The Brabazon is one of those golf courses that does not need introducing, it’s played host to more Ryder Cups than any other course in the world (four in total)! Just recently I was lucky enough to be given my own opportunity to “try” and recreate one or two of these magical Ryder Cup moments, such as Christy O’Connor Jnr’s 2-iron on the 18th or the countless attempts to drive the iconic par-4 10th hole.

The designers, Peter Aliss and Dave Thomas, were given just an ordinary piece of farmland, which required major sculpting to transform it into the extraordinary golf course it is today. For golfer’s across the world The Belfry (and the Brabazon, particularly) is always right up their list of must play courses – drawing thousands of golfing enthusiasts each year, who try to recreate some of the shots they’ve seen on TV during the various Ryder Cups that have been and gone.

Walking onto the first tee really is a special experience, and just in case you’ve forgotten, there is a large sign which reminds you of the dates that the Brabazon played host to the Ryder Cup – 1985, 1989, 1993 & 2003. Anyway enough of that, here’s a quick rundown my experience of a golf course which is dripping in golfing history…

1st Hole – Par 4 – 393 yards

A superb hole to open, it has intimidating bunkers in play from the tee – any stray tee-shots will more than likely be gobbled up by the sand traps left and right of the fairway. The green is raised slightly, so it’s recommended that you hit the ball a bit harder to ensure you reach the hole. My first shot of the round was a pushed drive and I managed to find a bunker – which ultimately led me to a dropped shot on the first after reaching the green in three and two putting for a bogey 5.

2nd Hole – Par 4 – 330yard

A good word to describe the second is “tight”. Trees smother the right hand side of the hole and an undersized green which slopes towards you means a tee shot which lands on the fairway is the key to taming this short hole. There is also a river running in front of the green – so only the biggest of hitters should consider going for it in one. I chose to elect a rescue from the tee – this turned out to be the sensible option as I reached the fairway and then proceeded to hit my approach to 6 feet, sinking the putt for a pleasing birdie 3.

3rd Hole – Par 5 – 512 yards

Here you will be hitting to a raised fairway, which is made even more difficult by the bunkers in play to the left and to the right of the fairway. If you manage to smack one down the middle you’ll be left with a real risk/reward shot towards the green, as the front and left of the putting surface is bordered by a large water hazard. So in order to reach in two a controlled draw is needed to negotiate through to the undulating green. I managed to bomb my tee shot down the middle (doesn’t happen too often) and left myself with a rescue club to the green. Unfortunately my putting hat didn’t seem to be on and I walked off with a 3-putt par.

4th Hole – Par 4 – 407 yards

This long par-4 has trees left and right – so hook or slice is not the recommended approach from the tee. Again you will be playing your second shot to a slightly raised green which adds further difficulty along with the fast green which slopes severely from back to front. If you fail to hit your approach hard enough you will either find the drink or a gaping bunker just to the right of the green.  After teeing off I found myself in a good position to get close in two, but alas I found the water with my second after catching a fat one – proceeding to scramble a bogey after taking a drop.


The par-4 4th hole has a water hazard right in front of the green, so make sure you take enough club!


5th Hole – Par 4 – 388 yards

Another well designed hole by the architectural duo of Allis and Thomson, the bunkers off the tee await eagerly to swallow any balls which are running off the fairway. The approach shot to the green is a tricky one with club selection key as the green is not particularly long. My 3-wood from the tee reaches the middle of the fairway and in turn my 8-iron to 15 feet, however I missed the putt and tapped in for a par.

6th Hole – Par 4 – 430 yards

A very frightening hole from the tee, water smothers the whole of the left hand side of the fairway and putting surface so you need to stick to the right of the hole (unless you fancy getting wet). My rescue club finds the semi-rough on the right (maybe I was playing too safe) which in turn left a tricky shot to reach the green in two so I took the sensible route and decided to lay up. I hit my approach to 6 feet, but narrowly missed the putt; I was now 2-over for the day.

7th Hole – Par 3 – 171 yards

The shortest hole at the Brabazon is the 7th – however it should not be underestimated as it’s a tricky one. The putting surface slopes rather dramatically from back to front; a well stuck tee-shot could easily find the green but roll back into the lake which protects the front. I again played safe and my tee-shot finished just off the back; however a solid up-and-down led to a pleasing 3-stroke hole.

8th Hole – Par 4 – 428 yards

Now on to the most difficult hole on the course, with stroke index 1 it’s easy to see why! There is a massive bunker in play on the right and the fairway follows to the left towards the water – finding the fairway on this hole is no mean feat. Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter found out the hard way a few years back at the British Masters and it’s easy to see why. My tee shot ends up in the bunker on the right, leaving me no option to splash out. I then reached the green and two putted once more for yet again another bogey.

9th Hole – Par 4 – 433 yards

The 9th is probably one of the best known holes at the Belfry. The uphill approach towards the clubhouse features a big putting surface which is protected by a bulky bunker and water to the front right. This time I wasn’t going to hold back, after I hit my drive straight down the middle, my approach smothered the flag and I made the short birdie putt.

10th Hole – Par 4 – 301 yards

I stopped at the halfway house for some much needed warm soup and cuppa in preparation for the hole I’d been waiting for. With the thought of Seve Ballesteros driving the green (using a persimmon driver) in 1985 I felt it necessary to give it a go myself. Setting up for a fade I manage a good strike, however it somehow manages to stay left of the green but luckily stays out of the wet stuff. The chip on is put to 10 feet and I manage to sink the putt, back to back birdies! The putting surface of the 10th is lightning quick, sloping towards the water so caution is recommended when you get close to the green on this hole.


The 10th hole is one of the most famous holes in golf and it’s an unwritten rule that you have to go for the green from the tee.


11th Hole – Par 4 – 406 yards

The perfect shot from the tee on this par-4 is a fade; this will help you to avoid the bunkers which protect the left and right hand sides of the fairway. The hole sweeps round to the right and, just like many of the holes at the Brabazon, finishes with a raised green – making it essential you hit the short stuff with your drive if you’re looking for a birdie opportunity. Unfortunately for me I over cut my drive and finished ahead of the right hand side bunker in the rough. I manage a good approach shot which lands on the green, and a two putt from there makes for a solid par.

12th Hole – Par 3 – 188 yards

The 12th is a great par-3; trees border the green giving it a real amphitheatre feel. As well as the trees the putting surface is also protected by a cascading river up the right hand side – making it imperative that you don’t come up short on this hole. Just like most of the holes at the Brabazon the green slopes from back to front, so ideally from the tee you will be landing the ball just short of the flag to give yourself a straightforward uphill putt. I do exactly this, my shot is arrow straight and I land just 5 feet from the pin with my 5 Iron – sank the putt so now back to level for the day.

13th Hole – Par 4 – 363 yards

Unlucky for some, the 13th hole is a relatively forthright hole which has a couple of bunkers and an ‘Out of Bounds’ on the left, so ideally a tee shot over the right hand bunker should leave you with an easy approach. Or if you’re feeling cautious you could hit an iron from the tee, leaving yourself short of the left hand bunker and a 150 yard approach to the green. The small putting surface slants from left to right so you’ll need to be accurate when hitting your approach shot as its one of the trickiest on the course. I take the risky approach by using the driver, hitting the fairway I then proceed to hit my second to 12 feet, however a poor first putt means that I walk of the green with a par.

14th Hole – Par 3 – 183 yards

This was the hole that saw Sir Nick Faldo’s ace at the Ryder Cup in 1993! However I wasn’t feeling confident in emulating Sir Nick, having never had a hole in one in my 8 years as a golfer. The putting surface is set towards an angle so the landing area isn’t particularly generous. The green is two-tiered so it’s important to find the right level if you are looking for an easy putt. My 5-iron finds the right tier, however I’m still left with a 20-foot putt for birdie. I lip out and tap in for another par, so I stick to level par.

15th Hole – Par 5 – 545 yards

From the tee there are bunkers in play left and right of the fairway, so it really needs a straight drive to give you a chance at hitting the green in two shots. There is also a river running through the middle of the hole – which apparently only comes into play if you’re one of the longest hitters in the European Tour. Luckily for me I’m not exactly European Tour Standard, so I safely take my driver off the tee and find the middle of the fairway. My second is a rescue which comes up just short of the green, however a weak chip and a two-putt leaves me feeling frustrated as I walk to the next tee.


The par-5 15th is a hole to have a go at as it can be reached in two, just watch out for the tricky three-tiered green!


16th Hole – Par 4 – 405 yards

This hole is all about the approach shot. Very little of the putting surface can be seen from the fairway, so it’s strongly recommended that you check where the pin is before you head out. The green itself has a large slope which separates the left and the right hand sides. So if you don’t get close with your approach you’ll be left with a very difficult putt – so try to hit your approach close! My attempt at driving over the bunker to the left of the fairway goes horribly wrong and I land straight in the middle of it. Left with no option but to get as close to the green as I can with my second, I manage a superb pitch for my third and manage to sink the putt for a scrambled par. Things are going well for me just now and I’m hopeful of not throwing away my solid scoring with a bad hole – just two left to play.

17th Hole – Par 5 – 545 yards

A sweeping par-5 dog leg which swings from left or right. The long hitters amongst us will have a go at hitting over the trees on the right, however it’s difficult to choose a line and shape for the tee-shot, as the fairways narrows the closer you get to the green meaning hitting the short stuff is tough. This hole is a certain three-shot par-5 if you don’t manage to finish on the fairway from your drive. I played this hole conservatively and left myself with a 100 yard approach for my third – putting this to 10 feet I stroked home the putt for a pleasing birdie. Now one-under going into the last hole!

18th Hole – Par 4 – 441 Yards

The 18th hole on the Brabazon is one of the most famous in the world of golf. The daunting tee shot puts you up against a narrow fairway and large lake – not the tee shot you want to be faced with if you’re under pressure. The further left the drive the shorter the second shot – however this comes with the great risk of finding a watery grave. The safe shot is aimed at the fairway bunker with a draw. As you make your way up the fairway you will notice a plaque from where Christy O’Connor Jnr hit that extraordinary 2-iron in 1989! I pulled my drive and for a moment I thought I was in the water, luckily I had somehow just carried the wet stuff and landed neatly on the fairway. The second shot is an intimidating one – to a three-tiered green! I manage to find the green, however I’m not on the right tier. This leaves me with a very difficult two-putt from about 30 feet, the first is struck well but I had misread the break. I now have a tough 4 footer for par! However I pulled the putt horribly and tapped in the third (I think the pressure must have gotten to me).


One of the greatest finishing holes in golf with one of the best greens!


Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the experience at The Belfry, in particular my round on the Brabazon. The course itself obviously has the famous stand-out holes such as the 10th and the 18th which are very special to play. However when you do get the chance to play the Brabazon it’s important to appreciate that the Brabazon and the Belfry have more to offer than just these holes.

Also despite the time of year that I played being mid-February and also as the Brabazon is a ‘resort’ course the fairways and putting surfaces were in excellent condition! The sloping greens mean that they always drain well which helps to ensure that it’s a perfect golf break destination even throughout the winter. Your Golf Travel offer Belfry Golf Packages for just £135 including accommodation, dinner, breakfast and two rounds of golf (Brabazon and Derby) or just £89 including PGA National and Derby courses. To find out more information just call 0800 043 6644.