Dean Bailey returns to Arcot Hall, one of the North East’s finest parkland tests
Walk the tree-lined fairways of Arcot Hall, taking in the area of special scientific interest with its rare grasses and flowers along with the ancient woods and stunning views across the golf course, and you’ll soon see why this place remains one of the North East’s finest examples of parkland golf, and a lasting example of James Braid’s work in our part of the world.
Laid out by the five-time Open champion in 1947, the course measures 6,329 yards from the back tees with a par of 70 and maintains many of Braid’s design elements in its stunning, subtly sloped greens and often penal greenside bunkering.
Easy walking, the course’s primary defence is its ancient trees, many of which loom over fairways and can cause havoc for those who are wayward from the tee. The par threes are also of particular note.
A gentle opening hole of 332 yards welcomes players with a generous fairway and raised green with two front bunkers while the 171-yard par three second is one of the simpler short holes here – just make sure to avoid the two front bunkers which pinch the front of the green.
The third, 377 yards from the back tee, is a much tougher test. Play to the left side of the fairway to avoid the pond some 250 yards from the tee on the right side. From here a narrow green awaits with a large bunker to the left side and another bunker lurking on the right side some 40 yards from the front edge of the green.
The fourth is the toughest of the par threes and plays longer than its 212 yards on the card. The bunker to the left is very much in play from the back tee while the right hand bunker is huge and leaves a tough up and down.
At the 399-yard fifth, a long drive is required to reach the corner of the dogleg and open up a view of the green. Beware the fairway bunker on the right side around 50 yards short of the green, and another cut below the green on its right side.
Two par fives of a little over 500 yards follow – both offering birdies from their generous fairways and promising disaster for those who fail to navigate them with accuracy, particularly when laying up with bunkers protecting the approach to both greens.
The dogleg eighth measures 376 yards and requires a tee shot of a little more than 200 yards to reach the corner of the dogleg, which turns sharply around a bank of tall trees. Some may take on the corner to leave a short pitch but they must avoid a large fairway bunker. Beware the wind swirling among the trees here as you play uphill to a green guarded by a single bunker on the left side.
The last of the inner loop of nine holes, the ninth is the signature hole (see fact file).
Making the turn, long hitters need to play short of the ditch which crosses the fairway of the par five 10th roughly 285 yards from the tee. The most generous approach to the par fives here awaits those who find the fairway.
Watch out again for the swirling wind at the 197-yard 11th, and the three bunkers which protect the front of the green.
The following five holes form the toughest stretch of the course. The 12th, a par four of 463 yards, is played through a narrow avenue of trees and gorse to a fairway which turns left – watch out for the out of bounds and hazard on the right side. The 13th may be shorter at 360 yards but has a semi-blind tee shot through a narrow gap in the trees to a fairway that turns left to right with two deep bunkers at the front of the green. The 14th doglegs sharply right to left and measures nearly 400 yards while the 161-yard par three 15th offers little respite with an undulating green guarded by two front bunkers and ringed by trees. The 423-yard 16th has wrecked many good cards here – play to the right side of the fairway and hope to be long enough to have a sight of the green around the right to left dogleg. The approach is one of the toughest on the course between two bunkers to a sloping, two-tiered green.
Heading back to the clubhouse to complete the outer loop of nine, the 341-yard 17th is a classic risk and reward hole played downhill. The fairway turns left to right here and the longest hitters may fancy their chances of getting close to the putting surface around the corner.
Play sensibly at the 385-yard par four 18th to unlock a route to the green. Drive to the wider part of the fairway on the left side to avoid the trees which guard the right side of the approach to the green, which is overshadowed by large trees and the elegant clubhouse.
Contact Arcot Hall Golf Club
Dudley, Cramlington, NE237QP
tel 0191 236 2794 www.arcothall.co.uk
Green fees See website for details on current rates
Total distance White tees – 6,329 yards
Yellow tees – 6,097 yards
Red tees – 5,555 yards
Features Stunning clubhouse with restaurant and bar
Pro shop with PGA professional tuition
Buggy and trolley hire
Caddy’s tip A number of holes require accuracy over length and it’s a good idea to plot your way around the doglegs here, taking into account how the course is designed to tempt you to hit driver on some holes early on while many holes later strongly suggest a measured approach from the tee.
Signature hole The ninth is a stunning par three. Played from a slightly elevated tee, this 187-yard hole is ringed by trees with a hedge to the right side. A pond guards the left side of the green just short of the putting surface while a small bunker looms just beyond it. Finding the green is essential here while the putting surface features many devilish slopes. A great par three!
OUR VERDICT A fine example of Braid’s work in our region which tests every aspect of your game, Arcot Hall remains a must-visit layout.