Chester-le-Street plan is taking shape as phase one nears completion
Chester-le-Street Golf Club is moving into a new era thanks to a radical improvement plan put together by Ryder Cup golfer Ken Brown.
The original course in the shadow of Lumley Castle in Co Durham was built in 1908 and designed by two Open Championship winners in Sandy Herd and Ted Ray.
In the years since, technological advances in the game diluted its original strategy and challenge – a problem faced by many clubs – and Chester’s answer was to call in Ryder Cup golfer Ken Brown, his Creative Golf Design partner Ken Moodie and North-East based arboriculturists John Nicholson Associates.
The trio have produced a plan which the club and its members have bought into and which involves carrying out substantial woodland management and remodelling the course.
Work has already started on seven holes – it was originally meant to be six, but a substantial donation from a club member, who wishes to remain anonymous, means another hole can be added to this autumn’s programme.
The holes involved are the first and second, and 10 through 14. Club secretary Colin Henderson said: “There are some dramatic enhancements in store for these holes and the plan now is to address seven holes instead of six during this phase.
“This is great news which has only been made possible by a very generous donation. Many thanks go to that individual.”
Brown has been a regular visitor to the club as is Moodie, with Nicholson keeping an almost daily eye on the work which has seen strategic removal of trees to improve the look and playability of the course.
Brown said: “The club has taken on quite an ambitious project and it is to be congratulated for that. Chester-le-Street is a cracking members’ club with a nice course, nice clubhouse and a great environment to play golf. They have everything going for them and they are making sure they keep their eye on the ball.
“You need your course and club to be a place where people want to come and visit. Chester has lovely views, a river and a course with lots of variety and the club know there are a lot of things you have to do to keep it up to standard. Chester-le-Street deserve credit for seeing the value in that.”
The changes – which involved removing a number of trees – required a felling licence and authorisation from English Heritage, both of which were granted following a detailed application from the club.
The work will be carried out in stages with members kept informed by regular bulletins. It’s another major step forward for Chester-le-Street, which built a new clubhouse some 18 years ago after the course was further developed in the 1990s with the acquisition of land alongside the River Wear on which six new holes were built.
The current work will bring the river into view from many holes and all 18 holes will be improved. There will 23 new bunkers, while 37 bunkers will be remodelled or reshaped and 12 will be removed, some of them replaced by mounding.
Fairways will also be reshaped, some greens extended and the length of some holes will be changed to create an improved balance to the two nines. This month work starts on two fairway bunkers on the 10th hole and four bunkers on the first hole. Next month the construction of new features on the remaining four holes in phase one will completed.
With the majority of the tree management now completed there has been much favourable comment on the improvement to the views on the course, especially those of Lumley Castle.