fairway you’re then hitting into a green perched at the top of the hill, and to come away with par is a great outcome.
Moving from one extreme to another is one of the shortest par threes you’ll come across. Depending on the tee box it’ll be playing from 90-130 yards, downhill, but there’s a severe two-tiered green in play, as well as a water hazard behind the green. What looks like an easy three on the card can often translate into something else entirely.
Another par five follows, back towards the same lake in play on the 3rd hole, where water comes more into play on the second and third shots. Another short par three allows you time to catch your breath, followed by the final (short) par five on the front nine, before facing ‘The Devil’.
Opened in 2018, the new 8th hole is a par six, measuring at 666 yards from the yellows, up to 725 yards from the tips, making it the longest hole in Great Britain and only the third par six hole in the country. It’s a relatively straightforward affair and even average hitters like myself should see this as a good birdie opportunity, but obviously the design asks questions of your long game in quick succession. Assuming you get to the green in regulation, you’re then faced with one of the more complex green designs on the course, with three tiers and multiple subtle slopes to contend with.
The final hole on the front takes you back to the clubhouse, and requires a carefully placed tee shot due to a water hazard splitting the fairway to catch out a misjudged drive.
Back 9 Overview
The back nine starts with an almost mirror version of the 1st in terms of length, driving to an uphill fairway protected with bunkering and hedges. The 11th is a relatively tricky par three, with a wide but narrow green requiring precise club selection.
Two par fives follow, both presenting good opportunities to score well. The 12th travels back up to the high point of the course with a sloping green surrounded by mounds and bunkers, and then the 13th takes you back down the hill, and provides another good challenge, requiring both length and precision to score well.
Following another short par three, the final stretch involves holes which give you options as to how to play them. The 15th places an emphasis on precision, with out-of-bounds both left and right from the tee, whilst the 16th, playing shorter may tempt you into driving the green, but out-of-bounds and water is very much in play.
The 17th is a 90 degree dog-leg, so the bold play is to cut the corner and get as close to the green as possible. However, if you lay up to the corner, be prepared to play from a severe slope with your ball above your feet to induce a miss left.
Finally, the 18th, and signature hole for the course. Based on the 17th at Sawgrass, you’re hitting onto an island green, and whilst the stands from The Players Championship are missing, there’s still pressure applied from fisherman on the side of the lake and those watching from the outdoor seating. Despite its relatively short length, many a round (including some of mine) will have been ruined as the pressure of water everywhere is felt.
I'm a big fan of the course, and it's a firm favourite for after work golf in the summer. The first big positive is how much fun you can have and your ability to score well. I generally play from the yellows, and there isn't really any hole which you're not confident of making par on - and surely most golfers want to come off the course once in a while with a decent round? That's not to say it's easy - if you don't pay attention you can easily find water, especially on the front nine, scuppering the chance of a good score, and obviously you have options to add length to the round via the white tees.
Secondly, the value for money is ridiculous. As mentioned, this is one of my go-to courses during the summer, and for a twilight round, with buggy, a two-ball is usually paying just £15 per person. Even at the weekends the prices remain reasonable, and there's a tiered pricing structure depending on the time of day you tee off.
The clubhouse and bar are also decent, with a good selection of food available at reasonable prices, and the patio area provides a great location to watch groups finish off their rounds, and lose balls in the water whilst enjoying a drink or two.
Overall, West Midlands is a great choice for those looking to enjoy golf without significant cost, hopefully make a few birdies, and play some memorable holes, and it's understandable why it's so popular with golfers and societies alike. As the course matures over the years it can only get better.
Overall Rating - 8
Course (Conditions) - 8
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 7
Course (Green Condition) - 8
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 7
Club Facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 8
Practice Facilities -8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 9
Value for Money - 10
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|West Midlands Golf Club
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