South Moor Golf Club – A northern powerhouse

South Moor Golf Club, The Middles Craghead, Stanley, Co Durham, DH9 6AG
Total distance
White tees: 6,287 yards (par 72)
Yellow tees: 6,064 yards (par 72)
Red tees 5,490 (par 73)
-Large practice area
- Artificial short game area
- Putting green
- Buggy and trolley hire
- Custom Fit Golf pro shop with FlightScope launch monitor
- Top-quality catering including popular Sunday lunches

Dean Bailey visits one of the North East of England’s most important golf courses – the Dr Alister MacKenzie-designed South Moor

South Moor Golf Club holds a unique place in the North East’s golfing heritage as one of the few courses in our region to have been worked on by the legendary architect Dr Alister MacKenzie – the man behind Augusta National, Royal Melbourne, Cypress Point and many other great courses.

The golf courses designed, renovated, remodelled and enhanced by MacKenzie are renowned and respected around the world, and at South Moor you’ll find a superb example of his design philosophy. The heathland course – a MacKenzie redesign which began in late 1925 and would be his final recorded work in the North East – makes great use of the land’s natural shapes to test every aspect of your game.

Founded in 1923 and operated by the National Coal Board, today South Moor maintains close ties to its unique heritage as well as its championship pedigree – with heather, bracken and gorse providing aesthetic beauty as well as golfing challenge. Many elements of MacKenzie’s natural design philosophy are easy to pick out as fairways transition near-seamlessly into greens and bunkers appear to sit naturally in the ground. While not long today, the course demands accuracy, while MacKenzie’s fascinating greens have to be played many times to even begin to navigate properly.

The par three first may only measure 157 yards from the white tees, but take note of the pin’s position on this long green as it dictates the difficulty of the shot – front pins are accessible while back ones require the ball to be threaded through the pair of greenside bunkers.

A short par five of 460 yards follows, though the double dogleg requires you to move the ball right to left from the tee and then the opposite way to either reach the green or leave an approach up its length. While there is space to the left, a pitch from this side must navigate a steep slope and will encounter many twists and turns as it rolls across this tricky putting surface.

The par three third is framed wonderfully by trees, while the two-tiered green features a short but steep slope around its perimeter. 

At just over 400 yards, a solid tee shot favouring the left side is required at the fourth hole in order to hold the steeply sloped fairway. Players must also favour the left side with their approach, which can be tricky from a slopping lie, as two bunkers guard the right side of a green which slopes towards the sand.

The club has major plans for redevelopment going forward, with new holes and facilities in the pipeline but the course is expected to remain on its current 18 hole layout throughout 2023. Investment in the course continues unabated, with more improvements expected over the winter. With that in mind, a visit to South Moor and its stunning MacKenzie design is highly recommended

Tee shots from the longer hitters at the fifth must avoid a single fairway bunker on the left, some 80 yards from the green. Stay right with your approach to use the slope while avoiding the steep drop, trees and bunker on the left side of this incredibly narrow, 30-yard long green.

Having taken in the views over the course and across Co Durham, the tee shot at the 313-yard sixth hole is played steeply downhill and can get close to the green, which is a big advantage with a semi-circle of four bunkers guarding its front half while many subtle undulations make sure a birdie putt is never easy here. 

Another downhill par four inviting a long drive follows, though a precise shot into a green beautifully set among the trees is required with little room for error.

A pair of far trickier tee shots follow. The 365-yard eighth hole requires a left-to-right shape to follow the dogleg. From here you get a good look at a brilliant MacKenzie green which slopes from back to front and features a false front as well as a cavernous bunker on the right side. At the longer ninth, gorse and heather play their first major roles as they create a corridor leading to a bunkerless plateau green.

While the front nine bears many MacKenzie hallmarks and its green designs are fantastic, it’s on the back nine – which begins with South Moor’s own Amen Corner – where the good doctor’s work is strongest.

South Moor Golf Club

The back nine begins with a thrilling downhill par five, once again bordered by gorse and heather. A stream meanders in front of a devilishly tricky green which is wrapped around a single bunker on its right side. A second trap guards the route to the green from the left while circles of heather add purple highlights to the green complex.

The 143-yard 11th is set against a backdrop of trees with another superb green, while the stream features once again to the left of the hole.

Position is vital on the uphill par five 12th, with a drive into the fairway essential before you play up the hill, avoiding the boundary wall on the right, and then make the climb. Once you reach the summit, the bunker on the left side of the green creates fantastic slopes and contours throughout this left-to-right sloping putting surface.

A long tee shot on the 13th will give you a good view of the enormous green at this 403-yard par four. Measuring some 60 yards from front to back with two deep front bunkers, it must be seen to be believed.

A long par three set among ancient trees with a trio of bunkers staring back at you follows, and your tee shot must make it up the slope at the front of the green here. 

At the 348-yard 15th, be cautious from the tee as the fairway feeds down towards a stream on the left side, while longer shots can run out of room and find the water as it cuts across the fairway 50 yards short of the green. The uphill approach can be tricky to judge and must favour long over short as two front bunkers – including a massive one on the left with a vertical face – wait to catch any shots which comes up short.

The short but incredibly difficult par five signature hole follows.

A challenging par five with modern equipment, we can only imagine how difficult the 449-yard 16th was in MacKenzie’s time. An accurate tee shot is required – staying left of the trees while avoiding the rough to the left and beyond the landing area. From here, the hole turns 90-degrees to the right and climbs uphill between trees and gorse. The smallest green on the course is perched at the top of the climb with a steep slope on the right side and a bunker to the left. A brilliant, challenging par five despite it measuring less than 450 yards

The final two holes are both a little over 380 yards and shaped from right to left. The tee shot at 17 must favour the right side of a vast fairway to use the slope and leave a route to the green, which is positioned on a shelf in the hillside with a pair of greenside bunkers.

A right-to-left shape is key for those who hit driver down the hill at the 18th in order to avoid the bunker on the right side and get a good view of an incredibly wide green set yards from the clubhouse, which slopes from front to back and left to right, and features a pair of bunkers on its front corners.


  • Caddy’s tip

    Take your time on the expansive greens. A hallmark of MacKenzie’s work, his greens at South Moor remain endlessly challenging with their free-flowing contours, swales, crowns, tiers and terraces providing great challenge and entertainment


  • Our verdict

    With all the hallmarks of MacKenzie’s green complex design still very much on show while gorse and heather punctuate the layout throughout, South Moor remains a key part of the North East’s golfing heritage