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Broadstone

Yardage
6419
Par
70
SSS
71
Built
1898
Architect(s)
Tom Dunn, Willie Park Jnr, Harry Colt
Nature:
250 acres of hilly, heathery heathland with early/late parkland holes. Tremendous par threes.
Location/Address:
North of Bournemouth. postcode BD18 8DQ
http://www.broadstonegolfclub.com
Secretary
Ed Richardson
Telephone
01202 692595
Professional
Adrian Harris
Green Keeper
Paul Staples
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Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Open Week - August
Fees in 1960s
37p
Fees today
£90 - 2017

Review

Broadstone, founded in1898, was the first and ‘biggest’ of three heathland courses (Ferndown and Parkstone being the others) built in the Edwardian era near Bournemouth each constructed on land of the Canford Estate owned by Lord Wimborne. Ivor Bertie Guest was an iron-master who had acquired the large estate after making his money in South Wales through an engineering company that we now know of as GKN.

Ivor Bertie Guest, Lord Wimborne. Click to enlarge

Originally known as the Dorset Golf Club it was laid out by Tom Dunn (the most prolific of inland course architects at the end of the nineteenth century), on parkland to the east of the now disused Somerset & Dorset railway line.

Tom Dunn

In simple terms his penal and functional designs were centred on the use of ramparts of cross bunkers to catch the topped ball of the high handicapper and square flat greens. Dunn was the professional at Meyrick Park in Bournemouth in 1898 and it would have been a simple ‘mainstream’ decision by Lord Wimborne to retain him at a time before the wave of new ‘strategic’ course architects had become well known.

Nevertheless, there is some evidence that Willie Park Jnr, who was arguably the first of the ‘strategic’ inland course architects, was also consulted and helped Tom Dunn.

Dunn used the lower land of the present course and today’s first four holes are his originals (though cross-bunkering for example on the first has been changed since) with his fifth and sixth being amalgamated into the present fifth. His seventh to fourteenth holes lead out and back across Merley Park on parkland at the top of the hill going East and his seventeenth and eighteenth are similar to today’s finishing two holes.

Harry S. Colt

Today’s sixth through to sixteenth holes were created by Harry Colt on heathland located above the early holes as well as to the west of the railway line. He started the seventh and eighth holes in 1914 and with the intervening First World War finally opened the new course in 1922.

The new course has the advantage over both Ferndown and Parkstone of being built on a spacious area of some 250 acres allowing Colt to create a flow of holes separate from each other, and being on heathland, originally with far less trees, it gave wide views across to Poole harbour and the Isle of Purbeck.

For the first 53 years the Club never made a profit, being set up initially to give Lord Wimborne somewhere to play with his friends, along with a small membership of 150 gentlemen and ladies.

The ownership moved to the philanthropic Tolley family in the 1930s and was eventually sold to the members in 1971 for the very same price, £18,000, that they had bought it for in the 1930s. Arguably the greatest bargain in golf club history! Subsequently the members’ Club made decisive moves in raising money from land sales in the 1980s as well as recently changing the course in agronomic terms.

The new Broadstone clubhouse

An obvious advantage to the Club would have been to have built the new clubhouse on higher ground near the thirteenth and the dining room views could have rivalled Muirfield, Isle of Purbeck, Saunton and others. However, to stabilise the finances, five plots along the thirteenth were sold off for housing as was the old clubhouse and land behind the present first tee. This decision financed a new brick clubhouse at the bottom of the course, over-looking the eighteenth green.

The original Dunn/Willie Park Jnr holes can be described as lusher parkland holes with deciduous trees having a role in how they are played.

View from 13th green in March 2017

With the bold decision in recent years to return the agronomy of the course to fine grasses, some trees have been felled to open up to drying air, (the second and third holes are examples of this being started) though even on the heathland higher holes woodland continues to encroach. The effect of this can be seen when comparing photos of the same view from the thirteenth hole taken in 2017 with ones from the 1930s when every hole across to the seventh is visible.

View from 13th green in 1930s.

Colt’s sixth (160 yards) and eighth (200 yards) holes are fine par threes both playing longer than they look and in opposite directions with the trouble located at the front and sides.

In between is Broadstone’s not necessarily finest but certainly iconic hole on whose tee there is a phone to enable you to ring up the half-way house and order your excellent breakfast butty so that it awaits you as you leave the hole that can be quite often fifteen minutes later.

7th green with half-way house on right.

The seventh (420 yards) has a blind drive to a sloping right to left gully fairway. There is then a deep valley with a massive bunker on the farthest face over which your second must pitch so as to arrive on a plateau green with a bank sited behind.

The long drivers keep to the right of the fairway giving themselves the shorter, doglegged-left approach from higher ground, while the higher handicappers desperately hack about on the slopes in between! A definite card-wrecker but a wonderful natural hole that has so many playable options!

The ninth has a medieval tumulus to the right of drive, now more attractive after having had its surroundings mown more finely, but was more in play when the hole was Dunn’s fifteenth. The Club in the 1980s extended its length to 510 relatively flat yards, though it has been made more interesting with a few individual trees down the right.

Train on Dorset & Somerset line cutting through Broadstone GC

We now have a bit of a traipse downhill and across the old railway line, a line that brought northern tourists to Bournemouth until the 1970s but was to become one of Beeching’s cuts.

The par three 11th

This brings us to the 405 yard straight tenth, that leads to the eleventh, a 175 yard attractive short hole across lower ground to a side shelf green.

Next, we walk back up to the top of the hill along the twelfth (360 yards) that wends its way up a valley between heather and gorse, before playing a fine hole (440 yards) along the top of the ridge. The hollow known as “Pugh’s grave” must be avoided in front left of the green and one’s ball is best fed in from the right, so it will be swept round and down to the green by the swales.

This green has along with the fourteenth green, given confidence to members that their 2014 decision to start the over-seeding of their greens with Browntop Bent will in time put them ahead of the local competition.

Head Grenkeeper Paul Staples with the 14th behind

Broadstone’s greens agronomy through the 2000s was centred on using soft and receptive annual meadow grass (Poa annua). Recently, Gordon Irvine (a member of FineGolf’s Advisory Panel and nicknamed ‘Jim Arthur’s heir’ by some) has been retained to advise on bringing the course back to its heritage of fast running heathland. As a result it was decided to over-seed the greens with Browntop Bent and progress was being made until the remaining patches of Poa in summer 2016 suffered a bad attack of anthracnose disease and disfigured their looks.

This situation might have seen some Clubs be tempted to revert back to what it knew and had been working with.

The parkland 2nd hole

However, the wise and well-led Broadstone membership took the correct decision for the long-term future, when they were given the choice of either a return to tickling-up the greens with fertiliser to ‘manage’ and retain the Poa or to increase the over-seeding rate of fine grasses while tolerating a brief, short-term lower performance in playability and looks.

The par three 6th

Two of the best draining greens, the thirteenth and fourteenth are now in 2017 comprised of some 90% browntop bent grasses and are now providing a high performance of firmness and consistency of roll when cut at the ‘sustainable’ height of  4.5 mm (4mm through the summer).

Just as importantly these two greens also give confidence to the Club that the change to fine grasses will raise performance standards across all the greens and reduce costs over time. This is particularly so as chemicals are progressively being banned for use on amenity areas, and the Club will ultimately possess an ecologically sustainable agronomy that can control grass diseases culturally without the need for the likely to be banned chemicals on which a Poa agronomy depends.

The par three 8th

An example of this is this year’s banning of the anti-worm-cast chemical. Playing on a Poa grassed lush parkland course recently there were horrible worm casts everywhere, that are not found on dry, fescue grassed fairways.

The fourteenth is an attractive looking short par four (360 yards) played from a high tee to a sloping fairway with many recently refurbished white-sanded bunkers. The short approach shot is to a green well above you and now has to be carefully judged in case the firmness of the green bounces your ball too far. No longer is it a matter of throwing a dart at a soft target.

The par three 15th

The next is the last of the four varied and wonderful par threes that has another glorious high tee to a green 200 yards away.

The sixteenth (430 yards) is a classic left handed dogleg with a bunker on the corner and a row of bunkers in echelon across and shy of the green that runs swiftly from back to front.

The sixteenth drive

We are back into the woods at the seventeenth that now has a meandering stream running across the fairway that was devised by Hamilton Strutt from Parkstone in the 1980s. We finish with a straight forward 370 yard hole to in front of the imposing clubhouse, with a row of rather incongruous trees that screen the practice ground on the right.

Frank Pont was engaged over the winter of 2012/13 to help the in-house greenkeeping team to restore the bunkers on holes five, six, eight and fourteen to original Colt designs and they have done a good job in softening the look into the natural heathland landscape.

Angus Hambro MP

There have been a number of distinguished members, none more so in golfing terms than Angus Hambro MP, who qualified for the Open four times and the Amateur twenty times and was chairman of The R&A Rules Committee during the important period of the 1920s. He would become club president from 1936 to 1957, while living at nearby Merley House.

When coming off the last green one feels that one has had some strenuous exercise both in terms of length, hilliness and sheer golfing challenge. The course is certainly viewed as the ‘biggest’ of the four fine heathland courses near Bournemouth (Isle of Purbeck being the fourth) but is still only around 6400 yards from the back tees! (Par 70; SSS 71)

Surprisingly no centenary book has yet been published though a committee member is addressing this by pulling together much of the Clubs archives into a usable document.

Broadstone is definitely among the finest of heathland courses in GB&I and gives a high ‘Joy-to-be-alive’ feeling.

 

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2017.