Dean Bailey heads north to Burgham Park, a stern parkland test which is back to its best
The Andrew Mair and Mark James-designed Burgham Park has long been one of Northumberland’s toughest parkland courses with its challenging green complexes, huge bunkers and length from the back tees proving difficult for those looking to overpower the golf course.
Set in rolling Northumberland countryside, Burgham is an excellent design which, while testing the bigger hitters to attack the tighter lines and more precise targets, allows high handicappers more generous sections of fairway to provide a playable and fun set of 18 holes.
Opened in 1994, the course’s championship pedigree – it has hosted the PGA North Region Championship three times – can be found from the back tees, which can stretch to 7,065 yards while many will find far more enjoyment from the yellow tees – at 6,352 yards.
The opening two holes are fairly straightforward. The fairway at the 399-yard first is generous, though you’ll find two bunkers to the right and another to the left should you miss the short stuff. A good drive will leave a mid-long iron to a wide green flanked by two bunkers. At the second, 150 yards from the white tees, a solid mid-iron will find a generous green though beware the five deep bunkers – three 30 yards from the front edge of the green at two flanking the putting surface.
While the third measures the same as the first hole, this dog-leg right is much tougher should you take on the carry over the fairway bunker on the right side while two trees guard the fairway just 60 yards from the white tee. Beware going too far over the first bunker – another lurks on the left side. A tricky two-tier green awaits your approach with three bunkers cut below the green.
At 511 yards, the par five fourth hole is reachable in two for the big hitters. From the tee, the key is missing the two bunkers on the left side of the fairway 230 yards from the white tee. From here the hole drops towards a very tricky sloping green which sits at a 45-degree angle to the fairway and features steep mounding over the back edge, beyond which lies out of bounds plus two deep bunkers.
The fifth, 411 yards, is played straight away and players can attack a wide green should they find the fairway here. Meanwhile the par five sixth is an excellent birdie chance at 477 yards though stay clear of the fairway bunker to the right of the lay up area some 110 yards from the green and watch out for the out of bounds up the left side. The green is defended by a deep front bunker and contains many subtle contours. The par three seventh got our pick for signature hole (see fact file).
The par four eighth plays shorter than its 404 yards on the card thanks to fairway sloping toward the green, though watch out for the out of bounds fence to the right. Most should make it past the three fairway bunkers to the left side to leave an approach over the larger of two greenside bunkers.
Heading to the turn, the tricky ninth will test those taking driver with a carry of 240 yards required to clear the fairway bunkers on the left side and cut the corner of the dog-leg. From here, a short approach must not go long – where water awaits. At the 10th, pay attention to the pin position – the slopes here will test even the best putters.
The need for confident driving is a recurring theme at Burgham Park and you’ll need three good hits to tame the 403-yard 11th, 497-yard 12th and 425-yard 13th. Look out for the two fairway bunkers short of the par five 12th should you try to reach the green which sits above the fairway, while we recommend an iron from the tee at the 13th – the gap between the fairway bunkers is narrow and there’s not much room to the pond.
The 14th is a monster of a par four at 442 yards uphill. Though the fairway is generous here, you must hit two great shots to reach the green, which is well-guarded with a large bunker at the front left and three more wrapping around the right side of the green.
The 15th is a much simpler prospect. While still more than 400 yards, there is room between the two fairway bunkers – the first of which has been reduced in size – on the right and the greenside bunkers are set away from the putting surface to provide a wide entrance to the green. At the par five 16th you’ll find a good birdie chance should you stay well clear of the trouble – play short of the three fairway bunkers, then lay up short of the water hazard to leave a short pitch which you can attack the flag with.
The penultimate hole is the toughest par three on the course. The 172-yard hole is played uphill to a green ringed by five bunkers and required a well-struck long iron to hold the putting surface.
Heading back down to the clubhouse, the 18th posed many problems for players when it featured a ditch running down towards the green. That hazard was removed before Gow’s arrival and the downhill par four offers a great chance for birdie with a short iron to a generous green. Looking down from the raised tee, the right side of the fairway is the best line as anything from the left must then clear a huge bunker on the front left corner of the green.
Burgham Park remains a challenging course with many tough tee shots and tricky approaches. If you want to test your game, this is the place to do it.
Twilight rates from 3pm
Group packages for 12 or more players available – contact Kevin Gow for more details
Blue tees 7,065 yards
White tees 6,804 yards
Yellow tees 6,352 yards
Red tees 5,793 yards
Large putting green
Bar and catering (10am-7pm)
Spike bar downstairs
Ball striking is key to unlocking good scores here – you’ll need plenty of good mid and long irons when playing from the white tees.
The par three seventh is sure to test your ball striking. This 171-yard hole plays into the prevailing wind and features a water hazard just four yards from the front edge of the putting surface, though the back half of the green is far more generous than the front.