Regional Qualifying Feature - Northamptonshire County Golf Club
Situated in the village of Church Brampton, Northamptonshire County Golf Club has been graced by royalty and nobility alike since it was first designed in 1909.
On June 25, the venue will host a Regional Qualifying event for The Open for the first time in 16 years – having previously been used from 1997 to 2002. Designed in 1909 by the same man who created Wentworth and Sunningdale, Harry S Colt, the course plays 6721 yards and has only had a few adjustments to its initial design.
Returning to its roots
Club manager Elaine McBride explained: “We’re trying to take the course back to its heathland characteristics because over the years it’s been managed as more of a parkland course. Visibility on a couple of holes and the back-drops to some of the greens have changed dramatically because we’ve removed some of the trees.”
A prestigious history
Spread across Althorp Estate, which is owned by the aristocratic Spencer family and is now under the guardianship of Charles Spencer – Princess Diana’s younger brother – the course has a noble history. One of the club’s historic royal members even includes Prince Albert, Duke of York, who captained the club in 1931 and enhanced the reputation of the course in the golfing community.
In recent years, the club has produced various home-grown talent, including European Tour golfer Gary Boyd and England A Squad player and Duke of York Young Champion Ben Jones – who at 18 years old plays off +5 and is one of the most exciting prospects in amateur golf, while former Senior Open, at Carnoustie in 2016, and six-time European Tour winner Paul Broadhurst also has strong links to the club.
As well as previously hosting Regional Qualifying for The Open, Northamptonshire has held other prestigious events such as the English Golf Union Carris Trophy (1994), the English Schools National Championships (1997), and the PGA Seniors Professional Championship (2007-2013). And Elaine McBride is excited for the return of Regional Qualifying as players battle it out to move a step closer to The 147th Open at Carnoustie in July.
She said: “It’s a great honour, we all feel very privileged to welcome back Open qualification. “It’s something that the members get fully behind, they love being part of the day and part of the process and love volunteering. I think it very much helps to improve our reputation in a wider golfing community and increases our reach which is great for the golf club as well.”
A real test
Although the course is not one of the longest on the list of qualifying venues, McBride believes it will provide a tough and interesting challenge to the players hoping to make it to Carnoustie. “Without the element of trickery, our greens can catch a few people out,” she said. “There’s quite a few subtle borrows, they run very true and very fair, but once they firm up in the summertime it can be difficult.”
She added that, “there is a lot of pressure on golf clubs to extend the length of their tees, to achieve the magic number of 7,000 yards or more. Our course can often play a lot longer than its 6,721 yardage. It’s certainly a course that you have to think your way around. Just because you can use a drive doesn’t mean that you should!"