Woodhall Spa (Bracken) Golf Club
- Par 72
- 6171 Yds
It is the fate of some outstanding courses in Britain to be forever in the shadow of their more famous neighbours. Take the New and Jubilee at St Andrews. Or Panmure, adjacent to Carnoustie.
Murcar, which shares a boundary with Royal Aberdeen is another example. So it is with the Bracken Course at Woodhall Spa.
Since The Hotchkin is commonly regarded as without equal among inland courses in the British Isles, how can its younger sibling possibly compare? Quite simply, it cannot. But that does not mean it is not an outstanding new course in its own right.
And in scratch events played over both the Hotchkin and the Bracken, you might be surprised to learn that the higher scores often come at the latter. But enough of the Hotchkin and invidious comparisons.
Taken in isolation, this Donald Steel design (he is a former president of the English Union whose headquarters are on site at Woodhall Spa) is a fine parkland layout that makes full use of the mature trees sprinkled around the generously sized estate it occupies.
The greens are firm, fast and rarely flat and each of the par 5s offers the distant promise of being reachable in two but only if a pair of high-risk shots are taken on successfully. Water features sporadically, as do short par 4s, which is always nice to see on a contemporary design.
For the perfect visit, we suggest arriving at lunchtime (in truth it is hard to arrive in this part of rural Lincolnshire much earlier from any kind of distance).
Take advantage of the sensational practice facilities before playing the Bracken and then retire to either the Petwood Hotel or Woodhall Spa Hotel (both of which are excellent and ideally located – see factbox opposite for contact details) for dinner and drinks.
Then, after a good night’s sleep, you can tackle the mighty Hotchkin the following morning before returning to real life.
With greens that are firm, fast and rarely flat, the Bracken is a fine parkland that makes full use of the mature trees.
Top Holes by Dan Murphy, editor:
6th 528 yards, par 5
A typically clever par 5. Downhill all the way, length is not the issue. Play it as a three-shotter and you should make a comfortable five but reach for the driver off the tee to bring the green in range and you will need to be very straight.
8th 314 yards, par 4
Again, this is a tempter with the green in range for many. But with a winding stream crossing the fairway twice and a target that is hard to hold, you will need to think this through before blasting away from the tee.
15th 397 yards, par 4
It’s very easy to let the natural angle of this hole fool you into aiming across the fairway and towards a stream that runs down the right-hand side. Instead, aim left to find a flat portion of fairway and set up a birdie chance.