Dean Bailey plays one of the region’s finest nine-hole layouts
Every golfer savours the moment they turn through the gates of their home club and leaves the world behind them, and there are few drives as picturesque as turning through the gates of Backworth Golf Club – heading along the driveway flanked by tall trees before arriving at the front of the 18th Century mansion house, Backworth Hall.
If you didn’t know this patch of green was here, it’s easy to miss – its boundary flanked by high stone walls and bordered by housing. But, turning through those gates, it’s clear why members enjoy golf here so much. The course, which measures 5,939 yards from the back tees, sits in the shadow of the Hall and features 10 greens with 18 separate tees. Its main defence is small putting surfaces, protected by deep bunkers, often at the front of the greens.
A warm up is highly recommended – the chipping green and practice ground are on your left as you head to the first tee – as the opening 306-yard par four offers a great chance to start your round with a birdie. Played downhill, avoid the out of bounds left and ponds flanking the back of the green should you take it on with the driver. When playing the 10th, the hole is played to the green on the left – lay up with a long iron and try to leave your pitch below the hole for the best chance of birdie. At the par four second, the best drives draw around the corner – avoiding the bunkers on the corner of the dog-leg and the cricket field to the left, which is out of bounds. Two more bunkers await at the green, which is two-tiered. If the pin is at the back, watch out for the ditch at the back of the green, which will gather anything past the flag.
The par threes at Backworth are both worthy of signature hole status and we chose the third (see factfile) played between 130-150 yards.
Before course alterations in the 1980s, the fourth was ranked the toughest hole on the course. Measuring more than 400 yards, the fairway bunker right is a magnet for drives around 250 yards. Two more bunkers protect the approach, while three bunkers and undulations protect the trickiest green on the course. A tough par four.
The fifth is a simple par five on the front nine measuring 481 yards, but a challenging par four of 393 yards on the back nine. The green is very narrow at the front making a long approach a difficult one, while two deep bunkers gather anything short and make a front flag toughest. The back of the green is generous, though thick rough awaits through the back.
The second of the par threes is the shortest at around 120 yards to a green with two distinct portions – the front protected by a false front, and the back right – traditionally the toughest pin on the green – protected by a deep bunker and a further trap hidden beyond at the back right of the green.
With stroke index one and two billing, the seventh (and 16th) is a true three-shot par five. Played at a little more than 500 yards, each shot requires accuracy with bunkers and water in play. The green here is the most generous on the course but is protected by five bunkers.
The eighth (and 17th), is another driveable par four for the big hitters – though trees await wayward drives left and right, and the small, undulating green can be very tough should you end up in the wrong corner for the day’s pin position.
The last is one of the toughest finishing holes in Northumberland. Played uphill, this tree-lined 369 yard (379 yards as the 18th) par four is all about getting your tee shot in play. Left is a lost ball, while spraying a tee shot over onto the first fairway leaves a tough approach over the trees. The green is generous, though missing it leaves a tough up and down.
After your game, head inside to experience one of the warmest welcomes you’ll find in the North East – as well as some fantastic food from Blue Fox Catering, which joined the club at the start of 2016.