Rothbury’s a thoroughbred

Paul Corney travels north and experiences a golfing gem on an old racecourse in the heart of Northumberland

Nestling in the Coquet Valley and surrounded by the Cheviot Hills, it is easy to see why Rothbury Golf Club is so popular with both members and visitors.

Having begun life as a nine-hole course in 1892, Rothbury has undergone many changes at different locations.

In July 2007 members celebrated the official opening of their new clubhouse and
18-hole course on the old Rothbury racecourse with his Grace, the Duke of Northumberland as guest of honour.

Under the watchful eye of head-greenkeeper Graham Stephenson, the course is presented to a very high standard and is maturing into a very good test of golf.

The first is a short par four and at 327 yards, and very good birdie chance to get your round off to a flying start. The sensible shot for the big hitters is to lay-up at the top of the hill, leaving an approach of just under 150 yards. If you want to have a go at the green, a drive with a slight left to right shape over the marker post will get you close.

Next is a tough par three measuring 179 yards and usually played into the prevailing wind. There are hedges at the rear of the sloping green to worry about – it’s better to be short than long.

The third is 423 yards and a tough par four. The drive needs to be to the right side of the fairway to avoid being blocked out by a huge oak tree on the left, For many, the approach will be a long iron or fairway wood to a sloping green.

Two par fives follow and the signature seventh hole (see factfile) before the par three eighth.

Aim to the left side of the flag as the ball will be gathered to the right by the contours onto the green. Don’t miss short right as the bunker shot from well below the pin can be tricky.

The final hole on the front nine is a 392-yard par four, played back to the clubhouse. The drive is over a valley to a generous fairway with bunkers left and right. Find the top of the hill and you will be left with a shortish approach down to the green.

There are a number of really good holes on the back nine, the first of which is the par four 11th aptly named The Ponds. With thick woodland to the right, ponds left and a ditch crossing the fairway to take into account, accuracy from the tee is at a premium.

The 15th is a 525-yard par five, often played into the prevailing westerly wind. Three good shots are required to get anywhere near the green but watch out for the fairway bunkers left and right along with wooded copses.

Next is an excellent par four and at 441 yards from the medal tee, the hole is a tough proposition. The River Coquet flows along the left so try and keep your shots right of centre. The fairway is quite wide and bunkerless but watch out for the trees on the right, they come into play if you hit any errant shots towards them.

The 17th is a 175 yard par three and a real tester. The tee-shot is played over a burn and the old racecourse water jump to an elevated green bunkered at the front and to the left.

The closing hole is a sharp dog-leg left where the big hitters maybe tempted to cut the corner and risk the out of bounds on the left. A sensible shot up the centre of the fairway to the corner of the dog-leg will leave only a shortish pitch to an elevated green banked at the back and right.

Fact File

Rothbury Golf Club
Whitton Bank Road, Rothbury Northumberland, NE65 7RX
Tel 01669 621 271

Mon Adults £10 a round
Juniors £10 a round
Tue-Fri  Adults £15 a round, £26 a day Juniors £10 a round, £13 a day
Sat-Sun  Adults £18 a round
Juniors £13 a round
Buggy hire £15 a round
Golf trolley hire £3 a round
Club hire £10 a round

White tees – 6,168 yards Par 71
Yellow tees – 5,569 yards Par 71
Red tees – 5,200 yards Par 73

18-hole parkland course
Easy walking
Ample car parking
Putting green
Short game practice area
GolfMark accredited
Clubhouse with outside decking area
Well-stocked bar serving real ale
Restaurant (no catering on Mondays)
Pool table

The greens at Rothbury can be difficult to read so have a good look at the slopes and make use of the practice putting green.

The seventh has superb views along the Coquet Valley. A long iron to the bottom of the hill, followed by a short pitch to a sloping green or a higher risk drive over the hedge could get you there but avoid the bunkers at the back – either way, this hole is a good birdie chance.