Alan Hedley finds new facilities have helped secure a golf resort’s reputation as one of the best in the region
Major investment has turned the Mercure George Washington Hotel Golf and Spa into one of the best venues in the North. A new state-of-the-art 16-bay driving range – six with Power Tees – and two teaching bays was recently opened by England, Liverpool and former Sunderland footballer Jordan Henderson. Add to that a five-hole par-three Academy course, a new clubhouse with it’s own lounge bar and golf shop plus changing facilities, a spacious function room and, if you want to stay over, a 103-bedroom hotel which offers stay-and-play golf packages.
At the heart of everything here is a par 73 18-hole championship golf course measuring 6,625 yards from the back tees, which is still rated highly among amateurs and professionals – the pros still talk of the quality of the course which was established when it staged the Sunderland Masters – a ranking PGA North event – for several years.
With tree-lined but generous fairways Washington, which opened in 1979, will test your best golf but it’s surprisingly easy to walk. Not many courses start with two par fives and a par three but Washington does and the first is a 488-yard dog-leg left to right which needs a long fade to get to the corner from the back tees but it’s downhill and a decent drive will set up a chance of getting there in two.
A really strong par three of 200 yards follows which demands enough club to make the two-tier green and then it’s on to a fairly straightforward par five which, again, is reachable in two but there is a ditch short right of the green so the approach needs to be precise. Anybody who has managed a par or one-under start will be thinking this is a lark but the fourth, a par four of nearly 400 yards, will change that as will the par five fifth which has a ditch which winds its way along and behind the hole and there are plenty of trees and rough on the right plus a pond which catches any shot coming up short right.
Then there is Washington’s own Amen Corner – three really tricky par fours – the sixth has loads of trouble with a ditch crossing the fairway, plus lots of trees as the fairway narrows as well as a long, two-tier green. It’s not surprising the par four seventh gets the vote as the signature hole (see fact file) and it’s followed by another par four that may look easier but the two trees which narrow the fairway at 250-260 yards will concentrate the mind.Two more trees halfway to the green will also pose the problem at the short ninth and with out of bounds both sides, the 10th is an intimidating par four with a tough second shot to a green with wicked bunkers right and left. A left to right dog-leg par five follows and it might be better to have a go at carrying the corner as there is out of bounds up the left until the elbow and also on the right.
Out of bounds along the right is the problem at the 12th but hit the middle of the fairway and it is a birdie chance. Enough club to carry the big lateral bunker 20 yards from the green is the key at the par three 13th while the 14th is a real test with out of bounds along the right menacing the drive and loads of trees on the left.
And don’t miss the green left where there is a big bunker – or go long where there is an even bigger bunker. The short 15th is a real birdie chance if you avoid the bunker left and the ditch on the right should not come into play. A straightforward par four follows and you can rescue your card on the way in if you need to as two solid shots will get you close to the par five 17th and while the 18th is no pushover with a ditch all along the left and which crosses the fairway, a lay up from there back tees leaves a reasonable target.
Contact Mercure George Washington
Hotel Golf and Spa
Stone Cellar Road, High Usworth Washington, NE37 1PH
Hotel reception 0191 402 9988
Golf 0191 417 8346
GREEN FEES From £15
Buggies from £20
Electric trolley hire £7.50
TOTAL DISTANCE White tees – 6,618 yards
Yellow tees – 6,285 yards
Red tees – 5,737 yards
FEATURES 18 holes parkland golf
Excellent clubhouse with lounge and balcony overlooking the first tee
Well-stocked professionals shop with PGA Professional tuition
Extensive practice ground/facilities
Par-three short course
16-bay driving range with Power Tees
CADDY’S TIP Accuracy off the tee with these
tree-lined fairways is key
SIGNATURE HOLE There are plenty of candidates for the signature hole – the long par-three second, the fourth or the tough 14th but it’s the seventh, at 385 yards, gets my vote. It’s not a monster but coming in the middle of Washington’s Amen Corner, it’s a long right-to-left dog-leg with a ditch crossing the tree-lined fairway. As beautiful as it’s deadly.