Alan Hedley takes in the latest changes to Blackwell Grange Golf Club
Blackwell Grange has undergone a lot of changes in the last couple of years, which made a return visit before the autumn sets in a must.
The layout here has always been beautiful and challenging, but substantial work on the course over the last year has improved it a great deal – and there is more to come.
This is not just a golf course either. There are excellent practice facilities, including a 13-bay floodlit driving range, a swing studio and a new junior academy course along with an excellent pro shop and a modern, friendly clubhouse with top-notch food.
There’s also going to be a new short game practice area opening early next year (see sidebar).
That’s an impressive progression since the club’s move to the old Stressholme site in 2013.
Recently, attention has been focussed on the course with extensive remodelling of three par threes – the ninth, 11th and 13th holes – and significant drainage work.
The par 71, 6,446-yard layout with the River Skerne looping through the 145 tree-lined acres is a fine test of golf.
The first is just under 400 yards and can be a daunting drive with trees flanking the fairway, but a steady drive leaves an approach to a green guarded by big bunkers.
The second is a difficult 449-yard downhill par four with a green nestling in the river’s loop while the third is a short uphill dog-leg par four with the river running all the way along its length. The 130-yard fourth hole is most definitely the signature hole here (see factfile).
The fifth and sixth holes are mid-range par fours at 369 and 365 yards. Both are fairly straightforward provided you can avoid the trees and strategically placed bunkers.
Both are considered reasonable birdie chances and you may need to take advantage with what’s to follow. The 447-yard seventh is a tough par four with a fairway that flows to the right, bringing a fairway bunker into play. Two really good hits are needed here.
The 322-yard dog-leg eighth also has a well placed bunker and trees threatening any wayward drive, and there are two large bunkers guarding the green.
A recently remodelled 204-yard par three concludes the front nine – again the green is well guarded by bunkers.
The 10th is the first par five and it comes in at 526 yards. It’s straight and relatively trouble-free – though the big hitters will fancy their chances.
Another 200-yard-plus remodelled par three follows with a concealed pond on the right and trees to the left, while the green is surrounded by bunkers… your club selection had better be right playing into the prevailing wind!
The run of holes that follows present you with narrow margins to negotiate. The drive at the 347-yard 12th needs to be accurate while the green at the short 13th has a narrow entrance through a ring of trees and bunkers. Meanwhile, the par five 14th also features a tight fairway with a deceptive fairway bunker 50 yards from the green.
The finishing four holes are excellent. The 386-yard 15th has a narrow fairway while the now familiar tree and bunker combination awaits anything offline. A road and hedge must also be avoided on the left until the hole turns sharply around the corner.
Birdie is definitely in play at the 479-yard par five 16th before you face two big par fours to finish.
The 430-yard 17th is regarded as the hardest hole on the course while the 18th measures 433 yards. Both have an abundance of trees and fairway bunkers to avoid before playing tough approaches to well guarded greens. Two pars will do nicely to finish!
Blackwell Grange Golf Club
Snipe Lane, Darlington, DL2 2SA
Tel 01325 464 458
Professional 01325 461 002
Contact the club for special offers for groups
White tees 6,446 yards
Yellow tees 6,273 yards
Red tees 5,617 yards
Buggy, trolley and club hire
Locker rooms with changing facilities
Excellent clubhouse with lounge and restaurant
Extensive floodlit practice area with 13 bays
New swing studio
Six hole Junior Academy Course
New short game area opening soon
Accuracy off the tee is essential, and a sure putting stroke will come in very handy.
The 130-yard fourth hole will test the nerves of every player. It may only be 130 yards – shorter off the front tees – but the river runs along the right side and gets very close to the green. Your tee shot must carry the water! Good luck.
Playing Blackwell Grange is a must. A good test of golf and extremely pleasing on the eye.