A visit to one of the oldest courses in the country proves an enjoyable day at the seaside for Alan Hedley
Few courses can boast as many different layouts as Seaton Carew – or as interesting a history.
Three are used mainly – The Micklem, The Old and The Brabazon, so named after the club hosted the English Strokeplay Championship in 1985.
Eighteen of the 22 holes were designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie, the man responsible for Augusta National and many others, and the other four came from Frank Pennink, another giant among course designers.
All the layouts are fascinating tests, but The Micklem and The Old, both measuring just over the 6,500 yards mark and The Brabazon, just short of 7,000 yards off the back tees, are a joy.
This is true links golf – the fairways are generous enough but they are lined with punishing sand dunes, wicked buckthorn, whins and rough and if the wind blows all three are fearsome tests.
Golf has been played at Seaton Carew for more than 140 years – the club’s first written records date back to 1874. More recently, a comprehensive programme of course improvements has been widely applauded by members and visitors alike. A 610-yard six-hole academy short course has also been added, which offers the chance for beginners and families to play together and enjoy the game in an hour or two, showing Seaton is a club which does not stand still.
Most of the bunkers are close to and around the greens which means this is a very fair driving course. Many of the fairways are relatively flat, but you have put the ball in the right place to get at those greens which, thanks to a comprehensive revitalisation programme, are simply superb.
There is a clutch of strong par fours, some great par fives and just three short holes – each is exceptional.
The third, named Doctor after the club’s founder Dr McCuaig, is superb with several deep bunkers, a large plateau green and another bunker hidden over the back.
Then there is the sixth, Mashie, on The Brabazon – the 12th on The Old – a gorgeous short hole of around 170 yards while the 15th, called Cosy Corner, is anything but as it’s 205 yards and played slightly uphill – usually into the prevailing wind to a green nestling at the foot of sand hills.
The par fives are as interesting as the par threes – the second is terrific and at 565 yards it’s a proper par five and, possibly, the pick of the long holes although the 484-yard 11th on The Brabazon and the 523-yard par 14th, which is common to both courses, are also great par fives.
There are several strong par fours needing two good shots to get to grips with especially the 10th at 400 yards-plus on the Brabazon which features some stunning duneland and is rated the best looking hole on the course.
The closing stretch is of the highest quality with three wonderful par fours. Buckthorn is a real danger down the right on each especially when the wind blows – which is often here.
The 17th is the best of the trio and is one of the finest holes I’ve played and, in my opinion, is the signature hole (see fact file).
The 16th is a monster dog-leg par four of 453 yards and it’s not that easy to get the drive into a good position.
Then there’s the signature hole 17th while you must keep the tee shot away from the buckthorn on the right at 18 – the only hole with no bunkers – but that doesn’t make it any easier as the green is quite an intimidating target tucked between the car park, putting green and first tee.
This is proper links golf as it should be played – a great test and hugely enjoyable.
Seaton Carew Golf Cub
Tees Road, Seaton Carew, Hartlepool TS25 1DE
Tel 01429 266 249
Pro 01429 890 660
Mon only 2 for £50
Weekend fourball £120
White tees Brabazon 6,920 yards
Old 6,603 yards, Micklem 6,594 yards
Yellow tees 6,637, 6,363, 6,290
Red tees 5,853, 5,526, 5,513
Traditional clubhouse and dining room
Modern locker rooms and changing facilities
Well-stocked professional’s shop
Six-hole academy course
Putting green and chipping green
Solid driving will pay dividends
The par four 17th – it’s called Snag – and it’s a potential card wrecker. Nearly 400 yards long, the fairway sweeps left to right with mounds and you need to get your drive in the right spot to have a chance with your approach to a raised green which slopes back to front and is protected by bunkers everywhere. A truly great hole.