Having recently received a gold award for the best large hotel in England, Paul Corney visits Matfen Hall, one of Northumberland’s gems
Located in the heart of the Northumberland countryside, Matfen Hall offers golfers the choice of three nine-hole loops named Douglas, Standing Stone and Dewlaw, combining into three testing 18-hole courses.
Laid out across fabulous parkland, the fairways and greens are bordered by stunning mature trees, and while it is an enjoyable experience for all levels of golfer, many have been caught out by the River Pont which dissects the courses, and there is the Ha-Ha wall to contend with – no laughing matter, I can assure you! There is also a high quality nine-hole par three course and Golf Academy where John Harrison, who coaches European Tour winner Kenneth Ferrie, heads the team.
The opening hole on the Douglas is a generous 495-yard par five played slightly uphill and a good birdie chance. The second shot is played over the Ha-Ha wall and between two bunkers approximately 50 yards from a two-tier green sloping back to front. Next is a short downhill par four measuring 260 yards. A three or four iron from the tee should leave a short pitch between large trees to a postage stamp-sized green. Come up short and you will not be laughing as the ball nestles against the Ha-Ha wall.
At 445 yards, the par four fourth is a real tester. There is a nest of bunkers on the left which come into play from the tee, but a long straight drive should leave a long downhill approach to a green falling away left and at the back – this is not an easy green to hit and a par at this hole is always a good score. If you have a tendency to leak your iron shots right, aim left of the green at the 173-yard eighth. Although there are two bunkers on the left of the green, it is better to find sand than the lake – at least you won’t lose a ball!
The final hole on the Douglas loop is a strong par four measuring 443 yards. With the lake on the right, trees and a long menacing bunker left, this is a very intimidating driving hole. A long straight drive is needed if you want to leave any chance of getting home in two.
What used to be the back nine of the original 18-hole course, the opening hole on the Standing Stone loop is a short par three. It may be only 140 yards but any ball left will end up in the Pont. The fifth hole is arguably the toughest hole on the course where any shot right will be lost in the woods and dense undergrowth. This par four measures 442 yards and with water to carry from the tee and again for the approach, most players will play this as a par five and hope for a pitch and putt to make a four – a bogey is not a disaster at this one. At 357 yards, the ninth on the Standing Stone isn’t a long finishing hole but it does have a tricky tee shot with the river to negotiate. Do not go right or you will be tangling with the Ha-Ha wall and out of bounds beyond. The green is a small target, bunkered at the front and surrounded by trees. Opened for play in 2007 and designed by John Harrison and Craig Parkinson, the Dewlaw course has received excellent reviews from members and guests. This loop opens up with a 350-yard par four played slightly uphill and then down towards a green with a huge bunker encircling the back half of the putting surface. This is not a particularly difficult hole providing you miss the three fairway bunkers from the tee and play for the front of the green. At nearly 580 yards, the fifth is the longest hole at Matfen and a genuine three-shotter.
The toughest hole on this loop is the seventh, an awesome 448-yard par four and a dog-leg right. Three bunkers protect the corner of the dog-leg and have to be avoided at all costs to leave any chance of reaching the green. With water at the front and surrounding the right hand side of the green it might be wise for some to lay-up and settle for a bogey. A delightful 162-yard par three, the eighth is played through trees and over rushes. No bunkers to worry about but beware going left or you will be reaching into the bag for another ball.
Following your game at Matfen there is no better place to relax than in the Keeper’s Lodge clubhouse – the perfect 19th hole for golfers, non-golfers and day visitors serving high quality snacks and meals daily until 9pm. The clubhouse contains an excellent pro shop, an impressive lounge bar and restaurant and a patio area with superb views of the course.
CONTACT Matfen Hall Golf Club
Matfen, Northumberland, NE20 0RH
Tel 01661 886 400
Academy01661 886 146
GREEN FEE Weekday Adults £35, Juniors £20
Weekends Adults £40, Juniors £20
Early bird & Twilight rates available
Buggy hire £25 a round
Electric trolley hire £10 a round
Pull trolley hire £3 a round
TOTAL DISTANCE Douglas course
White tees – 3,339 yards Par 36
Yellow tees – 3,164 yards Par 36
Red tees – 2,749 yards Par 36
Standing Stone course
White tees – 3,361 yards Par 36
Yellow tees – 3,191 yards Par 36
Red tees – 2,820 yards Par 37
White tees – 3,357 yards Par 36
Yellow tees – 3,023 yards Par 36
Red tees – 2,745 yards Par 37
FEATURES Three nine-hole loops
Superb practice facilities including a
10-bay covered driving range and a
nine-hole par three course
Ample car parking
Excellent bar and dining facilities
CADDY’S TIP If in doubt when taking on the water hazards or the walls – don’t. Lay-up and protect your score.
SIGNATURE HOLE The eighth on the Standing Stone course is Matfen’s signature hole, a very demanding 219-yard par three. Many a ball has been lost in the Pont which flows adjacent to the green. For those fortunate to find the putting surface, the severe slope left to right will test the best of putters.