Love is a cattle field

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 22, 2018 15:31

A ten-year project to redesign Hampshire’s oldest golf course, which is located within a national park, to suit golfers, commoners and the cattle that graze on the land, has been concluded, with spectacular results.

Bramshaw Golf Club in Hampshire has relaunched the county’s oldest golf course: its 18-hole Forest Course.

The course is set within the boundary of the New Forest National Park, and dates back to the 1860s. The land is owned by the Forestry Commission and is subject to several covenants, including local commoners being able to put their livestock out to graze.

Bramshaw’s course manager, Jason Buckmaster, said “With up to 140 ‘heads’ of cattle put out on the course at any one time, playing on the first tee could, on occasions, be quite a challenge. We had to find an alternative solution for the heaviest grazed areas that would suit all interested parties and enable commoning practices to continue to thrive alongside a leisure activity that is enjoyed by many.”

The project to reconfigure the course has taken almost 10 years to come to fruition, with Bramshaw Golf Club working closely with many agencies and stakeholders including Natural England, the Forestry Commission, the National Park Authority together, the parish council and local commoners.

The changes include a complete course reconfiguration with a new tee being built on the fourth hole and shortened to a long par three. The most significant change was to the 15th, which saw the first new green built on the course in over 70 years and changing it from a par three to a new par four. The reconfiguration has enabled the club to retain both the par 69 and the total course yardage, in excess of 5,700 yards.

With many natural hazards, the course has just one hole with bunkers and in order to comply with the restrictions from Natural England under the operating license, the fairways can only be cut twice a year. It’s also a ‘nitrogen vulnerable zone’, giving the course manager and greenkeepers very little input into what can be put onto the course, due to the natural water courses.

In fact, the New Forest heathland on which the Forest Course is based is so unique, the site has been designated the highest Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) recognition by Natural England and many other conservation bodies.

Buckmaster continued “The reconfiguration has taken the layout of the course close to its original form. Myself and the greenkeepers work very hard to comply with the restrictions imposed. Ultimately, the Forest Course is quite simply, golf as it should be in its most natural, unmanicured state with the roaming livestock only adding to its charm. It really is quite unique.”

Paul Grugeon, New Forest Land Agent at the Forestry Commission, said: “We are pleased to be working with our tenant, Bramshaw Golf Club, who has provided valuable improvements to the course configuration whilst retaining the area’s special features for many years to come.

“These long-lasting facilities offer benefits for local residents and allow golfers to enjoy a unique round of golf, whilst at the same time preserving this sensitive area for all to enjoy.”

Jenny Thomas, lead conservation adviser in the New Forest for Natural England, added: “Bramshaw’s Forest Course is incredibly rich in wildlife and it has been fantastic to be involved in this important project.

“Over the last few years we have worked hard with all partners in this project to enhance the natural landscape of the course, we have provided advice on how to reconfigure the course without causing harm together with the restoration of hardstanding to natural habitats and drainage channels to natural wetland.

“The newly improved course will deliver real gains for the local environment.”

Bramshaw’s general manager, Andy Rideout, concluded: “Jason, his team and the club’s previous general managers, should all be very proud of what they have achieved.

“The reconfiguration of the Forest Course is a great success story and testament to a multi-agency approach working together successfully to preserve the traditions and landscape of the New Forest for future generations, while ensuring today’s golfers can enjoy the unique golf experience the Forest Course offers – one any avid golfer should add to their golfing bucket list.”

 

Jenny Yu
By Jenny Yu June 22, 2018 15:31
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