Branshaw's 63 at Willow Creek Country Club matched the course record that Mark Hensby first set in 2000. Six other players have matched the mark between 2001 and last year.
Kyle Thompson and Brendon Todd are tied for second at 7 under. With only five events remaining after this week, Thompson (37th on money list) and Todd (53rd) need big weeks in an effort to jump into the top 25 on the money list to gain their PGA TOUR card for next year.
Colt Knost, a two-time winner this year, shares fourth at 6-under 65 with Bubba Dickerson, Dave Schultz and Marc Leishman.
History was made on the Nationwide Tour on Thursday as four players had hole- in-ones, all on the front nine during the morning session. That is the most aces recorded in one round of a Nationwide Tour event.
Peter Tomasulo and Chris Stroud, who both shot 4-under 67, aced the par- 3 second. Brian Stuard (69) aced the seventh, while Jonathan Fricke carded his hole-in-one on the fifth.
Branshaw, who played on the PGA TOUR last season, got off to a fast start with birdies on three of the first four holes. He sank his fourth birdie at No. 6.
After dropping a shot on the ninth with a three-putt bogey, he had another streak of hot golf on the back nine. Branshaw, whose last Nationwide win came at the 2005 Nationwide Tour Championship, birdied the par-5 12th and came right back with a birdie at the 13th.
The 38-year-old, who is No. 17 on the Nationwide Tour money list, made it three in a row as he birdied the 14th to get to 6 under. He wasn't done there. Branshaw birdied 16 and 17 to match the course record.
'I'm just trying to get into contention every week and let things take care of themselves,' said Branshaw of his place on the money list. 'I'm going to learn more from being in contention than running away with the tournament. There's nothing like being in the hunt.'
Thompson opened with a birdie on the first, but gave that shot right back with a bogey on two. He made the turn in minus-1 thanks to a birdie at eight.
Around the turn, Thompson eagled the par-5 10th, then birdied three of the next four holes to climb to 6 under. He finished one back as he birdied 17.
Todd got off to a stellar start that could have led to magical numbers. After opening with an eagle, Todd birdied the next four holes to play the first five in minus-6.
After tripping to a bogey on nine, Todd flew into the lead as he birdied the 10th, then drained three straight birdies from the 12th. Todd, who was minus- 9 through 14, had two par-3s, a par-4 and a par-5 remaining.
Instead of challenging to become the fourth Nationwide Tour player to shoot 59, Todd bogeyed 16 and 18 to end in a tie for second.