Local golf enthusiasts will miss the opportunity to watch some of the world’s best players in action on the Belfry’s famous Brabazon course after it was announced the Quinn Insurance British Masters would not be returning to the Midlands course.
Four memorable Ryder Cups have been held on the Brabazon in the last 23 years and when Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño beat reigning champion Lee Westwood after a dramatic play-off on the historic 18th hole to become British Masters champion in September, another historic chapter was written.
However, the three-year deal to host the Masters has not been renewed and as things stand the Belfry will not hold a major tour tournament in 2009.
Hosting a tournament has not been completely ruled out and the PGA National, one of the complex’s three courses, could now be an option after undergoing a major face-lift this year.
The Brabazon is also undergoing enhancements costing over £2 million with the par-three seventh hole being reshaped to add a water feature and two bunkers in front of the elevated green, and the sixth hole proved a favourite with the European Tour players during the British Masters after it was redesigned.
“We’ve tweaked the course to make it more visually pleasing and added extra distance to bring it up to over 7,100 yards,” said Kenny MacKay, director of courses and grounds.
“Alterations to other holes make it more challenging still for the best players in the world.”
The absence of a top tournament will not mean that stars such as Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley, David Howell and Paul Casey, plus Midlanders Paul Broadhurst, Tom Whitehouse and Rob Rock, will not been seen at the Belfry next year. All of them have used the facilities at the ground-breaking PGA National Academy to fine tune their game but academy manager Matt Roberts is quick to emphasis the facilities are not just for the benefit of the elite golfers.
More than 200 club players also use the same computerised teaching software as the elite every week, overseen by the academy’s 25 professionals. Players can also use the custom-fitting facilities to be equipped with the best clubs tailored for their own swing with nine of the game’s top manufacturers on offer.
“I am confident the facilities we have are amongst the best, if not the best, in Europe,” Roberts said. “The Belfry is seen as a flagship.
“No one else has a fitting facility like ours but the important thing is that everyone can use them. Players can add 30 yards to their drives just by finding the right shafts. Launch monitor fittings ensure we find the right club and shaft combination, as well as the best brand for every individual.
“In fact all the facilities can be used by absolutely anyone. The Brabazon is one of the most iconic courses in world golf yet any golfer can go and play on it.
“The facilities we have developed are for the benefit of anyone who wants to improve their game.”