Played by NCG: Woodhall Spa (The Bracken)April 15, 2016 The Scoop
Don't under-estimate the Hotchkin's younger sibling
Reason for a Woodhall Spa (Bracken) review: We were at England Golf’s first referee seminar and couldn’t resist squeezing in a round while the championship panel were dutifully sitting a tough Level 3 exam in the morning.
Where is it?: They say good things come to those who wait. That’s a relief because Woodhall Spa, situated about 18 miles from Lincoln, is not the easiest place to get to.
From York, I crossed the Humber Bridge and traversed 30 miles or so of winding back routes before the home of England Golf came gloriously into view.
What to expect?: Let’s be honest, if you are off to Woodhall Spa it’s the Hotchkin that will be foremost in your mind.
But to be disappointed at not getting on the heathland classic would be a mistake. The Bracken is a seriously good golf course.
Donald Steel’s course, opened in 1998, starts gently enough but then becomes rather tricky as you switch between the expected heathland and woodland to arable farmland.
It’s not as tight as the Hotchkin. It’s easier to find a fairway and it’s more straightforward to escape from a bunker (I found enough of them) but if you get yourself short-sided you can be in serious trouble.
My best bit: I don’t like to brag, but I did get a hole-in-one – my first – on the Par 3 7th.
I hit an 8-iron, from 127-yards, onto the front of the green and then watched as it dropped, beautifully, into the hole.
It’s hard to top a moment like that, but the par 4 2nd, with its tight tee shot and cleverly guarded green was also a highlight.
What to look out for: The undulating greens. For someone used to playing flat tracks in North Yorkshire, these were something of an eye-opener but a delight at the same time.
I’d never really realised the problem of being short-sided until I had a chip to the left of the ninth hole – with a bunker in the way and a sharp run-off area on the other side.
The putting surfaces, remember this was still early Spring, were superb even though the professional said we should ‘come back in a couple of weeks when they’ll be brilliant’. I can’t wait.
When I go back: I’ll make a point to think more about strategy and to keep my ball in the right areas. If I do that, my score will tumble.