Bramshaw Golf Club Forest Course Feature Review
Bramshaw Golf Club in Hampshire has been graded Highly Recommended status by Golfshake members for the past five years, as well as being classed as an Outstanding Venue in 2020 and 2021. The club also featured in the Must Play list for 2022, so we took our own advice and sent Ambassador Rob Treanor in July to experience the venue’s two courses.
The Forest Course was first established in 1865 by a wealthy local resident, with Bramshaw Golf Club forming in 1880. The course is laid out on common ground in the New Forest and enjoys the reputation as the oldest in Hampshire. This heritage gem is absolutely unique and offers an experience not to be missed.
This is a very special golf course. Played over common ground in the heart of the New Forest, the course is shared with the roaming ponies, deer and other majestic animals which call the forest their home. A more natural course you will not find.
The experience is far removed from the setup at many modern clubs. There are no GPS buggies, roving drinks carts or manicured grounds. An altogether more organic and wholesome setup is delivered by the ancient landscape of the forest. The course is also proud to be plastic free, meaning only wooden tees are permitted, adding a further retro layer of authenticity. Standing on the first tee at the top of the terrain, the first glimpse of the course below confirms it has been embedded into the land over hundreds of years.
Front 9 Overview
The first hole begins with a pleasing downhill drive. It is worth checking the rudimentary map offered in the pro shop to confirm the best line because on a course like this, the fairways differ from the status quo. Owing to the area’s status as a site of special scientific interest, the greenkeepers are only permitted to cut the fairways twice a year. Instead the grass remains remarkably well clipped thanks to the majestic ponies, deer and cows which graze the land. After the inviting tee shot, danger awaits where a gully breaks the fairway a few yards from green. Small by modern standards, part of the challenge and the enjoyment is to adapt to the conditions posed by this most natural of golf courses.
The third hole is breathtaking. The fairway is reached by playing through the woodblocks which sit either side of the enforced carry, framing the opening shot beautifully. Perched on a hill in the distance, the green is surrounded by a white fence to guard it from animal damage. From the tee box in the low ground, the white pickets seem almost like dragon’s teeth on a misty morning. The gradient of the slope on the green is acute, meaning anything long of the flag results in a harrowing finish to the hole.
Par five 6th is perhaps the signature hole. After an innocuous start, the approach to the green is played over a wonderful glade. This truly memorable shot transforms the hole, with the landscape morphing from an open plain into a lush valley. The approach is aided by a bank to the rear of the green which tends to push anything long back towards a more favorable position. This is a moment to cherish in what is an entirely immersive experience.
Back 9 Overview
The par threes on the Forest Course are perhaps the standout holes. The 120 yard 12th is played over a gorgeous valley containing a stream which absolutely must be carried. An anomaly for the course, the green features two tiers as a result of the natural features of the bank it sits upon. The visuals all correspond perfectly on this hole, it is a joy to play.
The 17th is another cracking par three, played from edge of woodblock, the hole runs downhill to the green. With a lone tree long of the green as a target, it pays to be left as a severe bank falls away on the right hand side. Another very entertaining hole on this fabulous course.
The round finishes with a final quirk. The 18th plays a mere 275 yards back up to the top of the hill, though the right half of the green is obscured by a scraggy woodblock containing hawthorn, bracken and other nasties. Given the direct route is treacherous, a safer play is to venture left, though care must be taken not to overreach, else the trees on the left can also hinder the approach. The intimidating second shot is then played uphill to what appears to be an infinity green. The steep apron at the front of the plateau, coupled with the road to the rear which is reminiscent of many Scottish courses, makes this a more challenging and exciting hole than it appears on the card. An excellent end to a thrilling round.
This is wild golf, raw and untamed. Playing the same as it was 150 years ago, the experience is much more in tune with the natural surrounds of the forest than today’s generic setups. That authenticity is what gives the place its charm. Encounters with all manner of creatures await, who stand by wondering what curious game is being played on their land. A rare and unique level of purity to the game is on offer here.
The Forest Course simply isn’t like any other golfing experience. Be prepared to play a different kind of golf full of nuances, details and trivialities. There is a need to conjure up imagination and to work with the hollows, bumps and swales ingrained into the ancient land.
Almost unfathomably, the greens are of the same immaculate standard as at the Manor Course. As for the fairways, their ruggedness is a big part of the experience. Will every shot get a predictable bounce after a good strike onto the fairway? Unlikely. Will you find yourself needing to take free relief from a hoofprint? Probably. Will you enjoy a unique and thrilling golfing experience? Definitely… we certainly did.
Overall Rating - 9
Course (Conditions) - 8
Course (Hole Variety/Layout) - 8
Course (Green Condition) - 9
Course (Challenge/Difficulty) - 9
Club Facilities & Clubhouse - 8
Friendliness/Hospitality - 9
Pace of Play - 9
Value For Money - 10
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