Brandon Wood Golf Course Club Feature Review

By: Kevin Heggie | Mon 15 Jun 2020 | Comments


Review by Golfshake Ambassador Kevin Heggie


Situated on the outskirts of Coventry lies Brandon Wood Golf Club, on the banks of the River Avon and close to a nature reserve, it was first opend in 1976 as a municipal run by Coventry Sports Trust, remaining open to all. Measuring as a par 72 at just over 6,500 yards from the white tees, the yellows are a couple of hundred yards shorter but still providing a good test. 

The parkland design uses the land well, with fairways lined with mature woodland with the Avon lurking to catch out wayward shots on a number of holes. Additionally, the course design uses classic features to really test the golfer. 11 holes feature doglegs, which forces the golfer to deploy a strategic approach to the round if they are to score well, and a number of the greens have multiple levels placing a premium on distance control and precision. In terms of facilities, on-site is a decent warm up area with a reasonably sized driving range, chipping area, and large putting green, and the bar area has a great elevated patio to watch people come down the hill towards the 18th.  

As part of the review I also caught up with the Head Greenkeeper Jake Field, who joined in February 2019 to get more information on the course and his plans for its future. On joining, he acknowledged that the course needed some TLC, and instigated a comprehensive green renovation programme, which is now starting to bear fruit. Jake has an interesting background, and brings experience from an internship at Ohio State, where he worked on preparing Harbour Town for the PGA Tour, before moving to work as a deputy course manager at PGA National in Sweden. These experiences are now shaping his vision to make Brandon the best municipal in the UK, which is a great ambition to have. (Give Jake a follow on Twitter if you want to understand the life of a greenkeeper some more!)

Front 9 Overview

A tough starting par 5, the longest on the course, requires you to hit the ground running, with the fairway bottlenecking around 250 yards out. Additionally, the fairway slopes in the landing area left to right which means unless you find the left hand side, you may find you are blocked from hitting it on direct line to the green, forcing you to fade the ball over out of bounds which runs all alongside the approach to the green. A short par 3 to a tabletop green follows, but anything left of the green will likely end up in the Avon, and a deep bunker awaits those who are too wary of the water on the right.  

Next up is a really good par 4, giving you options off the tee as to how to play it. A conservative approach will mean you should easily find the widest part of the fairway, but this will then leave you a long and/or blind second shot over the Avon, as the hole turns sharply left. The bolder play is to aim at the large tree around 240 yards away which should then give you a shorter approach to a narrow green, but this places a premium on accuracy as the fairway narrows considerably, and too far left and again the river is in play.

A short, arrow straight par 4 follows, with the Avon running the length of the hole on the left, and mature woodland to the right. The hole also has one of the largest greens on the course, and slopes significantly from back to front to provide some additional protection and multiple pin options. Up next is a relatively short dogleg par 5 and is reachable in two assuming you have the necessary right to left ball flight from the tee box.  

Another short par 3 follows, again to an elevated green complex with a narrow entrance - Brandon’s answer to Troon’s Postage Stamp! Missing the green from the tee will require a really good up and down to save par. The 7th hole is a relatively short par 4, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Due to the dogleg design, you really need to be hugging the right-hand side of the fairway, thus reducing the landing target considerably. Anything left and you’ll need some creativity to get to the small green in regulation.

Closing out the back 9 are a couple of really strong par 4s. The 8th doglegs close to 90 degrees right at around 170 yards. The more accomplished player may attempt to cut the corner, but most should opt to hit the corner of the fairway, leaving a long iron or hybrid into the well protected two-tiered green. Finally, the dogleg right 9th has a couple of mature oak trees at the kink, challenging the golfer into making a decision as to whether to play conservatively to the left, and accept a long approach in or fly over the top, cutting the corner and length of approach shot to a multi-tiered green. However, if too much is cut off, out of bounds awaits.

Back 9 Overview

The back 9 begins with another strong par 4, dog-legging left at around 230-240 yards leaving most golfers with a mid-iron into the two-tiered green. The 11th is a par 3 which is first seen as you walk towards the 9th tee. Similar to the previous par 3s on the course, it’s not long, but danger lurks left in the form of a big bunker, and right with humps ready to kick your ball off towards a ditch which runs the length of the hole.

Two enjoyable par 5s follow back to back and present good opportunities for birdies and more. The 12th is another reachable par 5, assuming you miss the fairway bunker from the tee and don’t block yourself out on the left. The 13th plays over 500 yards on the card, but in reality, plays further as the two-tiered green is perched at the top of a hill. The longest par 3 follows, playing around 170 yards, and requires a tee shot over a deep pit, threaded between two trees to an interesting green complex with a hump in the middle creating a good challenge to overcome once you arrive.  

Following this is the shortest par 4 on the course but is no pushover. From the tee you need to decide how aggressive you want to be, given the fairway runs out around 220 yards and narrows considerably, with the dogleg very close to the green. A conservative layup still needs to be well executed as close to the fairway bunker you can get, as anything too right will see you blocked out from the green behind a large tree and requiring a low chip and run to try to get close to the green which backs on to the nature reserve nearby. A straightforward uphill par 4 follows, with the main protection on this hole being the fairway bunkers and green side mounding and gives you a good chance for birdie.

Closing out the round are a couple of good par 4s, both measuring a shade under 400 yards from the yellows. The 17th has a cluster of trees facing you from the tee around 200 yards out to create another dogleg, with a dip in the fairway shortly after. The approach shot requires an accurate iron into another two-tiered green, with bunkers short left and right to catch out anything offline. Finally, the 18th has a severe dogleg right at around 220 yards. The left-hand side will give you the best look down towards the green from the brow of the hill but out of bounds is very much in play. Anything too far right will almost certainly encounter trees and a high chance of a lost ball to ruin the round at the end unless you have the driving distance to carry the corner.

Verdict

Brandon was one of the first courses I played when I took up the game, and I’ve always enjoyed playing it, but at times it hasn’t always been in the best condition. However, the new Head Greenkeeper and team have done a sterling job and now the course is in great shape, the best I’ve ever seen it play. The greens are exceptional in terms of condition and pace (and this is also backed up by more recent reviews from other Golfshake members who also extol its conditions), so the course rating is definitely trending upwards. It is helped immensely by the fact the course was designed around the foundations of strong course architecture from tee to green, and all par 3s offer most golfers the chance of birdie and bogey. Additionally, on the horizon are further renovation plans in the form of further bunker development and tree planting planned to toughen it up in places. Furthermore, the course remains good value for money, with rounds currently available for between £20-30.

The clubhouse and bar are also decent, with a reasonable selection of well-priced food available, and the patio area is usually busy in the summer and provides a great location to watch groups close out their rounds, and maybe struggling to get out of the bunkers surrounding the final green! Overall, Brandon is worthy of a visit if you haven’t played it before (and a revisit for those who haven’t been for a couple of years) as it provides a good challenge to all standard of golfers, and is well deserving of its ‘Highly Recommended’ Golfshake status as it strives towards the ‘best muni’ crown.

Overall Rating - 8

Course (Conditions) - 9

Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 8

Course (Green Condition) - 9

Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 8

Club facilities & 19th/Clubhouse - 7

Practice Facilities - 8

Friendliness/Hospitality - 9

Pace of Play - 8

Value for Money - 8


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