White tees 6,486 yards, par 71 Yellow tees 6,191 yards, par 71 Red tees 5,870 yards, par 74
- Large clubhouse with excellent catering -Pro shop and PGA professional tuition -Practice range with long and short game areas
Dean Bailey plays one of Co Durham’s finest parkland courses at Chester-le-Street Golf Club
Despite its great history – stretching back to its foundation in 1908 and regular visits from Prince Albert before he was crowned King George VI in 1936 – the golf course in the shadow of Lumley Castle has not stood still.
Having undergone a programme of development in the 2010s, which included the removal of thousands of non-native trees, today the course at Chester-le-Street Golf Club is a delight with the hillside layout heading up to the castle and down to the River Wear.
Following the six-figure development, further investment has modernised the greenkeeping fleet, with Jack Hetherington and his team elevating the presentation of the course through elements such as the creation closely mown approach areas, greater definition of the natural curves of the layout, and an overall elevation of presentation which won high praise during this year’s R&A Coronation Foursomes, Clark Cup final, and Chester Bowl scratch event.
The first benefited greatly from the alterations, with the 277-yard par four featuring two fairway bunkers 40 yards short, while two more modern greenside bunkers make accessing the pin from an angle tough – particularly when the flag is at the front.
At the 382-yard second, the solitary tree some 165 yards from the green on the left side of the uphill dogleg left must be avoided, though the landing area is generous beyond it. Finding the fairway is key to be able to play accurately into a two-tiered green guarded by a bunker short and another deep trap at the back.
Two fairway bunkers guard the landing area at the 421-yard third – though there is room short of them and beyond. The green sits well below the fairway and your view of this wide, back-to-front sloping green – with a single bunker right and steep drop at the back edge – is often obscured by the slope.
Having crossed into the riverside Haughs section of the course, the 540-yard par five fourth is flanked by the wooded boundary right and a trio of fairway bunkers left. Sweeping around the trees to the right, the green presents an inviting target, but beware the ditch which splits the fairway some 80 yards from the front edge. At the green, two bunkers – each with tall front lips – narrow the entrance, while a third beefs up the defences on the left side.
The 403-yard par four fifth is a tricky driving hole, featuring a single bunker on its right side with the river – which is out of bounds – following the shape of the dogleg right. Land close to the bunker to get the best angle into a wide, but well-bunkered green.
Featuring the river on its right side, the par five sixth presents a birdie chance. Do not be tempted to bail out left as a pair of bunkers and dense woodland await. Two deep approach bunkers on the right ensure reaching the green – which features two more deep traps – is only possible with a great shot.
At the 175-yard seventh, a solid mid-iron shot is required to find a green which slopes from back-left to front-right and is almost 40 yards long. The trio of bunkers add to the difficulty of reaching back flags.
The 393-yard eighth requires a straight shot, rather than a long one, with a pair of bunkers on the left while a third waits to catch out longer hitters on the right. The entrance to the green, between two more bunkers – including a deep one front-left, is wide.
Two long shots are required to reach a devilish back-to-front sloping green complex at the 440-yard ninth, which is flanked by a pair of front bunkers and framed by mounding at the back.
Having crossed the river back into the section of the course below the castle, getting the tee shot right at the short, steeply uphill par four 10th is vital. Beware the slopes, which can fire balls towards the boundary fence left – though the greenside slopes are far more helpful. A putt on a long, steeply sloped, two-tiered green is little reward for making the climb.
The fairway bunkers on the short dogleg right 11th can stop balls running towards the boundary fence, while ancient trees guard the right side and the direct route to the green. A massive bunker right protects the flank of the green – though there is room left for those who try and reach the green in one.
Overlooked by the castle, with the clubhouse at your back, the 169-yard 12th is played straight uphill. Stay well clear of the swale which snakes up the hill on the right; the deep, steeply faced bunkers in the front; and the ditch at the rear of the green and you may well escape this tricky short hole with a three.
The par four 13th and 14th holes, measuring 378 and 363 yards respectively, are chances to make birdies – though you must avoid the boundary left of the 13th. The signature 14th follows.
The hillside section of the course at Chester-le-Street affords the most expansive views, and the elevated position of the 14th tee takes in the landscape across to town and beyond, with the church’s spire providing a good reference for the line. Stay out of the two fairway bunkers left and a short shot is all that’s left to a massive green which features staggered front bunkers and falls away at the back to once again open up the view.
The par four 15th, measuring 454 yards from the white tees, is appropriately named Long Haul. The fairway climbs steadily before it reaches a large cross bunker 80 yards from the green. The boundary fence is just a few paces from the left edge of the green, while a deep bunker right adds further challenge.
At the 191-yard par three 16th, three cavernous bunkers guard the right side of the green. A fourth guards the back-left corner, though the back-to-front sloping green happily catches well struck shots.
Turning for home, and with the prevailing wind at your back, the 17th’s primary defence is its rigg and furrow fairway, which can leave you with a tricky lie for the approach. Stay left of the oak trees on the edge of the fairway for the best angle to the green, which is protected by a steeply faced bunker on its left side and a second, slightly shallower, trap on the right.
Some can get pretty close to the green with their tee shot at the 348-yard 18th. A bunker on the front-left corner sits well below the surface of the final green – which runs steeply from right-to-left.
The consistent improvements to the course have led to Chester presenting a fantastic example of modern English parkland golf – a treat for the elite and club golfer alike on every visit.