The view from the fairways may be heavenly but Ravensworth is down to earth, as Alan Hedley discovers
Ravensworth is one of the North-East’s oldest clubs and it is a class act. As with many of the region’s courses, it sits comfortably in an urban setting and is easily accessible, based close to the Angel of the North at Eighton Banks, Gateshead.
There is no doubting the quality of the course and its difficulty – since 1950 it has produced more than 250 county and England players. And there’s also no doubting the welcome at Ravensworth, a genuine down-to-earth Geordie club where they love their golf and the chance to talk about it.
They grasped the chance to build a new clubhouse and revamp the course some nine years ago and raised the money themselves with a mortgage, brewery deal and other loans and from their own membership. They ended up with a spanking, clubhouse with great views of the course and the Angel of the North. It may be considered short by today’s standards at just under 6,000 yards, but length is not everything.
Immediately, there is a different test as the second is a 142-yard par three which needs a precise tee shot to a well-bunkered green followed by the only par five on the course at 502 yards – and with it out-of-bounds on the right and a water hazard at about 270 yards. A cracking start.
There’s some relief with the short par-four fourth, drivable at 255 yards, but there is plenty of trouble at the front of the green and a lay-up might be a better idea.
The par threes tend to be the key and the fifth (the old 13th) is fantastic (see signature hole). The sixth is a birdie chance at 313 yards and it’s followed by a massive par-three of 244 yards. I’m not a fan of long par threes, especially those that make average golfers have to hit driver, but some people like the challenge.
Much more interesting is the next, which is only 20 yards longer but is a par-four dogleg – a tempting risk and reward hole.
The final hole of the front nine is a cracking par four of 448 yards and it’s not named Spion Kop for nowt. The 10th is also a tricky par-four with a stream along the left and plenty of bunkers plus a two-tier green, so it’s not that easy even at 309 yards, while the 11th is a real birdie chance at just 314 yards if you get a decent tee shot away.
The 465 yard 12th is a magnificent hole where the drive is the key. It’s certainly the hardest hole on the course.
There’s a ditch to contend with at the 316 yard 13th right on the driving distance for most and there are some nasty bunkers just short of the green.
Another long par-three at 212 yards with out-of-bounds all the way down the right follows and then there’s another excellent par four of 406 yards with a blind tee shot and out-of-bounds on the right and a sloping green…wicked! The 393 yard 16th hole is named The Angel as the tee box overlooks Antony Gormley’s famous landmark and the views here are really spectacular.
The 17th at 368 yards with a ditch and pond and a blind tee shot is followed by a driveable 18th of 205 yards. You will be tempted to have a go at it, but it is uphill with out-of-bounds on the right and trees on the left to a green right in front of the splendid clubhouse which has a balcony and patio from where everyone can see you making a fool of yourself.
The revised layout has certainly made Ravensworth a better course, but it has always been a good test of golf and proof that length is not always the best option. Ravensworth is a real pleasure to play