Relief from a plunged ball over all parts of course
Green speed 8.5
Stimpmeter Reading: 8 (1st April)
At 6400 yards, the course is not long by modern standards but, one thing that is certain, is your game will be thoroughly tested. A deep ravine cuts through the course and is a feature of many holes.
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The 2nd hole is the shortest of Brancepeth Castle’s famous par 3s. Playing across the ravine for the first time to a shallow green set on a hillside shelf, club selection and shot choice are vital to avoid spinning back down the slope at the front of the green.
At 450 yards the 3rd hole is a testing par 4. A stand of tall beech trees to the right of the fairway at about driving distance for the average player need to be avoided to have a chance to reach the green in regulation.
The 4th hole plays just short of 400 yards and, depending upon which tee you choose, can be a very different proposition. From the championship tee the hole turns ever so slightly, left to right, and the fairway narrows the farther you hit it. Having positioned your drive in the fairway you are faced with a mid to short iron approach over a valley to a green which slopes considerably right to left.
The 5th hole is the longest of the par 3s and is just under 220 yards. The view of the green is obscured by a mound and this can make perception of distance difficult. There are greenside bunkers to the left and right of the large green which slopes from back to front.
The 6th hole is the longest hole on the course at 580 yards from the Championship tee. Three good shots are generally required to get to the green. The second shot needs to be well positioned to avoid two bunkers which eat into the right hand side of the fairway and leave a straightforward shot uphill to the green.
From the back of the 7th tee you play through a narrow gap in the trees to the fairway. A bunker to the right catches many shots and needs to be avoided. Four more bunkers protect the green.
The 8th hole is a beautiful short par 4 of 330 yards. Standing on the tee you are faced with a carry of nearly 200 yards to reach the plateau fairway which sits diagonally from right to left. Longer hitters can drive straight towards the green and leave a short pitch. Others who are unable to carry the ball quite so far need to play the hole as more of a dogleg and the difficulty of your second shot depends heavily on how brave you are from the tee.
The signature hole at Brancepeth Castle, the 9th is laid out in what was the formal garden for the castle. At 200 yards and played across the ravine to a narrow, angled green which was dug out of the bankside by hand this hole is a real test. Once described as the hardest 9th hole in the world, its difficulty speaks for itself.
The 10th hole is another fantastic par 3. It is slightly shorter than the 9th hole but certainly not easy. To find the green, the tee shot needs to carry all the way as anything short will not run up. The bunker to the left of the green is large and deep and always leaves a tricky shot to save par.
The 11th hole begins with a blind tee shot over a deep ravine nd through a narrow gap in the trees. Having crossed the bridge, the hole unfolds before you. A long second shot awaits and bunkers to the left and right need to be avoided to find the putting surface.
The 12th is a downhill par 5 and is a genuine birdie opportunity. Having avoided three fairway bunkers from the tee, you have the option of taking on the green with your second shot. The green is the largest on the course and is relatively flat.
The 13th hole is a par 4 of 400 yards. The semi-blind tee shot needs to avoid a bunker to the left and two more to the right. The green is in full view from the middle of the fairway. The second shot is played slightly downhill and must avoid the large greenside bunker which protects the left side of the green.
The 14th is a short par 4 at 325 yards but it is not as easy as it would appear on the scorecard. Taking driver from the tee gives you an opportunity to get close to the green but anything off line will leave a tricky pitch to a small, bowl-shaped green which is guarded by two large bunkers at the front. The safer option from the tee is to play between the three fairway bunkers and leave yourself a full shot with a short iron to the green.
The 15th hole is the last of the par 3s and is the second shortest at 160 yards. The tee shot needs to carry the valley in front of the green and bunkers left and right need to be avoided.
The 16th is the shortest of the par 5s and is another good birdie chance. Driving up the hill to the corner of the dogleg gives you a chance to reach the green in two shots, providing you are far enough to see around the trees on the left of the fairway. The hole turns slightly left and continues uphill to a large green protected by two deep bunkers.
The 17th hole is a strong par 4. The fairway is protected on both sides by trees, so accuracy is very important from the tee. A large cross bunker protects the front of the green and makes judging your distance to the hole difficult. The green slopes considerably from left to right and bunkers left and right are waiting to catch any off-line approach.
The 18th hole has always divided opinion. Played across the ravine for the final time, longer hitters can drive to the top of the hill and on to the fairway which used to be the castle tennis courts and is a relatively flat part of the course. From here it is only a short shot into a large, flat green and can offer up a good birdie chance. For the shorter hitter, the second shot to the green is obscured and finding the green in regulation is not so straightforward.