Dean Bailey visits the clifftop layout of Seahouses Golf Club and plays one of the UK’s best par threes
The Northumberland coast is blessed with stunning landscapes for golf. While the tournament-ready layouts along this stretch of coastline are tremendous tests of ability capable of beating golfers into submission with rough-strewn dunes and cavernous bunkers, there is also great diversity along the coastline – including the short and always fun layout at Seahouses Golf Club.
With a par of 67 and measuring just 5,608 yards from the back tees, Seahouses is never going to be capable of beating you up for 18 consecutive holes. What it does instead is leave you with a smile on your face after every visit.
Its quirks are charming, the criss-crossed fairways a novelty which engenders discussion with members and holidaymakers as you accompany one another down the fairway, while its clifftop holes match the spectacle of any others on our coast.
A simple opening hole, the first is just 155 yards from the back tee. Played from an elevated position offering a fantastic view of the course with the North Sea beyond, avoid the two front bunkers cut into the slope to open with a simple par.
The only par five, the second is reachable for many at just 458 yards. From the fairway, the approach to the green (to the right – the green on the left is the 17th) is unobstructed, though beware the out of bounds beyond and left of the putting surface. For those who bail out to the safer right side, a tricky pitch over a knoll at the front of the green awaits.
Crossing the road for the inland section of the course, the 186-yard third is guarded by a bunker cut well short of the green on the left side, while those who play out to the right for safety will again be faced with a pitch over a mound.
The fourth hole shares a fairway with the seventh – be sure to play to the green to the left. The tee shot at this 389-yard par four presents risk and reward with water flanking the shorter route to the left side. Those who play away from the water and out to the right must play their approach over trees with water waiting to the left side of the green.
One of the toughest tee shots on the course follows at the fifth. A par four of more than 400 yards, players must steer clear of the water and out of bounds to the right while also avoiding water and thick rough to the left of a generous fairway. A large green with no bunkers is designed to welcome a mid or long iron shot.
The 166-yard sixth follows with water wrapping around a large, undulating green from its front left corner to the back right before you head back to the shared fairway – this time playing to the green on the right. Favour the right side here for the best angle into this narrow green guarded by a steep-faced bunker on the front right corner.
Strategy from the tee is key at the 328-yard eighth as the fairway narrows between trees on the right and two fairway bunkers on the left. A short approach is a big advantage here as the green sits above the fairway with a large bunker cut some 10 yards short along with two more deep bunkers guarding the front corners of this long, narrow green.
Crossing back on to the clifftop section, the 391-yard ninth shares a fairway with the 18th (play to the green on the right side). Two fairway bunkers on the right side lie some 130 yards from the green while another on the left is 10 yards closer to the putting surface. Two greenside bunkers guard the approach to this raised green, which features some of the biggest undulations on the course.
One of the iconic par threes in Northumberland, the 10th is played downhill over water to a narrow slither of green. Those who are cautious and take plenty of club can use the slope beyond the green as a backstop – though they risk getting stuck high above the green chipping downhill back towards the water.
The views of the beach and sea from the 11th tee are spectacular and this 361-yard par four requires a good drive up the hill to leave a simple approach between two front bunkers to a green sloping from front to back.
Played back down the hill from a tee box high above the waves, the 12th is a long par four of more than 400 yards and requires a solid drive over the brow of the hill to catch the downslope and leave a mid to short iron over two deep bunkers lurking well short of a generous green.
A tight, short par four of less than 300 yards, the 13th demands accuracy from the tee with rough to the right side and out of bounds to the left. The fairway is pinched to fewer than 10 paces wide by bunkers some 50 yards short of the green before the holes rises to a tiny green guarded by two deep, vertical-faced bunkers.
Three of the most beautifully set holes in the North East follow. The long par three 14th is played along the clifftop to a large green before you reach the magnificent signature hole.
The 15th at Seahouses is one of the region’s most-photographed golf holes. Set high above the waves, the tee box is completely exposed to the wind while the green, perched across the cove, can appear much further away than the 124 yards on the tee marker. The difficulty at 15 is not the shot in isolation, little more than a wedge most of the time, but the demands of the setting. For all the golf on the coastline in our part of the world, no shot is played like this with the waves crashing below and the cliff face staring back at you. A stunning par three.
Played uphill, the tee shot at the 16th must be aimed at the totem to leave a blind, steeply downhill approach to a narrow green which can be incredibly tough to find in regulation, particularly when landing short of the green.
The 457-yard 17th is played around the bay with the beach and out of bounds to your left. Hug the left side for the best angle into this challenging green, which is flanked by out of bounds to the left and back edges.
Playing the same fairway as the ninth, the 373-yard 18th again requires a confident drive between the fairway bunkers before playing uphill over a short but steep slope to the green on the left, which is protected by bunkers some 50 and 20 yards short along with two more deep bunkers at the front left and front right corners.