Dean Bailey visits the mature parkland course at Westerhope Golf Club
Westerhope Golf Club has stood the test of time as well as any club in our region.
Opened in 1941 as a nine-hole layout and extended to 18 holes 10 years later, the course was designed by 1902 Open champion Sandy Herd. Little has changed since then, though minor alterations and the maturing of the course’s trees has ensured it remains a popular venue for Northumberland county events and continues to produce many talented golfers.
Played side by side, the opening two holes give a perfect introduction to the challenge you’ll face here. Bordered by tall trees, the fairways are generous but must be found – any visit to the trees will see you pitching out sideways at best. At the slightly longer first, most will not need to worry about reaching the bunker in the centre of the fairway and can hit driver from the tee to leave a wedge or short iron to a long green protected by two bunkers – one on each of the front corners. At the second, another straight tee shot will leave a shorter approach to a better protected and smaller putting surface featuring four bunkers in its front half.
The first of Westerhope’s par threes follows – a slightly uphill, 170-yard hole which can catch out some with a narrow slither of water and deceptive, large bunker well short of another long green which is pinched in the front third by a pair of bunkers.
Having walked past the clubhouse, the short dogleg fourth hole catches out many players. Driver is not required here, though you must make sure to make it over the two sycamores on the left side, not far from the tee. The hole then turns left and rises to the green – pitches can be hard to judge with no view of the putting surface and two large bunkers staring back at you.
Fighting Fifth, some 220 yards from the back tee, can be one hell of a fight to complete. The hole requires a long iron or wood to be threaded through the narrow entrance to the green, which is watched over by two long bunkers.
Birdie opportunities follow at back-to-back par fives. Both turning from left to right, the 517-yard sixth is the trickier of the pair with its blind tee shot followed by a narrowing approach to a raised green perched beyond two deep bunkers. Leaving a straight pitch onto this green is highly recommended. At the 525-yard seventh, favour the left side to get a better view for your second shot around the corner. The sweeping left-to-right fairway is generous, as is the green, which measures some 42 paces from front to back.
An equally good birdie chance follows at the short par four eighth hole. With the fairway and green sitting up from the tee box, this is an inviting hole to hit driver on. A relatively straight drive will leave a wedge or pitch shot to one of the smallest greens on the course. Avoid the bunkers here – they’re particularly deep.
The longest hole on the course and played all uphill, the par five ninth requires three good shots to make it to the green. Be careful with your alignment on the tee – the hedge on the right is closer than it first appears. The approach to a wide green must navigate a single bunker on the left corner and a small, steep mound on the right side which can be tricky to navigate around.
The picturesque par three 10th is set against a backdrop of tall pines which loom close to the green. A mid-iron is all that’s required to find the green beyond the two bunkers.
The signature par four 11th is next.
The toughest driving hole at Westerhope, the 431-yard par four 11th captures the unique challenge of the golf course perfectly. Played with a slight dogleg to the left, the tee shot favours a right-to-left shape to work around the trees and find the narrow fairway. From here, the long approach is slightly uphill to a green with two bunkers guarding much of its length on both sides. A long, challenging par four that requires two (or three) excellent shots.
A similarly narrow tee shot follows at the considerably shorter par four 12th. Many should choose an iron from the tee as it is very easy to run out of room on the left side and tangle with the hedge. The green is a particularly small target with trees looming close to the left side while a trio of bunkers await those who bail out to the right.
Much like the previous short hole, the par three 13th is beautifully set among the trees. Just under 150 yards from the back tee, the bunkers at the front of the green have been combined into a horseshoe-shaped trench of sand waiting to catch any mishit shots. Beyond the sand you’ll find a very generous green for such a short par three – just don’t let that bunker intimidate you.
The final par five at Westerhope, the 507-yard 14th is tremendous fun with its downhill tee shot and approach. Having found the fairway between the bunkers on both sides, the full challenge of the hole lies before you. Big hitters can make it down the hill to the green in two, though finding the small, peanut-shaped green – pinched in the middle by its two bunkers – can be challenging.
The 15th should be played sensibly to give you a chance of making birdie or a simple par. Two bunkers guard the fairway from those laying up – the first around 190 yards from the back tee – while those taking aim at the green at this 270-yard par four must avoid two more deep bunkers at the front of the green as well a ditch on the right side.
The most demanding hole on the back nine, the 454-yard 16th is played uphill to a wide fairway bordered by trees on the left and out of bounds on the right. Having found the fairway, a long iron or wood is required to reach the green, which features no bunkers but is guarded by a single tree on the front left corner and several turf mounds on the right side.
The trees gather in again at the 419-yard par four 17th, which requires a tee shot shaped right to left to make the most of the slope and run down the hill. From here, the cross bunker some 70 yards short of the green should be no issue, though the two large bunkers at the front of the green are very popular.
Heading back uphill to the clubhouse, the 347-yard 18th can yield birdies for those with the stamina left to drive up the hill through the trees and find the fairway of this left-to-right dogleg hole. A short shot uphill, played in the shadow of the clubhouse beyond a thin bunker on the front left corner of the green, is all that remains.
Westerhope Golf Club, Whorlton Grange, Westerhope, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE5 1PP
Tel 0191 286 7636
See website for full details and contact the secretary for group bookings
White tees 6,392
Yellow tees 6,145
Red tees 5,845
Spacious clubhouse with first-floor bar and excellent catering
Practice ground, chipping and putting greens
The trees loom close to all the fairways at Westerhope and driving the ball accurately is essential to scoring well here
A test of driving accuracy with high quality putting surfaces, trips to Westerhope are always ones to remember