Dean Bailey heads into the Tyne Valley to visit Tyneside Golf Club – a club rich in history which is embracing the modern golfing landscape
Our region’s golf courses are linked to many of the game’s greatest champions and golf course architects, from Dr Alister MacKenzie to Old Tom Morris to more modern work by Dave Thomas and developments by the likes of Donald Steel.
Harry S Colt has played a huge role in shaping the region’s golfing landscape and one of his finest works is Tyneside Golf Club. Set high above the River Tyne in the stunning Tyne Valley landscape, Colt’s 1911 design weaves through ancient trees and makes great use of the sloping terrain to challenge players to play with accuracy, not power.
While Colt’s influences are strong on the golf course, the club itself continues to progress on all fronts. The creation of a six-hole par three course and enviable practice facilities in 2017/18 have boosted membership by more than 100 while offering a pathway for players of all ages to pick up the game and continue to play as long as possible. On the golf course, investment, particularly to modernise drainage, has secured year-round playability.
At a little more than 6,000 yards, Tyneside is far from a bombers’ paradise with its trees and penal bunkering, most of which has been maintained and restored in recent years by Frank Pont of Infinite Variety Golf Design along with the Tyneside greenstaff to ensure it lasts another century.
The opening uphill par four of 351 yards requires a straight drive over a single fairway bunker. Longer hitters should stay left here as the fairway slopes down to the right side. The best approach is from the left, avoiding two bunkers in the front right corner of a large green.
A far tougher prospect, the 468-yard par four second hole requires two great shots to reach the green in regulation. Out of bounds lurks left and players should aim to get as close to the pond in the fairway as possible. From here, play downhill to a green with three deep bunkers below the putting surface on the right side.
Three par fours of less than 400 yards follow and the blind 389-yard fourth is the trickiest of the bunch, featuring a cross bunker some 40 yards from the front of the green along with two more bunkers flanking the left and right sides.
The four par threes at Tyneside point directly north, south, east and west, and each is completely different in nature and length. The first, and toughest, of the short holes is the 195-yard sixth. With out of bounds left and the prevailing wind in your face, finding this tiered green can be incredibly tough.
The longest hole on the course follows at the seventh. This 521-yard par five heads down into the valley and can yield a birdie opportunity. Beware the swale short of the green and avoid the deep bunker to the front right corner.
The tee shot is key at the 343-yard eighth hole with trees waiting left and right of the fairway, which slopes down to the right. From the fairway, the small green is an inviting target, while those coming in from an angle will have to deal with a large bunker on the right and two more left.
Heading towards the turn, the 152-yard ninth should pose few problems – though ensure you take enough club to reach the green with the three bunkers short of the putting surface.
From the 10th tee you get a great look at what lies ahead – a 490-yard par five with stunning views of the valley beyond. Most will carry the stream in the fairway to leave an uphill approach, which must navigate two fairway bunkers en-route to a subtly sloped green.
The 11th is a straightforward par four of 355 yards – though the ravine to the right can catch out those who are too bold with their approach to a green surrounded by trees.
Climb up to the 12th tee and take a moment to enjoy the view before playing back down the hill to a narrow green ringed by five bunkers. Club selection is key here – make sure you carry the ravine in front of the green.
The signature hole – The Coffin – follows (see fact file).
The final stretch begins with two great birdie chances. At the 305-yard 14th, a blind tee shot is played to a generous fairway to leave a wedge to a long green surrounded by bunkers cut below the putting surface on its right side. At the 281-yard 15th, the small green at the back of the clubhouse is an inviting prospect – though five treacherous bunkers defend its entrance.
The final par three is the shortest of the set at just 120 yards, though Colt’s bunkering and green contouring is at its absolute best here with five bunkers creating a ring around the raised, subtly sloped green with out of bounds just beyond.
Two testing par fours bring your round back to the clubhouse. The subtle dogleg right at the 17th must be navigated accurately to leave a good view of the large green before turning to head back to the clubhouse with the 387-yard 18th, which is guarded by three bunkers and some tricky tight lies around the green.
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6,103 yards (white tees)
5,851 yards (yellow tees)
5.504 yards (red tees)
Long and short game practice area (see website for times and prices for visitors)
Clubhouse bar and catering
Good scores at Tyneside are built around the greens. A solid wedge game is essential here.
Few holes in our region fill players with dread the way The Coffin does. This 410-yard par four is all about the second shot, which is flanked by ancient trees and must find the narrow, coffin-shaped green which gives the hole its name. Anything left here will end up well below the putting surface, either in the bunker at the front of the green or down below the green toward the path.
A regular pilgrimage to Tyneside is essential. The course remains one of the finest parkland tests in the North East of England.