Dean Bailey returns to Ramside Hall’s Cathedral Course to find out how the region’s newest layout is faring
It’s amazing to look back to my first visit to the Cathedral Course at Ramside Hall four years ago – when the greens were marked out with white lines and the fairways were being shaped in topsoil. Jump to 2017 and Jonathan Gaunt’s layout is a grand addition to the resort.
Home to a 127-bedroom hotel, a spa complex, four restaurants and a spacious clubhouse – complete with one of the best locker rooms in the North – Ramside’s two courses, the Cathedral and the traditional English parkland Prince Bishops, proved the perfect venues for 2017’s Northern Golfer Champion of Champions.
The Cathedral Course, named for it’s views down toward Durham and it’s world-famous cathedral, is a combination of a previous tree-lined nine-hole loop to the east of the clubhouse, the high plateau of Hilltop Farm and the valley further east from the clubhouse which is divided by Sherburn Beck.
While we chose to play the course from the back tees, you’ll find a mix of teeing options which make the course a more manageable test for most club golfers – from 6,400 yards right up to 7,200 yards.
Two tree-lined tests open the round. A long drive which avoids the out of bounds right is needed at the 566-yard par five first to leave a shot around the corner of the dog-leg. From here, a mid to short iron approach should find a generous green, though three deep bunkers protect the raised putting surface. Another straight drive at the 385-yard par four second should leave a wedge over two small bunkers at the front edge of the green.
Walk through the impressive tunnel into the Hilltop section of the course for your first taste of the panoramic views. The bunker to the left side of the 492-yard par four third is out of reach and you should try and get as close to it as possible to leave a shorter approach over water.
The first of the par threes, the fourth is a monster from the blue tees at 222 yards. Played downhill, the entrance to the green is narrowed by two bunkers. At the 558-yard par five fifth, big hitting will again be rewarded. Avoid the bunkers right of the fairway and lay up below the green between the fairway bunkers to leave a steep uphill approach. At just 161 yards, the par three sixth is a welcome short hole played downhill. A deep bunker sits on the front right corner while another lurks just beyond it.
The 605-yard par five seventh is one of the trickiest holes on the course and requires accuracy as much as distance. Play to the first plateau of fairway before turning left and playing into the second, which slopes left to right. From here many will still require a long iron or wood to reach the green. A long and very challenging hole, a par five here is very good.
The dog-leg par four eighth and ninth holes, at 443 and 483 yards respectively, both feature intimidating fairway bunkers. At the eighth, a lake protects the front of the green while the ninth features four bunkers on the way to the putting surface. Water comes into play for the tee shot and approach at the 454-yard par four 10th while the 11th is the shortest of the par fives at just 477 yards. Avoid the bunkers lining the landing area, and the trees left and long of the green, and you should have a good birdie chance.
Heading into the valley, the downhill par three 12th got our pick for signature hole (see fact file). With trees left and Sherburn Beck right, the drive at the 13th is the toughest on the course. From the fairway, the long approach must find a very narrow green with no bunkers.
Heading back uphill, the semi-blind tee shot at the 305-yard 14th is tighter than you think. Beware getting too close to the green, which is ringed by tall trees.
Heading out of the valley and into the final stretch, a generous fairway at the 416-yard 15th invites a big drive. Though it sounds like a good birdie chance at just 315 yards, the 16th is tricky. Find the fairway to the right of the lake 210 yards from the tee to leave a short approach over two front bunkers – beware the lake to the right and beyond the green!
A very challenging par four, the 456-yard 17th can be a card wrecker. Two deep bunkers, a water hazard and out of bounds sit to the left side of the first part of the double dog-leg. The best advice to play right of the first bunker to leave a long approach.
The par three 18th is a daunting prospect at 224 yards over water though there is more room between the lake and green than you think and mounding around the green should help feed the ball onto the putting surface.
Green fees From October 2017-March 2018 18 holes (Mon-Thurs) £25 18 holes (Fri-Sun) £30 9 holes (Mon-Thurs) £15 9 holes (Fri-Sun) £20 Membership options, including Academy, Flexi, Premier and Corporate – from £120.
Total distance Blue tees 7,176 yards White tees 6,877 yards Yellow tees 6,558 yards Red tees 5,687 yards
Features Spacious clubhouse with food available throughout the day Locker rooms 16-bay driving range Short game practice area and two putting greens Three teaching professionals Fully stocked pro shop Indoor teaching facilities Sky TV Free wi-fi Buggy hire Club and shoe hire
Caddy’s tip Pick the most appropriate tees for your game – the course is laid out to test elite players from the blue tees.
Signature hole Jonathan Gaunt’s homage to the famous 12th (Golden Bell) at Augusta National is played over Sherburn Beck. At 189 yards from the back tees, it plays around a club downhill and must carry at least to the front edge or risk running back down the hill towards the beck. A wide green awaits but beware two bunkers await beyond the back edge.