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Sean_A

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The 2019-20 Winter Tour: B&B CHANNEL COURSE New
« on: October 28, 2015, 07:54:29 AM »
It is a happy coincidence that as the M5 was expanding south through Somerset to Exeter in Devon, Burnham & Berrow GC had thoughts of building a new nine holes on reclaimed land which didn’t exist when Harry Colt drafted his plans in 1913 and 1925 for the Championship Course.  The newly extended motorway not only made Burnham much more accessible from the Midlands and London, but some of the rubble was used as a base layer for the new course. 

In 1977 Fred Hawtree was the man selected to design the new nine holer, which is aptly named the Channel Course.  After graduating from Oxford, Hawtree served during WWII in Indonesia where he was held as a prisoner of war from 1942-1945. Entering the family architecture business after WWII when commissions for architecture were far and few between meant that like many architects of his generation, Hawtree had to be industrious and spread his talents widely in the field of golf. These endeavours included managing Addington Court public courses, VP of the British Greenkeepers Association, contributing editor of the Greenkeeper, member of the Golf Union Council, copious writer for magazines, author of several books, designer of over 80 original courses and redesigns of several hundred courses across four continents.  Hawtree’s two most known projects were redesigns of Hillside and Royal Birkdale.   

The land on offer for the Channel Course was a mixed bag for Hawtree.  Located on reclaimed land at the edge of the Somerset Levels and the Bristol Channel (which has the second highest tidal range in the world) means that about half the holes are on sandy turf while the other half are more boggy in nature.  The compressed property was not large enough for an expansive design, thus the overriding characteristic of the Channel Course are its constricted fairways.  Given the wind which whirls in off the Channel, it is not unreasonable to suggest the course should easily be twice its current width.  Alas, Hawtree had no such luxury so it is a great credit to his skills that four of the holes are very good and one is great.   



The first is a measure of things to come; limited space requiring exacting club selection.




The second is a thrilling driving hole.  One can take on the marsh or try to sneak a runner up the right and use the slopes for added yardage.


In an effort to create some diversity, the course offers two sets of tees.  On the short 3rd the tee makes a big difference as a new tee is set well back into the marsh creating a dogleg effect and a hole of almost 200 yards. The opening three holes on the marsh side of the property have raised greens to add interest and help with drainage. 


The only hole over 420 yards, #4 is a short par 5 frought with danger.  The drive plays between water right and left then legs left to a raised green protected by two bunkers. 


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 21, 2020, 05:40:46 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

PPallotta

  • Karma: +0/-0
Thanks, Sean.  Mr. Hawtree's personal story as a POW got my attention. I'm glad for his sake that in later years he was engaged in a profession that kept him out in the open, and with the fresh, free air in his face.

This might be a case when photographs are misleading, and/or where I'm thrown off because I can't experience the wind at the Channel Course -- but to my eyes there seems to be plenty of width on these opening holes.

It's always remarkable to me the sensible restraint and simplicity of approach that these old British architects showed when working on such sites. The "game" is on display here, not the "architecture", and the "shots" are what engage the golfer, not the "presentation"; the "experience" here trumps the "theory". 

Peter
« Last Edit: October 28, 2015, 08:45:59 AM by PPallotta »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Pietro

The Channel Course is certainly an exercise in restraint!  The Channel definitely has the reputation as a overbearingly narrow course.  Fairways are routinely under 30 yards wide with serious danger lurking on at least one flank.  Sometimes I wish the club would dig in and make some changes to mask the narrowness of the design. 

CHANNEL COURSE CONT

The 5th turns for home and is probably the least engaging hole on the course.  The new tee some 60 yards further back only adds to the misery.  The 6th initiates a run of holes through the dunes which are good, a few great even.  The right pot bunker was recently removed.


The green is slightly raised with a large swale off the right.




A very confusing drive over broken ground, half of which is for some reason kept as rough, the 7th is redeemed by the superb green site.  There is a severe fall-off left and the green slopes toward the hill.




Arguably the best hole on the property, the 8th out postage stamps The Postage Stamp.  The target is more severe than Troon's example, but the distance is shorter at about 120 yards.  There is a new tee set back another 30 yards or so which is a bit silly given the green size. 






Behind the green the reader gets an idea of how the wind could effect the tee shot from a pulpit tee.


The final hole is a cracking par 4 which from the old set of tees can be driven.  The danger in trying to do so is rather obvious.  Like 7 & 8, this is another terrific green site.






The course is quite short with either set of set tees playing under 3000 yards, but most will find playing to their handicap an achievement which will require a large pail of patience.  There is no question The Channel Course could do with more width, but for the most part this is not possible.  Therefore, we must play the course on its own terms.  If it isn't a windy day this should be managable and fun can be had. 

In recent years the club has taken to marketing the Channel Course more aggressively and offering separate memberships.  This is a clever way to introduce people to the game in a bit more gentle fashion and allow senior members to exit the game more gracefully.  Often cited as the second best course in Somerset, I wouldn't suggest traveling too far for a game.  However, if one is playing the Championship Course, try to make time to hop next door...if only to see the finishing three holes.  2020

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 21, 2020, 05:42:16 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

Adam Lawrence

  • Karma: +0/-0
I've enjoyed the Channel but IMO it makes a clear and substantial step up in quality when it turns for home. The ninth is a really excellent short four that would not be out of place on a much grander course.
Adam Lawrence

Editor, Golf Course Architecture
www.golfcoursearchitecture.net

Principal, Oxford Golf Consulting
www.oxfordgolfconsulting.com

Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.

Thomas Dai

  • Karma: +0/-0
A very fine summary of a course that is worth playing if you're visiting Burnham to play the main Championship course or are travelling by and fancy a good value 'stop-n-play' game.


As Sean says the first few fairways are often a little damp but that's a water-table issue being very low lying and so near the sea. The greens on these holes are raised though, so play firm and fast and true, as indeed do all the greens on The Channel.


As to fairway width, yes the course is generally pretty tight, although the dampness on the first few fairways does mitigate this, but what's wrong with tightness? Surely golf should be more than just wack it as far as you can and then go find it, so to play a course where things like angles, positional play, club and shot type choice, course management are more critical than is often the case is rather nice. Sean makes a good point about the far back tee on the 5th hole, best to play from the alternate tee I suggest.


Worth adding that there are only 3 bunkers on the course and several cracking green sites like the 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th. The 8th is a standout par-3 - as a player at last years post-Buda event commented "every course should have a hole like the 8th" and the 9th green is just pure evil/nice.


If only more clubs had a second course or 3rd-nine akin to The Channel, ie slightly lower spec, shorter, cheaper etc than the main course. Particularly fine for beginners/novices, the less physically able etc but very playable by all, indeed if you can play to your handicap around The Channel even in calm conditions you'll have done well. Try to overpower it though, as I've seen a few thoughtless low handicappers and macho long hitters attempt, and it'll kill you!


atb






« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 07:33:06 AM by Thomas Dai »

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
« Last Edit: February 11, 2020, 09:38:00 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

Thomas Dai

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Re: The 2019-20 Winter Tour: B&B CHANNEL COURSE
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2020, 01:09:06 PM »
Quite a few of the UK’s premier Clubs have a second course and the second course is frequently a cracker. And the Channel course at Burnham and Berrowis certainly a cracker. If you’re visiting B&B to play the Championship Course take the opportunity to play at least 9-holes on the Channel as well. You won’t be disappointed.
Atb

Sean_A

  • Karma: +0/-0
Re: The 2019-20 Winter Tour: B&B CHANNEL COURSE
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2020, 03:29:05 AM »
For those on 36 hole ticket for the Champ Course, if the weather looks dodgy, it is easy to play 1 to 5 on the Champ then hop on 5 of the Channel. This makes for an excellent 10 hole boozer loop. If the weather looks really bad you can play  Champ 1 to 4 then hop on Channel 6.

Ciao
« Last Edit: February 14, 2020, 03:31:05 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

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