Alan Hedley heads to the coast for a round at Hartlepool Golf Club
Hartlepool Golf Club is a true gem. It’s not a hidden gem – though you do need to find it through the tunnel under the railway line – it remains a popular track among those who enjoy a testing seaside layout on the North East coast.
Emerging from the tunnel, you’re greeted by 18 pristine holes with rolling fairways, hillocks and dunes studded with Marram grass, and some of finest views of the North East coast. There have been subtle changes over the years with bunker improvements and new raised tees, but the hand of James Braid, who designed some of the holes, can still be seen – particularly at the signature 10th.
At just 6,298 yards off the tips, the course isn’t the longest, though there are still five par fours measuring more than 400 yards and like many seaside courses, you can be faced with all four seasons in the same round here.
The opening holes at Hartlepool are good birdie opportunities. The par four first is in reach for many at just 267 yards while the 551-yard dogleg par five second can yield a good chance of an under-par start.
That fast start often comes to a halt at the far tougher, 427-yard par four third hole, which is guarded by bunkers to the right and left sides of a large green.
Another 400-yard-plus par four dogleg follows and you must avoid the water short of the green here before heading to the first of the par threes. The fifth measures 156 yards and should require a solid seven iron, though the wind can play havoc with that plan. The beach and sea are in full view to your left from the tee and the shot to the green needs to negotiate a crevice between the course and the sand below.
A blind tee shot at the 332-yard par four sixth will challenge some while the 111-yard par three seventh is trickier than its yardage suggests with a deep ravine in front of a green which is tucked in the side of a cliff. This one is regularly the most difficult par three on the course thanks to the wind, which can force balls into the ravine or off into thick rough.
The eighth almost got the nod for the signature hole with its spectacular views of the course and coastline beyond. This 454-yard par four is a stern test with bunkers cut tight to the green. A far more comfortable par four of 376 yards follows at the ninth, just make sure to avoid the thick rough which borders the fairway.
Heading into the back nine, you’re presented with a real James Braid gem. A fantastic signature hole, the 10th combines great design with stunning views (see fact file).
Two par threes follow, presenting two very different challenges. The 200-yard-plus 11th hole is all about reaching the right section of the green with your tee shot while the slightly shorter 12th is another of Braid’s finest golf holes, and affords another great viewpoint from the tee.
As you head for home, the short par four 13th is a good birdie chance at just 310 yards while the far tougher 14th and 15th holes, measuring 419 yards and 399 yards respectively, require long drives.
Two solid shots are also required at the 423-yard 16th to find a well-bunkered green. At the long 17th, beware the out of bounds to the left side as well as the bunkers short of the green which catch many approaches that land short.
The 18th at Hartlepool offers a chance to finish in style at just 387 yards, though those looking to score well here must favour the right side from the tee while negotiating two large bunkers at the front and right of the green.
Features Massive practice area and covered bays Pro shop Buggy and trolley hire Clubhouse with bar, lounge and restaurant
Caddy’s tip Keep it on the fairways and don’t be afraid to putt from off the green.
Signature hole The par four 10th hole is one of James Braid’s best. There are arguments for the short seventh, which is built into the side of a cliff and played over a ravine or perhaps the long eighth with its commanding views, but the 10th is a real gem.
It may only be 358 yards but a straight drive is required to avoid the rough on the left and four bunkers to the right of the fairway, while the second shot is blind and must be played over a mound between two higher peaks to a large green below. A fantastic golf hole.
OUR VERDICT Hartlepool is a real joy to play. The course is demanding enough while rewarding those that play sensibly. You always receive a very warm welcome in the splendid clubhouse too.