Dean Bailey tackles Alnmouth Village, one of our region’s oldest links courses, and finds one of the best views in golf
The Northumberland coast is blessed with stunning landscapes for golf – miles of rugged shoreline and sand dunes set out around beach-lined bays and over dramatic clifftops with picture postcard seaside towns and ancient castles.
The links at Alnmouth Village are as blessed as any. The opening stretch runs along the beach, yards from the North Sea, while the view from the seventh tee is one of the best from any golf course in our area.
The oldest nine-hole links course in England, Alnmouth Village opened in 1869 with its designer, 1874 Open Champion Mungo Park, as greenkeeper and professional.
The course retains much of its layout – and its 19th Century clubhouse, from Park’s day, when the likes of his nephew Willie Park Jr and Harry Vardon would visit – using the small plot of land to test accuracy and imagination.
Designed by Mungo Park in the late 19th Century, Alnmouth Village is a classic links with wind, undulations and sloping, fast greens its primary protection. For three of our group it played short, but one of us chose to dig out a set of hickory-shafted clubs and tweed cap. The older, heavier-shafted clubs bring the trouble into play and test your shotmaking ability, and give an insight into the way Park would have played it. Great fun on one of England’s oldest courses.
Playing out from the clubhouse, the opening five holes are the most challenging if the wind blows, while the undulating fairways are the most difficult over the shoreline part of the course.
One of the shortest courses in the North East, imagination around the greens and controlling the golf ball into the small, often fast-running, greens with swales and steep drop-offs is the key here.
The only par three on the course, the first is 199 yards and a tricky tee shot to open with. Wind can play havoc with a carry of 190 yards to reach the green. Anything short will find a steep slope and run away from the flag. There are no bunkers, but the ball will run off the upturned green should it flirt with the edges.
The short par four second and third holes (350 and 312 yards respectively) are good scoring chances. The beach, and out of bounds, borders the right of both fairways. Two large bunkers guard the left of the green at the second, while the first third of the green is higher than the rest of the putting surface – making putts back to the front edge tough to read. At the third, the ball will gather towards the centre of the green – though anything left of centre will run off the green towards the bunker or down the slope and leave a difficult chip.
The second longest hole of the course, the 386 yard par four fourth is also one of the toughest. The tee is inches from the beach and your tee shot must avoid the rough and out of bounds right. The approach is played over a steep rise to a long green which runs off to the left. A front left pin here is trickiest, while any shot which hits the right of the green risks running to the boundary fence.
The final outward hole, the fifth measures just 294 yards and may be in reach for some, though the beach is closer than you think on the right side. The green here is small, with many subtle undulations, and is protected by a steep slope at its front edge. Anything that misses the green right or long risks the out of bounds.
At 309 yards, the sixth looks a pushover on the card with no bunkers and a large green – but it’s far from easy. The tee shot is played up a steep hill to a blind fairway – the left side of which is flanked by the hill and thick rough while the right side is protected by out of bounds. A long iron is best here as finding the fairway is key to controlling your second shot, which is played uphill to a plateau green.
The seventh at Alnmouth Village, played back down the hill, is the signature hole (see fact file).
The tee shot at the eighth must avoid the car park to the right while being long enough to reach the green at this 473 yard par four (played as a 486 yard par five on the back nine). A driver should finish close to the road which crosses the fairway at some 280 yards, leaving a long iron or hybrid to one of the biggest greens on the course. The kidney-shaped green slopes left to right with bunkers at the front left and middle right – both of which leave tricky shots to a flag at the back of the green.
The ninth is a 333 yard par four with no bunkers and a flat green beside the first tee with the village beyond – not dissimilar from the closing hole of the Old Course at St Andrews. Avoid the thick rough and out of bounds right and you should have a short shot and a good chance of a closing birdie.
Green Fees All week £20
Winter (Nov 1-Feb 28, every day) £10
Group discounts available and societies welcome
Buggies Per round £15
(must be booked in advance)
Total Distance White tees 6,090 yards (Par 71)
Yellow tees 5,654 yards (Par 70)
Red tees 5,188 (Par 70)
Features 19th Century clubhouse with bar, lounge and catering
Caddy’s Tip Many holes here require a wedge or pitch to small, upturned greens, which will test your short game. Sharpen up your pitching and chipping, and imagination around the green as you’ll require many different shots.
Signature Hole The view from the seventh tee at Alnmouth Village is one of the finest in our region. High above the bay, the coastline stretches for miles. A 385 yard par four, it plays much shorter than its yardage with a drive from the top of the hill back into the main part of the course. Wind will play havoc here, but the double fairway is generous. The second shot is played to a green which falls off at the edges and is protected by subtle breaks and borrows.