18 holes. 6,869 yards. In just a couple of days, 24 Iconic footballers will stride out on to the world-famous fairways of The Brabazon to compete in the 2017 ICONS of Football golf tournament. Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Pep Guardiola will be among those teeing off and hoping to tame some of the most iconic holes in golf. Here’s a quick hole-by-hole look at what they’ll be up against…
Hole 1 – 393 yards – par 4
This is a superb opener, and play will depend very much on how well our Icons can keep their first-hole nerves under control. There are intimidating bunkers from the tee, and a slightly raised green, so it will take a hard hit and nerves of steel to avoid being gobbled up by the sand on the first swing.
Hole 2 – 330 yards – par 4
There are two ways our Icons could choose to play the second, which can only be described as ‘tight’. The big hitters might prefer to just go for it, hoping to clear the river that runs in front of the green. But trees smother the right-hand side of the hole and there’s an undersized green that slopes tauntingly towards play, so simply landing on the fairway and playing a rescue from the tee might be the sensible choice.
Hole 3 – 512 yards – par 5
Bunkers to the left and right of a raised fairway mean a drive right down the middle is key to taming this hole. Even if our Icons manage to pull that off, they’ll be faced with a large water hazard to the front and left of the putting surface. If they want to reach it in two, they’ll need a controlled draw to negotiate the undulating green.
Hole 4 – 407 yards – par 4
This long hole has trees left and right, so a hook or slice from the tee won’t cut it. Again, a slightly raised green, which runs severely from back to front, adds further difficulty – and it’s a fast one. If our Icons fail to hit their approach hard enough, they’ll find either the water in front of the green or the gaping bunker to its right.
Hole 5 – 388 yards – par 4
The bunkers off the tee of this tricky little par 4 await eagerly to swallow any balls running off the fairway. Those Icons who manage to land it in the middle will find club selection is key, as the approach to the green is tricky and the green itself is short.
Hole 6 – 430 yards – par 4
Our Icons will need to keep their nerves in check while teeing off here – it’s a frightening hole to be faced with. Looking out from the tee, it’s like the tide has come in, with water ebbing all alongside the left of the fairway and putting surface, so players will need to hit to the right of the hole. But they’ll have to watch out for the semi-rough, which can mean a tricky approach to the green.
Hole 7 – 171 yards – par 3
It might be the shortest hole at The Brabazon, but our Icons shouldn’t underestimate it. The putting surface slopes dramatically from back to front, and even the best-struck tee shot could find the green, only to roll back into the lake that fortifies the front.
Hole 8 – 428 yards – par 4
This is by far The Brabazon’s most difficult hole, as even Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter will tell you – he came unstuck here at the British Masters a few years back. It’s a demanding drive from the tee, with a massive bunker and heavy rough to the right, and water on the left. Finding the fairway is no mean feat, but our Icons will need to hit it if they stand any chance of being on par.
Hole 9 – 433 yards – par 4
Probably one of the best-known holes at The Belfry, the 9th presents an uphill approach to a big putting surface, which is protected by a bulky bunker and water to the front right. A drive straight down the middle should put our Icons within tickling distance of the flag.
Hole 10 – 301 yards – par 4
This is the hole that could turn our ICONS of Football into legends of golf. It’s an unwritten rule that all players have to go for the green from the tee, thanks to the late, great, Seve’s Ballesteros’ stunning drive on to it here in 1985. Accuracy is key if players are to stay out of the water to the left, but spin control is equally important, as a lightning-quick green could easily result in a well-struck ball going rogue at the hole.
Hole 11 – 406 yards – par 4
A fade from the tee here will help our Icons stay clear of the bunkers that lurk ominously on both sides of the fairway. The hole sweeps round to the right and finishes with another raised green, making it essential to hit the short stuff with a good, clean drive.
Hole 12 – 188 yards – par 3
This second par 3 is also the longest, and the back-right pin is the most demanding to find. But it’s a great hole to play, with trees bordering the green to give it the feel of an amphitheatre, and a cascading river to the right. The obstacles make it imperative that our Icons don’t come up short on this hole, but as the green slopes from the back to the front, they won’t want to overcook it either. Landing just short of the flag for an uphill putt is the dream scenario.
Hole 13 – 363 yards – par 4
The 13th has one of the trickiest approaches at The Brabazon, with a small putting surface that slopes from left to right, making accuracy in the latter stages key. It’s relatively forthright from the tee, though, with a bunker and an ‘out of bounds’ area to the left, meaning our Icons will need to hit a tee shot over the right-hand bunker to soften the blow of that approach to the pin.
Hole 14 – 183 yards – par 3
Our Icons might opt to go for broke here, in the hopes of emulating Nick Faldo’s 1993 hole-in-one. Those who don’t will need to be mindful of the two-tiered, angled green, which makes good placement imperative in terms of going for the putt.
Hole 15 – 545 yards – par 5
With bunkers lurking eagerly on both sides of the fairway, our Icons will want to hit a drive straight down the middle here if they’re looking to reach the green in two shots. A river runs through the middle of the hole, but this hazard will only really pose a concern to the longest hitters.
Hole 16 – 405 yards – par 4
The players might want to walk out and lay eyes on the pin before attempting to drive for this hole, because not much of the putting surface can be seen from the tee. The green itself has a large slope that separates the left and right sides, so unless they can get close with their approach shots, our Icons will be left with a very tricky putt. A bunker to the left of the fairway stands ready to devour any wayward drives.
Hole 17 – 545 yards – par 5
It’s not easy to choose a line and shape for the tee shot on this sweeping dogleg. The big-hitting players might opt to aim over the trees on the right, but as the fairway narrows the closer it gets to the green, hitting the short stuff off the tee is hard. A more conservative approach could get our players on to the fairway in two, rendering the hole an almost certain three-shot par-5.
Hole 18 – 441 yards – par 4
At this stage in the game, our Icons will be really feeling the pressure. So they won’t be too happy to stand on the tee and face a narrow fairway and a large lake. The further left they can hit the drive, the shorter they will need to hit their second shot – but it’s the riskiest approach, as that’s where the water is. The ‘safe’ players will opt for aiming at the fairway bunker. Whichever way our Icons choose to play it, they will be faced with an intimidating second shot towards a three-tiered green, where the pin sits tantalisingly within reach but somehow hard to grasp. But it’s not for no reason that this is one of the most famous finishing holes in golf.