The Club was founded in 1893 and is a very traditional English club with a timeless character. It is rightly regarded as one of the best in the West Midlands and is usually found in excellent condition due to a small playing membership, limited by constitution to 200.
The course, laid out on a smallish site, is tucked away down narrow country lanes yet is only a short drive away from the centre of Birmingham to the north.
It could be argued that the best holes on this picturesque course are the short ones. The second requires a very straight shot between two deep front bunkers, the sixth is a delightful downhill hole, the ninth is played over an intimidating pond, the 11th requires a long shot whilst the pick of the bunch comes at the 13th, possibly the inspiration for the 12th at Augusta following an exhibition match by Bobby Jones in 1930, where you play from an elevated tee to a narrow angled green over a stream.
The variety of clubs required at each one-shotter is noticeable and help make them a very good collection of par three’s. However, it is the greens that really set them apart; all have wonderful contouring that fit the type and length of hole perfectly.
Indeed it is the greens throughout the round that mostly elevate Blackwell from a run of the mill course to one of the leading inland courses in this part of the country.
As for the longer holes, the third is an excellent two-shotter where both placement and distance are required to reach the green in regulation but, due to the slopes of the putting surface, par is never guaranteed until the ball has found the bottom of the cup. The fifth is another sound hole with a centre-line bunker at approximately 230 yards from the tee initially dictating the play before a wonderful green complex waits in store at the end. The 14th and 15th holes also boast fantastic green settings, more typical of Harry Colt than the course designers accredited to Blackwell; Herbert Fowler and Tom Simpson.
Water hazards are also a feature during the round at Blackwell. Strategically placed ditches at the third, fifth and eighth compliment the aforementioned ones at the ninth and 13th. The one at the eighth, which must be crossed twice, is used to best effect because a drive close to it down the left provides the optimum opportunity of reaching this par five in two.
A word of warning at the 10th! A series of bunkers down the left-hand-side look much closer than they actually are. On the tee it appears that they can easily be flown with a good drive but a carry of over 270 yards is required to clear them and closer to 300 to reach the fairway! It is the dog-legging nature of this hole that entices you down the left when a more conservative approach might be the better option.
The round ends with five strong par fours which climax at the 18th where, although the drive may be blind, the second shot is one of the most beautiful in golf as the green complex, a nearby established beech tree and the charming clubhouse simply merge into one thanks to the topography and proximity of each one to the other.
My overall impression of the course was one that I really enjoyed, however, in places the fairways had become quite narrow due to encroaching woodland. I’m sure a little bit more width at times would ease the claustrophobic nature of some holes and be appreciated by both members and visitors alike.
The bunkering was also starting to look a bit tired but good news is on the horizon. After speaking to the Club Secretary he advised that the Club are considering a restoration of their bunkering by a team that recently carried out work at Tandridge and Broadstone. This will hopefully breathe new life into Blackwell.
The pedigree of the course is undoubted though; Blackwell has hosted Regional Qualifying for The Open on a number of occasions and has produced many fine golfers during its long existence. It doesn’t quite have the same grandeur as its parkland neighbour across the city, Little Aston, nor are the greens quite as intricate as those at nearby Beau Desert but a round at Blackwell is certainly one to be savoured.
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.