They say less is more and that is certainly the case when it comes to the fruits of Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson’s labours at Blackwell. The duo only combined on seven UK courses but may not have worked too often with fewer acres than the land found close to this Worcestershire village. What they produced with just 102 of them is a course that continues to pose questions and challenges – regardless of the relentless advances in technology. That’s largely down to some spectacular greens surfaces.
Firm, true, and with careful borrows and crowns, negotiating them successfully is the key to a successful score here – even though anything wayward off the tee settles down into some tough rough that is difficult to negotiate.
That the course has altered dramatically over the years is beyond doubt. Simpson and Fowler were acquainted with a heathland setting on arrival but the planting of thousands of trees since Blackwell opened in the 1920s has transformed it into a tight parkland track.
There have been efforts to change that in the last few years, as the removal of copses and the restoration of bunker faces have attempted to rediscover the original intentions.
At some point in the past, the two nines may also have been switched – hence the rather grandiose raised tee, flanked by floral arrangements on one side and pines on the other, that opens the way to the 10th.
Potential card wreckers lie throughout, even though Blackwell ‘only’ stretches to 6,260 yards from the tips.
The near double dogleg of the long 3th all but forces you to work the ball both right and left – a skill that’s largely disappearing from the modern game – while the par 3 9th is 203 yards and a stretch of water away from the safety of the green. That not only requires a good strike but some nerve as well.
You’ll have to work out for yourself whether the 13th, at 181 yards, really is the inspiration for the famous 12th at Augusta National.