Fun at Headlam

Dean Bailey visits a short course and finds a fine golfing test

County Durham is blessed with many fine inland courses – some of them long tests of driving skills and many of them stretching well beyond the 2,115-yard nine-hole course at Headlam Hall.

Though it is short, the course is a fantastic layout with three very tricky pars fours, a sweeping dogleg par five and five brilliant par threes.

Opening with a long par three of 189 yards, the course plays far tougher than you would expect from its yardage. A water hazard runs down the left side of the first and cuts back towards the front edge of the green, getting to within a few paces of the putting surface and making for a daunting opening tee shot. The hazard continues around the left side of the green and to the back while the two-tiered green is small and protected by mounding to the right.

At 261 yards, the second will be driveable for many – though it is an incredibly risky shot. Out of bounds looms left while trees protect the right side of the fairway. A bunker cuts into the right side around 180 yards from the tee and must be navigated around should you lay up. A large bunker left and pond right protect the kidney-shaped green which slopes back to front and will force the ball away from the centre of the green. An iron off the tee is highly recommended here.

The 139-yard third is one of the simpler par threes here, though you must avoid the water left and long of the green again.

Heading up the hill to the par five fourth, an iron is again safest from the tee – aim left of the single tree to the right side for the best line. If you take driver aim right of the tree to go over the corner – though beware the hazard at the bottom of the hill should you go too far right and the out of bounds left. From the top of the hill, play left and allow the ball to run to the right for a flatter lie beside the hazard. Anything from the middle or left of the fairway will leave a tricky pitch to a green which falls away steeply on the right side.

The toughest par three, the fifth plays all of its 228 yards from an elevated tee. A water hazard crosses the hole some 40 yards short of the green and will catch any short approaches. The green is generous and flatter than most here – but finding it is very tough.

The sixth is another reachable par four at 269 yards back up the hill – though many will choose to play a long iron from the tee as the fairway is bordered by steep slopes and rough. Tall trees protect the left side of the green and will make an approach from the left tricky.

The standout par three, the seventh got our pick for signature hole (see fact file).

Turning for home, the par four eighth is defended by out of bounds left which hides the green from the tee. At 231 yards many can reach the green, which is just beyond the corner, though a water hazard to the left side will gather anything pulled towards it. The green sits in a bowl with a steep bank right with two bunkers protecting the front right of the large green.

The ninth measures 151 yards and is a good chance for a birdie finish. A generous green is protected by a bunker left which is hidden from view while mounding and rough guards the right side. Find the green and you should have a good chance for a closing two here.