The Brabazon Course at the Belfry is used to holding major sporting events having hosted the Ryder Cup on four individual occasions, but never has it seen anything like it witnessed on the 20th October. Yes, that’s right, the Brabazon has a new jewel in its crown: ‘Host of the Inaugural @3PuttLifeSociety End of Season Golf Day’!
After months of hype and build up, the day finally arrived, and boy did we have the weather for it. I’ll be honest, at first I was sceptical about signing up for the event knowing how temperamental the British weather can be, but come Saturday all those worries were put to rest as the fog lifted and the sun broke through the clouds to unveil a perfect autumnal day.
The Ryder Cup these days is renowned for the atmosphere around the first tee and the although the crowds weren’t there (or over half of the other players for that matter!), the nerves definitely were having not played for a month! Once underway, the nerves settled but I definitely took a while to get going and instantly regretted not going to the range beforehand!
One of the most striking features of the course is the hazards, with significant bunkering and large swathes of water almost always seemingly in play, or at the very least providing a visual distraction to the golfer. The Brabazon is very much a matchplay course, with a huge element of risk reward involved due to the positioning of the hazards. Go for the carry, or aiming to the narrower points of the fairway and you are definitely rewarded with significantly shorter approaches to the heavily undulating (and fast!) greens, or lay back from the hazards but leave yourself long carries over yet more water
After easing you into it with the first couple of holes, the first real challenge comes with the par 5 third hole. After two solid shots down the fairway, the approach from the left hand side of the fairway to a back left pin is brutal, as I found out the hard way, watching my short iron sail into the water a yard short.
After my struggles continued on the fourth, fifth and sixth, with a combination of 3 putts, struggling to get used to the speed of the greens, poor tee shots and other short game woes, my first attempt at getting a decent score on the board came at the par 3 seventh. A picturesque hole, just a mid iron over water to a slightly raised green, perfectly framed by trees, I managed to strike my iron solid, and safely found the green (inside of the closest to the pin marker- although we were only the second group out!), only to be bettered by one of my playing partners. I had left myself an uphill putt, but having been scared by the pace of previous greens, I ended up leaving my birdie putt a good 6 foot short, before racing the par putt by, and lipping out on the bogey putt. Tapping in for a 5 was definitely a painful and awakening moment, reminding me that focus is required on every shot regardless of perceived simplicity! #4puttlife anyone?
More short game troubles after finding the greenside bunker following two fairly good shots down the eighth cost me another couple of shots. Heading up the 9th, I decided to change my gameplan as I was not protecting a score and took driver off the tee. Needless to say, the usual happened, finding the trees down the left hand side! After punching out successfully, I left a 70 yard pitch over water into the 3-tiered kidney-shaped green, where the pin was residing on the lower right portion of the green. An average pitch shot left me on the bottom left tier with left myself a tricky putt which broke 90 degrees from left to right, going up a tier and then back down. I managed a solid 2 putt, and was fairly satisfied to walk away with only a bogey.
The iconic tenth at the Brabazon was next, scene of many Ryder Cup memories. The ultimate short par 4, with the green a small target tucked tightly over the meandering water hazard across the front of the putting surface, protected by overhanging branches from the surrounding trees. Not feeling confident in my swing (and even less in my ability to move the ball left to right!), I felt my best chance of birdie was going to be through laying up and a good pitch. This approach had me safely on the green in two and putting for birdie, but 3 putts later and again, I’m walking away with a disappointing bogey.
The eleventh and twelfth went by with much the same play from my behalf as on the front nine, consistently inconsistent! The highlight being a creative and well judged chip on eleven, having missed the green back left, with the pin on the lower front tier.
I finally (and somewhat embarrassingly) made my first par of the day at the thirteenth after hitting my third GIR of the day. After missing the fairway to the right, a towering 8 iron over the trees found the back half of the green, before lagging my putt up and tapping in for par.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait that long for my second par of the day, which came at the par 3 fourteenth, following a mid iron drawn in to the left side of the green off the tee. The birdie putt had the right line, but just needed a foot more pace and it could have had a chance.
The fifteenth is a fantastic twisting and turning par 5. Two gaping bunkers await errant tee shots, so I decided to lay back with a hybrid off the tee. Perhaps being a little greedy with my second trying to hit hybrid again, I pulled my second shot into the trees, never to be seen again buried by leaves! Autumnal golf can be beautiful, but my can it be frustrating!
My improved form on the back nine continued on the sixteenth. Following finding the first cut right of the fairway off the tee after an average tee shot, I sweetly struck mid iron landed just on the front edge of the green, before releasing down the tier to the same level as the pin, which was tucked back left. Two putts later and I’m walking away with my third par of the day.
The seventeenth is the longest par 5 on the course, and plays even longer due to the near 90 degree dogleg in the fairway. Longer hitters may hit over the corner, however I played a hybrid to the corner, but unfortunately found the fairway bunker on the corner. Trying to lay up short of the cross ditch in the fairway, I managed to strike my iron particularly well out of the bunker and ended up straight in the hazard! After a drop, my long iron found the back edge of the green where I was able to get down in 2 to limit the damage to a bogey.
Eighteen is yet another fantastic risk reward hole. The further up the hole you wish to hit (and thus leave yourself a shorter approach), the tighter the tee shot, and the further left you have to aim alongside the water. There are also bunkers lurking down the right hand side of the fairway to catch any shots which leak right of your intended line. Again, playing fairly conservative off the tee, I hit hybrid and found the semi rough on the right hand side, but left myself about 190 yards to the flag. I attempted to force a 3 iron, but ended up chunking it, which actually worked out as a pretty good layup to a more manageable distance! With 8 iron in over the spectacular water hazard, I found the left hand side of the green with my third. I hit one of the best putts I hit all day, the perfect lag putt, before tapping in and closing out with a fairly respectable bogey.
Overall, a fantastic day was had by all at the inaugural @3PuttLifeSociety End of Season Golf Day, and I think it was safe to say that the course defeated most of us! It was a pleasure to play a course steeped in history, and is hopefully the first of many seasons of golf with this awesome and ever growing group of people.
Special thanks to all of the various sponsors (Walrus Apparel, Seed Golf, P2 Grips, SawyerCo Golf, Go&Golf) for providing prizes for the event and kitting us out, The Belfry for hosting us, and of course to Ross Noonan for helping to organise the whole event! Hopefully we raised lots of money for Oxfordshire Mind.
– The Sussex Golfer