Dean Bailey returns to one of his favourite parkland courses, Bedlingtonshire in Northumberland, as Masters momentum builds
There’s something special about an early season visit to Bedlingtonshire Golf Club in the heart of Northumberland – a must around April when the Masters from Augusta has inspired us to seek out green fairways and tall trees punctuated by banks of pink and purple azaleas and rhododendrons.
Much like Dr Alastair McKenzie’s Augusta masterpiece, the Frank Pennink-designed Bedlingtonshire is home to a fabled stretch of three challenging holes – its own Amen Corner complete with towering oak trees, demanding tee shots, card wreckers and stunning views – remarkable when you realise the golf course has only stood here since 1972.
Turning into the furthest corner of the course following the tight, but short 350-yard par four 12th, the stretch begins with a daunting tee shot to a fairway protected by thick rough and trees left and a huge rhododendron bush and more tall trees to the right of the fairway which will block an approach should you leak your drive right. At a little over 400 yards, your second will be trickier still with a bunker short right of the green, two more greenside traps and trees left of the green.
Played into the furthest corner of the course, the par three 14th is the signature hole (see fact file). The second daunting tee shot in three holes, the 15th may be the toughest drive on what is generally a generous course. Trees loom left while more await right should you bail out to the wider line. A large green, which sits slightly below the fairway is protected by two deep bunkers and trees at the back.
Though defined by this stretch, Bedlingtonshire is one of the North East’s finest parkland layouts from the first to the 18th – stretching to 6,813 yards with a par of 73 – and one where the wind can play havoc and make reaching many of the longest holes near impossible.
Opening with two par fives of less than 500 yards there is a great chance to get your round off to a quick start. Two good drives should fill you with confidence and you’ll need it – the third is the first of the 400-yard-plus par fours on the course and at 460 it’s one of the toughest. Drive to the top of the hill and thread your approach to a tight green should you want to protect your fast start.
A dogleg par four of 385 yards follows before the first par three – the 188-yard sixth – which can be difficult to find as the dip short of the generous green makes it look shorter than it plays. The par five seventh is another good birdie chance, as is the 352-yard eighth should you find the fairway. You may need them too as the ninth is certainly the toughest of the opening nine. This 230-yard par three plays steeply downhill but the wind can make club selection range from mid-iron to a driver and a pitch shot. The par four 10th and par five 11th require good driving with fairways defended by mature trees before heading toward the fabled stretch.
The 16th is arguably the most difficult hole on the back nine. At 449 yards this slight dogleg left plays long with thick rough bordering the fairway and making a second shot with a long iron impossible. At the green, a cavernous front bunker catches many mishit approaches while a devilish green makes this a demanding par four.
A shade under 200 yards, the 17th invariably plays with a crosswind and the breeze will swirl in the trees while the last borders the main road and OOB left – though it is in reach for many with a green complex which feeds the ball onto the putting surface outside the clubhouse windows.
With its challenging conditions, high quality putting surfaces and demanding layout its no wonder Bedlingtonshire has produced professionals like Ken Ferrie and Mathew Webb, and is why it remains one of our must-visit spring venues.
FACT FILE Contact Bedlingtonshire Golf Club
Acorn Bank, Bedlington, NE22 6AA
Tel 01670 822 457
Green Fees (to March 31 2017)
Mon-Fri (after 10.30am) £13
Sat-Sun £26 (£16 after noon)
Total distance White tees 6,813 yards
Yellow tees 6,630 yards
Red tees 5,664 yards
Junior tees 4,314
Features Large clubhouse and dining room
Locker room and changing facilities
Professional’s shop and tuition
Short game practice area
Caddy’s tip A long course with generous fairways – driver is the key to good scoring here
Signature Hole The furthest point from the clubhouse, the stunning par three 14th is one of the best looking short holes in the North East. With a burn running behind the green and two greenside bunkers protecting a relatively flat green, it can be challenging when the wind swirls around the trees and banks of rhododendrons
OUR VERDICT One of the courses you must play every year – a demanding yet incredibly rewarding day out