Copt Heath is over 100 years old and was essentially routed by Vardon. Colt later altered and enhanced green sites and added many bunkers. There are meant to be close to 100, but I am not sure Colt left the course with this many. The club is situated in a smart section of Knowle, just east of the M42 and less than five miles from Birmingham city centre. Long considered one of the premier clubs in the Birmingham surrounds, Copt Heath is probably best known for its association with Peter McEvoy who successfully captained the GB&I Walker team in 1999 and 2001. The club has been the site of regional qualifying for the Open on many an occassion and annually hosts the Peter McEvoy Trophy, a prestigous event for some of the finest juniors in Europe.
The course is dominated by the bunkers as many fairways are lined with sand; making the judgement of safe lay-up areas between bunkers paramount. Several bunkers also lie perpindicular to the tee creating a clausterphobic impression when combined with the wing bunkers. Many of the greens are elevated and generally tame with a few subtle exceptions including a handful of front to back slopers. The front nine is tighter than the back, but both sides have a few wide and narrow holes. Strangely for Colt, there are only three par 3s, but all are good without being special. One final note, there are five par 4s which are drivable, yet none have sufficient width to justify the risk. I personally found this a great disappointment.
There aren't many openers which impress less than Copt Heath's! Completely unimaginative bunkering. Fortunately, the second is a great improvement mainly due to the green complex which is sunken below the main part of the fairway.
A view from side.
The first one-shotter falls early in the round. A feature used repeatedly at Copt Heath is a front bunker which confuses the visual clues.
#4, the first of the short par 4s, continues the run along the boundary of the course. There is more room to the right than it appears from the tee, but oddly much of that space isn't a great angle of approach. The fifth is a visually intimidating hole even though it tops out at 132 yards.
We now turn back on the previous four holes for the sixth. The drive is fairly tight and calls for a fade to shape the corner and hold the right to left slope. The evil weed gorse lurks down the left. Unfortunately there are patches of the stuff throughout the course. Taking the risk of getting further up the fairway with a driver can pay dividends because the green is quite small and leans away from the player. The bunker to the right is one of many which perplex me.
The only three-shotter on the front side comes next. As a quite short par 5 I don't mind the plethora of sand. If one wants to go for this green in two it is best to hug the left. On the right is evidence of tree encroachment around the bunkers. Generally, the tree planting at Copt Heath isn't clever. The second shot leaves a lot of thinking. The is plenty of room to the right, but one should quite rightly suspect that the approach from that angle isn't inviting.
The gap for those going for this green in two is treacherously narrow. Plus, anything tugged left will likely never be seen again - gorse rears its ugly head.
Just when the course was starting to become interesting we come across a head scratcher. The short par 4 8th hole legs hard left so the prudent play is to lay-up off the tee. Trying to whip one round the corner brings the virtual wall of fairway bunkering in play. I don't understand the point of this hole and I would be very surprised if this is an original Colt hole. Below is the approach.
We now turn back yet again and play in the same direction as #s 2-5 for the front nine closer. Like the opener, the ninth is very lackluster. #10 breaks the cycle of up and down holes. Rough in front of the tee introduces some badly needed texture for the course, but the hole doesn't win any prizes. There is some mild interest due to the green sloping front to back, but the approach is not much more than a wedge.
The following three holes are an interesting trio. Trees block out the entire right side of the fairway on #11. I don't mind this tee shot at all, but it is curious that one of the widest holes on the course is effectively cut in half by trees. Why bother maintaining that part of the fairway? The approach is over a huge bunker and to a green which guarded left by a bunker.
We face another wall of bunkering for the drive on #12, but the best line of attack for the approach is from the right, the shortest lay-up area.
#13, the third and final par 3 completes the trio. The hole plays over a deep depression which is a flood outlet for a pond.
The fourteenth is awkward not only because the wall of bunkers blocks access to this short par 4, but also because the walk to the tee around the pond is unnecessary. I would rather have seen back to back par 3s (cutting out the walk) than another unreachable short par 4. I suspect this added yardage is a concession to add more yards to the card which totals 6190 from the daily tees.
Like the 7th, the 15th is another good par 5. This one is some 45 yards longer at 519 yards, but it is still reachable. For some reason, trees and shrubs have been allowed to block out the view of the oob and bunker down the right - such a pity. Danger lurks left for those trying to be attacking with the second.
The finishing three holes all seem like they should be crackers, but trees and a senseless bunker scheme thrwart any such ambitous notions. The 16th turns sharply left, but the daring play left over a guarding bunker is cut off by trees.
The penultimate hole is reachable for very long hitters. Most will be lay-up to around 200 yards and leave room to apporach over any impeding trees. Yet another lost opportunity to create a really interesting hole.
The final hole is yet another short two-shotter with access to the green virtually completely cut-off by the bunker scheme. The approach from the lay-up area and the narrowest of gaps to the green which make taking the risk of being aggressive off tee out of the question.
I think it is safe to say that Copt Heath is the most disappointing course I have played which has any connection to Colt. The greens are much of muchness. The bunkering in the main serves to prohibit golfers from taking on shots rather than entice them to take on a challenge. There is too much back and forth in the routing which robs the course of a more varied wind pattern. Trees and gorse are too prevalent. However, one positive element for which Copt Heath should be commended is the conditioning. The fairways were impeccable and were keen enough to cause consternation in club selection. The greens were a bit long, but very firm and true. It is a shame the efforts of what appear to be an excellent green staff are not better utilized at a more deserving course. If one is in Birmingham and looking for a game he is far better off to head a handful of miles northwest and play Harborne or Edgbaston. 2010