Brancepeth Castle Golf Club – Anything but boar-ing

Brancepeth City Golf Club
Green fees
Full range of options available including group bookings - visit the website for further information
Total distance
Blue tees 6,392 yards (par 70)
White tees 6,173 yards (par 70)
Yellow tees 6,030 yards (par 70)
Red tees 5,566 (par 74)
- Clubhouse set in former stable block and coach house with good food and lots of outdoor space
- Pro shop with golf simulator
- Large practice area with covered and open bays
- Short game and putting greens
- Buggy and trolley hire

Dean Bailey visits Brancepeth Castle Golf Club and takes on its formidable par threes

When Harry Colt walked through Brancepeth Castle Deer Park in 1924, he must have had a smile on his face.

Colt’s work in the North East is renowned and the course at Brancepeth Castle Golf Club – which occupies that spectacular landscape of forest, ravines and hillside – is one of his finest.

While the coach house-turned-clubhouse and Brancepeth Castle are in view on a couple of holes, aside from those, this is a place to be fully immersed in golf.

The par four first plays much shorter than its 333 yards from the white tees thanks to its downhill and generous fairway, which leads to a green sloped from front right to back left with a trio of bunkers making front pins the toughest.

The first of the cross-ravine par threes, the second is the shortest of the set and whets the appetite for the holes to come. A wide but incredibly narrow green sits on a shelf cut into the hillside and is protected simply by the steep hills beyond and short. Any pitch to this green is near-impossible to get close.

At 439 yards, the par four third is a brute. Played blind over the crest of the hill, trees flanking the fairway show its shape. From the fairway, you get a great look at a round green with a single, long bunker on the front left corner of this beautifully contoured putting surface.

Position from the tee is vital at the fourth, and long hitters should play cautiously as the steeply sloped ravine short of the green can be in reach. From the flat, a short approach is simple enough, just stay away from the front edge of this right-to-left sloping green and its two bunkers.

The only par three which isn’t played to a plateau green, the fifth is the longest of the single-shotters at 212 yards. The left bunker is vast, running almost the full length of the green. The right bunker is around half the size, but just as tough to escape from with its high front edge. Running shots will be slowed by the back-to-front slope of the green here.

The longest hole on the course, the sixth can be stretched all the way back to 591 yards from the blue tees. If you can, play over the first fairway bunker on the left. This gives you an angle for the second shot, which must stay short of, or edge carefully past, a pair of bunkers on the right side around 100-140 yards from the green, which is elevated with two bunkers cut into the hill.

Stay in the avenue between the trees, and out of the five bunkers, at the seventh and you can make birdie at this short par four – particularly when the pin is on the flatter left side.

A 200-yard carry is required to reach the right-to-left sloping fairway at the 332-yard eighth hole – though those who make it are rewarded with a walk over the bridge with a smile on their face and a short approach over a single bunker some 15 yards short of the green on the right side. The green is superb, with two distinct plateaus divided by a drop in the centre.

The ninth is one of Colt’s great par threes and the signature hole.

The 199-yard ninth is one of the great par threes in the north of England. Set in the shadow of the castle, it is played across a ravine to a narrow green which sits on a shelf. A long and accurate shot is required to reach the putting surface, and then stay on it. The slopes at the front and back are perilous, while there is a route to run the ball in from the left. Only the bravest take aim at back right flags – the penalty should you miss is high, as is the green from where you’ll be playing next. An incredibly difficult, but spectacular, golf hole.

While the ninth is the signature hole, the 10th is equally difficult and similarly beautiful. Having climbed high above the ninth green, the 192-yard hole plays over the ravine to a much larger green with two bunkers – the left one is particularly deep.

The tee shot at the 11th requires a short carry over a deep ravine and the crest of the hill. Two fairway bunkers, including one on the right 150 yards from the green, can cause some interference, though the landing area is generous between the trees. Two deep bunkers, placed on the front corners of the green, must be avoided as both leave long, challenging shots should you be in or behind them, particularly to back flags.

Three bunkers wait in the landing area for your tee shot at the 500-yard par five 12th, which then snakes around a fourth bunker on the left some 150 yards from the green. Two more bunkers guard the green, though neither should be in play with a wedge to the biggest green on the course.

A trio of fairway bunkers also protect the semi-blind 13th – particularly the pair on the right around 130 yards from the green. While you may wish to attack a pin on the left of a green with three distinct sections, stay right as coming up short or left in the sand leaves a near-impossible bunker shot.

Theoretically a birdie opportunity, two great shots are required at the 320-yard 14th. A long drive must find the centre of the fairway beyond three bunkers to leave as unobstructed a route as possible to a tiny green which is heavily contoured and guarded by two front bunkers which pinch its front portion to no more than a few paces.

The final par three, just 151 yards, follows and once again requires a carry over a ravine. The bunker on the right guards almost the full length of the green.

A fantastic birdie opportunity when played correctly, the par five 16th requires a tee shot down the right side to open up the route to the green around the dogleg. From here, the green may be within reach, though running into the cavernous front bunkers, both with overhanging top edges, can spell disaster.

Two par fours of less than 400 yards bring the round to a close. At 17, it is essential to plot a route between the trees to leave a good look at a well-defended green featuring a deceptive bunker well short of the front edge. There are also two more bunkers – one on the left and a second, nearly 10ft deep one on the right with a large catchment area created by the steep shelf on the front right corner of the green.

The final ravine on the course lies in front of the 18th tee and a solid tee shot of at least 200 yards is required here. Having reached the flat, a simple shot is all that’s left to a large green beyond a tall-faced bunker on the front edge and one more on the left.

  • Caddy’s tip

While the course isn’t long today, very accurate and long driving is richly rewarded while excellent shots with long irons or fairway woods are required at three of the five par threes.

  • Our verdict

Given a very special piece of ground to work with, Harry Colt created one of the North East’s finest courses and it remains a must-play layout for every golfer in the region.