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Sean_A

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Handsworth GC New
« on: June 09, 2007, 06:17:18 AM »
The great Bernard Darwin thought enough of Handsworth to include it in his most famous tome, The Golf Courses Of The British Isles. Unfortunately for historians, but likely fortunate for members, his description doesn't match what is in the ground today.  True enough, the opening duo are as described, but little else raises an eyebrow.  We do know HS Colt carried out considerable revisions to the course shortly after the finish of WWI and that three holes near the current 12th and 13th were abandoned in the 70s.  #s 3-5 (Hawtree?) replaced these holes.  While the 5th is a terrific short par 5, the other two holes are quite ordinary.  In fact, for a course Colt was involved with, Handsworth has exceptionally average par 3s and as a set of holes is one of the two glaring weaknesses of the course.  The other deficiency was pointed out by Darwin more than 100 years ago; "...although they (the greens) are perhaps rather lacking in variety and err on the side of flatness". This sentiment still rings true today.  While the greens have subtle slope, they are virtually devoid of contour and shape which may compliment the bunkering. 

Handsworth is a member of the 1895 Club, the same year Sandwell Park, a once prominent Birmingham club not more than a few miles distant, was founded.  Probably best known in England for being the site of several race riots covering the last three decades, the golf club is fortressed in a middle class urban area with a high concentration of people of Asian decent.  Leaving the M5 and heading past The Hawthorns and into Handsworth, it is near on impossible to think that a course was buried somewhere in this concrete jungle perhaps 3 miles from the centre of the largest city (technically anyway!) in the UK.  This is slightly misleading, however, as there is actually quite a large green area which includes not only Handsworth GC, but Hilltop Golf Course (a Birmingham Municipal) next door, the already mentioned Sandwell Park GC, Dartmouth GC, a lake, a few parks west of the M5 and more open space spreading to the far northern border of Birmingham.

As noted earlier, the second is an original hole, but I wonder if Colt created the bunker placement. 



The cracking 5th is a reverse dogleg which climbs to a steep plateau.  The card lists this as a par 5, but I wonder if it might be better to move the tee forward 25 yards and be left with a monster par 4. 


On the 7th we drive downhill over a road to a tightly guarded fairway; water left and OOB right.  The green is somewhat large (like most on the course). 


The front nine finishes with one of those tricky drives.  Water bisects the fairway and it is more easily reachable due the downhill nature of the tee shot.  Yet, the golfer instinctively knows he must get maximum distance from his drive to minimize the difficulty of the uphill second. 


The back nine is a bit more consistent with its quality partly because the one-shotters are better, but I also think there are more interesting angles off the tee.  Its also evident that the bunkering is quite unusual for the Brum area.  Many of the bunkers are much larger, deeper and more centre-line oriented than normal.  The bunkers were re-done about 10 years ago.  I notice on a few approaches, there is a spread bunker giving the appearance of a funnel effect.  I noticed this at Stratford as well and I think Hawtree also redid the bunkering there.  One clever aspect of this bunkering is it obscures a dangerously situated stream just left of the green. 


The long one-shot 11th.


The 12th is a longish par 4 playing to a narrow fairway which ends abruptly.


More spread bunkering with trademark Colt bumps framing the corners of the green.


After much of the golf being of a more open nature, the 13th is very narrow off the tee.  The raised green is hidden by bunkers and as the bunkering suggests, angles a bit left. 


#14 is Handsworth's only outstanding hole.  The creek can be taken on for the drive, but one has to be quite accurate.  For most, a lay-up turns this difficult par 4 into a three-shotter. The uphill approach after a perfect lay-up. 


The moderate length 15th is only moderate if we take on the bunkers.



#16, nothing special, but solid golf design.  A good if unexceptional par 3, the uphill 17th follows.  Its a shame that trees mar the view of the hole.  In general, I didn't think the trees caused playing problems, but they sure ruined some of the vistas of the course.  The flag in the background is the 2nd.  I think a great double green could have been built here.


The home hole, a short par 5.  The fairway here near the bunker is quite narrow - maybe 15 yards wide.  If one wants to get home in two he has to take on the length of the creek to the right. 


A view of the green after a layup; again, simple yet effective architecture. 


I am mildly impressed with Handsworth.  The course is generally solid yet somehow feels let-down here and there.  For sure, the par 3s hold back what I think could be a better course.  I couldn't generally recommend the course, but if one is in the area and is invited, he shouldn't be disappointed if only because Handsworth is one the friendliest clubs I have ever come across.  The members and staff made it a point to make us feel welcome and valued.

Ciao
« Last Edit: March 11, 2022, 02:20:46 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Paul_Turner

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Re:Handsworth GC
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2007, 12:49:08 PM »
Sean

Great stuff thanks so much for these.  I haven't seen this course but it is on the short list for the Brum area.  Have you played nearby Sandwell Park?.  It's excellent and like Handsworth an oasis from the urban mess.

Handsworth is old, dating back to the 19th Century and has an interesting but hazy evolution.  Darwin writes about the original in his 1908 book and the club history has a plan of the course after Colt's redesign soon after WW1.  But I don't think anyone really knows what was there before.  It was much more barren and open then; it even looks heathland from Rountree's painting:



From looking at the club history,  the central bunkers were always there but have been rebuilt recently (as you thought and I'd guess by Martin Hawtree?); a few have been added or pushed further out for the modern game.

Holes 3,4,5 were added in the early 70s (by Hawtree and Son), replacing the 3 holes by the River Tame that were abandoned because of occasional flooding.  These fallow holes are easily discernible and one of the greens (top left) is still used for an extra par 3 hole; it used to play as a par 4, crossing over the current 13th.  



« Last Edit: June 09, 2007, 06:41:55 PM by Paul_Turner »
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Paul_Turner

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Re:Handsworth GC
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2007, 01:11:18 PM »
PS

Sean, i think you'd really like Harborne which is cheap too at about 35 quid.

I've seen a bit of Olton and it looks good too,  but quite posh and so, I guess, more expensive.

I think you've probably seen Copt Heath and Edgbaston?
« Last Edit: June 09, 2007, 01:11:34 PM by Paul_Turner »
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Paul_Turner

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Re:Handsworth GC
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2007, 02:43:05 PM »
Sean

Another old course I want to see is Coventry, mainly for the ultra severe par 3 17th.
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

PPallotta

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Re:Handsworth GC
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2007, 04:11:42 PM »
Sean, Paul
thanks - this is a very enjoyable read/exchange.

Peter

Paul_Turner

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Re:Handsworth GC
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2007, 06:08:16 PM »
Sean

Yes I thought Whittington Heath (I prefered "Whittington Barracks"-more original) was exellent.  The terrain moves just enough to provide interesting golf, but I think it plays best when the ground is hard because the greens blend so well with the rippling fairways.  Super finish 12-18.

Great 14th, which, with a bit more heather, wouldn't be out of place on Walton Heath.



I agree Blackwell is a hidden gem and in a lovely rural setting.  I was a bit peeved at the recent sodding of many of the bunkers because  Tom Simpson was so artistic.  The club history shows some of his intricate/lacey drawing and I thought there was no way the bunkers were ever actually built that intricately.  But I found an old pic in a magazine and it was exactly like the pencil drawings!

I'm sure you remember that unique snake bunker on what I think is the 12th. It must have been about 200yards long  :o



I think this was the 13th.  A brilliant par 3 protected by both stream, bunkers and severly canted green.  A back right pin position is a killer.



The 18th:

« Last Edit: June 09, 2007, 06:39:46 PM by Paul_Turner »
can't get to heaven with a three chord song

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Handsworth GC
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2013, 03:00:04 PM »
Just bringing this post back up because I felt like it.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, St Pats, The Loop x2, Arcadia Bluffs South, Lawsonia Links, Shoreacres, Culver Academies, Meadowbrook, Dunes Club & Crystal Downs

Tony_Muldoon

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: Handsworth GC
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2013, 03:33:17 PM »
Despite having lived nearby for a year I've really nothing at all to add.


...except that Birmingham is home to one of the more unusual golf web sites

http://www.calltheshots.org/the-golf-duck-fan-club/ 
on 29th May I am riding 100 Miles to help raise funds for Dementia Research. All donations are welcome.
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ridelondon-tonymuldoon

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