Dean Bailey heads into Co Durham and visits one of the region’s most challenging parkland courses
Minutes from the A19 and set among ancient trees and with the castle giving a dramatic backdrop to the back nine, Castle Eden remains one of Co Durham’s finest parkland layouts.
Though many of the fairways here are generous, beware the tall, old trees – lots of them will come into play should you miss the fairways. The key to good scoring over the 6,257-yard layout is accuracy. Many of the holes require mid and long iron approaches and good ball striking will be rewarded while misjudged approaches risk finding penal greenside bunkers or leaving long, subtly undulating putts on very fast greens.
The opening five holes at Castle Eden test your ability from the tee with three par fours of more than 400 yards followed by a pair of par fours which, while shorter, require precision to find the correct part of the landing area and give you a look at the green for your second shot. The second is the toughest of the five. Played uphill, you will not be able to see the green for your approach or the cross bunker 30 yards short of the putting surface and another deep bunker to the right side of the green.
The par three sixth came very close to getting our nod for signature hole. Played over a valley, the 175-yard tee shot is daunting while a huge green hides two rear bunkers and another in the front left – all of which present very tough up and downs.
The easiest hole on the course, the seventh requires big hitting or very accurate iron play. The longest players will try and play over the tree in the centre of the fairway and get close to the green, while many will have to play to the right side with an iron before threading the ball through the gap in the trees to find a small green which is highest at the back with three front bunkers cut below the putting surface.
The eighth is a good birdie chance, played downhill to a green with no bunkers – though beware missing the green right or long with steep drops down towards thick rough and trees. Head back uphill at the par three ninth – club selection is key here to make it to the green and avoid rolling back down the hill. Two bunkers are cut well short of the green on the left while two more sit at the front right and left of the green to protect the sides of a very wide green.
The first par five, the 10th can yield birdies should you play it sensibly. A generous fairway sits between tall trees and many will play towards the fairway bunker on the right side for the more generous line. Play your second shot, with a great view of the castle, between five bunkers to leave a simple pitch.
The par three 11th plays around half a club downhill and club selection is key with a hidden bunker over the back edge of the green. Head through the tees and play the 12th in the shadow of the castle, an uphill par four of 389 yards which plays longer than its yardage to a small green with a deep bunker in the front left corner which will gather any short approaches.
Three tough holes make up the middle of the back nine. The 438-yard par four 13th is one of the toughest drives on the course with thick woods left and more trees right. Play down the right side to have the best line in with a long iron – a large bunker at the left of the green makes an approach from the left tougher. The green is one of the largest on the course and a two-putt par is well earned.
The tee shot at the 14th is blind with out of bounds left. Drives must reach the top of the hill to give a view of the landing area, aiming down the right side will give the best line to the green. A cross bunker left of the green with a tall face, is cut into the slope up to the putting surface and will catch many of those trying to get to the green in two.
The 463-yard par four is the toughest hole on the course with the most difficult tee shot leading to a blind second shot to a green which runs off steeply right, left and long. Three bunkers, including a back left bunker cut well below the surface, protect the green.
The final three holes require precision but can yield birdies. The 343-yard 16th is played uphill and a good drive, avoiding the hidden fairway bunker right of the marker post and finishing short of the burn, will leave a short iron or wedge uphill to a generous green.
The 17th got out pick for signature hole (see fact file). At 290 yards, the 18th is in reach for some though two bunkers wait on the right side at 80 and 50 yards short of the green respectively. The green sits on a plateau and is a great chance for a closing birdie in front of the clubhouse.
Contact Castle Eden Golf Club, Stockton Road Castle Eden, Hartlepool, TS27 4SS
tel 01429 836 510
Visitor and society packages available, contact the secretary for details
Total distance White tees 6,257 yards
Yellow tees 5,976 yards
Red tees 5,466 yards
Clubhouse with lounge, bar, dining room and conservatory
Locker rooms and changing facilities
Buggy and trolley hire
Pro shop and PGA tuition
Two practice grounds
Caddy’s tip Long and accurate driving will open up scoring opportunities here and keep you out of those trees!
Signature hole Played steeply downhill and surrounded by tall trees, the 172-yard 17th is a stunning par three. Four bunkers sit at the front edge of the green while a narrow burn will catch anything which doesn’t make it to the bunkers. The burn is also in play to the rear left of the green while a wide green can leave some very long putts – though those in the same portion as the flag offer very good birdie opportunities