It’s a course to savour between River Tyne and railway line, writes Paul Corney
In the heart of the Tyne Valley, the golf course at Clara Vale, near Wylam, is home to Ryton Golf Club. It has a reputation for tight fairways, fast smooth greens and its general excellent condition.
Known locally as “the jewel by the Tyne”, golf has been played at Ryton Willows since 1880, initially on a nine-hole course designed by Mungo Park (Open champion in 1874 and club professional at Alnmouth) at a cost of £27.
Over the years, the land nestling between the River Tyne and the Newcastle-Carlisle railway line has been developed enormously from its humble beginnings. The present-day course cannot be faulted, thanks to the expertise of head greenkeeper Paul Robison and his five staff. Formerly of Slaley Hall, Paul has held the post for over 20 years and his hard work is rewarded by Ryton getting its fair share of Durham County events.
Off the course, the modern, purpose-built clubhouse has spacious locker rooms with shower facilities on the ground floor and bar, dining area and pool room on the first floor, while club stewardess Agnes Telford and her staff provide a first-class catering service.
Ryton’s current chairman Michael Rutter says: “We have had literally hundreds of visitors in last few months who have never played our course before and many have already returned a second and third time. We feel that by building a good, sustainable customer base we will reap the rewards in the long term.
“Fifty new members have joined the club in the last two months, which to a large degree is due to our marketing and promotional work. But we will by no means take our foot off the pedal in promoting “Royal Ryton”, a club which we are extremely proud of.”
As for the course itself, if you have a tendency to hit the ball with a left-to-right flight, Ryton will very quickly fix that problem – four of the holes played in an easterly direction are bordered by the railway line and a further six played westerly are adjacent to the River Tyne.
It is not a long course – 6,014 yards off the medal tees and 5,762 from the yellows – but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up in terms of difficulty. This is a course for the thinking golfer and good course management is essential to score well here, along with good knowledge of the clubs in your golf bag. The pick of the holes are the second, third, seventh and 12th.
You do need to get the driver out at the second, though, a tough par-four measuring nearly 450 yards. Only a long straight drive will leave any chance of reaching the putting surface in two. In addition to the out-of-bounds and railway on the right, there is a lateral water hazard running along the right side of the fairway and two fairway bunkers on the left, approximately 180 yards from the tee. The long approach is played to a small bunkerless, kidney-shaped green and a par at this hole is always a good score.
Although the third at Ryton is a short par-four, it is usually played into the prevailing westerly wind and with the river close by on the right, the tee shot is anything but easy – many a golf ball has ended up in the Tyne. Again, play for position and you will be rewarded with a short pitch into a green defended by bunkers left and right.
The seventh is a short par-three and one of those gems you occasionally come across. At only 126 yards, the tee shot is played to a two-tier green which slopes left to right and very steeply back to front. Leave a downhill putt at this one and a three putt or worse is more than a possibility. And, as for the 12th hole – this is tough as it gets.
Ryton Golf Club, Clara Vale,
Ryton, NE40 3TD
Telephone: 0191 413 3253
6,031 yards (white tees)
5,762 yards (yellow tees)
5,365 yards (red tees)
• 18 holes of parkland golf
• Wonderful greens
• Putting green
• Superbly-appointed club-house
• Great food
Right-handed golfers should make an effort to practice drawing the ball and left-handers, a fade. If you don’t, take plenty of balls with you.
At 454 yards, the par-four 12th is stroke index one and deservedly so. The drive is daunting and with the railway and trees tight right, many a good medal round has come to grief at this hole. Only the longest of players will be able to get home in two, and for the majority of us mere mortals, this hole is a three-shotter with the hope of single putting.
The large smooth greens and lush fairways at Ryton make for an ideal setting for a round of golf whilst the tight tee-shots will challenge any level of golfer as they negotiate this lovely manicured parkland course.