Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Course co-owner Stuart Imeson shares stories from his life in golf, his favourite courses and events, and his dream fourball picks
Since the age of 10, Stuart Imeson has loved golf and Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Course. Having started out at the club on a two-week work placement before becoming an apprentice greenkeeper, Stuart rose to head greenkeeper, then general manager in 2017. In May 2020, at the age of 30, and 15 years after starting his career at his home club, he became co-owner alongside Peter Gilbert, who had run Dunstanburgh since 1987. Today, the course is a fine example of Northumberland links golf which continues to develop and regularly hosts top-level tournaments. Between his trips out to work on the course and spending time in the office, we caught up with Stuart for a quick round. Here’s what we found out…
1 How much golf do you get to play?
This season, I’m playing more golf than I have in years. I’ve always been a keen player, but I’ve never had a great deal of time to play so it’s good to be out on the course some more. I’m trying to play more at Dunstanburgh to see the course more often, and to be around the golfers.
2 How did you get into golf?
A lot of my friends played when I was in school and while I wasn’t super-interested as a young lad, I played a bit while focusing on my football. As I got a bit older, I played a bit more, got to understand the game and got into it properly. Now my five-year-old son, Archie, is mad keen and I’m hoping starting early makes it a lot easier for him than I find it some days.
3 Which is your favourite course in the North East?
Growing up at Dunstanburgh, and now co-owning it, it’s hard to choose anywhere else. I’ve not played a lot of golf in the North East to be honest, but Goswick – just up the coast from us – is superb. It’s the leading course in our area and it’s always inspiring to play there.
4 And further afield?
I played Turnberry last year and I’ve been raving about it ever since. Outside of that, I volunteered with John Deere for the 2016 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and I’d love to go back and play now I could get round in a somewhat respectable score.
5 What’s your best score?
I’ve shot 82 at Dunstanburgh. I’ve also got some un-official rounds that are a little bit lower.
6 Which is your favourite golfing memory?
I have two and they both took place on the 18th hole at St Andrews. The first was volunteering with the greenkeeping team in 2015. I was lucky to be chosen as a bunker raker for the playoff and got to walk inside the ropes with Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen. I’d volunteered before, but getting to walk up the last with them, with all the golf world watching, was an incredible experience. Years later, I was telling that story as we played the hole and after hooking my tee shot onto the first fairway – and stopping play to come back across – I knocked it to 4ft and made a three.
7 What about your most embarrassing moments on the course?
I’ve had loads, including hitting the clubhouse at Warkworth. The worst one was playing in a pro am at Longhirst – where I sliced my opening tee shot into the trees and followed it with two more balls in the exact same place before the pro told me it was a hard hole anyway and we moved on.
8 Do you have any golfing superstitions?
The more I play, the more I’m noticing little routines. At the moment, I have to take my time to visualise every putt, no matter how far it is, rolling into the hole before I can take the putter back.
9 What are your strengths on the course?
My putting is solid, maybe because it’s the only thing I take my time on?
10 And your weaknesses?
My driver can put me in a lot of trouble. I’d love somebody to teach me how to get it in play more often.
11 Which is your favourite club in the bag?
I’d have to say my Scotty Cameron Phantom X putter. I like to practise a bit at lunchtime so I’ve always got it to-hand.
12 Who is your best golfing friend?
I enjoy playing with Sam Thompson, who is the head greenkeeper at Dunstanburgh. He’s a hell of a lot better than me and we play a lot of pairs events together. We’re always looking at the course when we’re out there too, picking it apart and looking at what we can improve.
13 What would you be doing if you hadn’t had a career in golf?
That’s a tough question as I’ve only ever worked in golf. My dad was a mechanic, then worked for the power grid, so maybe something in engineering? To be honest, it’s scary to think about what I’d be doing without golf!
14 Who is your favourite golfer?
I was never a big fan of any one player until recently, but I’ve taken a shine to Rory McIlroy in the last couple of years. I think he’s stood up for lots of things I agree with regarding LIV and the breakup of the game. I think he’s done a lot of good for the game while playing some superb golf at the same time.
15 Which golf event do you enjoy most?
I’m a massive fan of links golf, so the Open and Scottish Open are always highlights. Outside of those, you can’t beat the Ryder Cup. I played Marco Simone with the Dunstanburgh greenstaff last year and I’ve got tickets to go over for the full week in September, while Sam is also heading over to work the event.
16 Who do you admire?
Peter Gilbert, my fellow co-owner at Dunstanburgh, has had a huge impact on my life and career. My progress may seem fast and haphazard from the outside, but it’s had a lot of structure to it. I’ve felt like I was in the deep end at times – like becoming head greenkeeper at 18 – but Peter had calculated what was going on and had faith in me. He’s encouraged me to do things my own way and to make my own mistakes. Having that belief and trust from someone is incredible and I’ll never be able to thank Peter fully for what he’s done for me.
17 Which three people would join you in your dream fourball?
I’d go for two Newcastle United icons in Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer, then I’d team up with Tiger Woods to take them on.
18 If you could have one mulligan, when would you have used it?
Getting it off the tee in that pro am would be good, or maybe the shot I shanked on 18 in a foursomes comp with Sam in May.