Stunning golf by the seaside

Alan Hedley takes a trip to the Tyneside coast and finds Whitley Bay in superb order

Whitley Bay is a real triumph.

At first sight it could be taken for a links course, but it isn’t.

Though it is not constructed on sand, it has just about all the characteristics of a links course – it’s visually stunning and a top-notch test of golf.

With views of the North Sea, and St Mary’s Island and lighthouse, the 6,579 yard layout has the feel of links golf and is of championship standard, although a little short these days for an international professional event. Just one-mile north of the town centre, it really does have a beautiful setting with holes flanked by gorse and trees with the Briar Dene meandering through the course.

The course opens with a relatively short par five and the main concern is the out of bounds to the left. A tough 400 yard-plus par four follows and then there’s a decent short hole with out of bounds, a gully and green guarded by well-placed pot bunkers.

The key here is staying in play. Accuracy into the greens as well as a sure putting stroke will yield low scores.

Whitley2The dogleg fourth at under 400 yards is a good birdie chance while the fifth is more difficult, needing a good drive to clear the Dene and trees to leave a decent approach.

The second par five has out of bounds right, so hug the left and while there’s the chance of getting home in two, it is high risk. It might be better to lay-up for a pitch to find the split-level green.

The next is another testing par four which needs both a good drive and a solid second shot to a green which slopes from back to front.

Another tricky driving hole follows as anything tugged left could end up in the trees and there’s a large fairway bunker to avoid as the fairway doglegs sharply right.

The front nine ends with a short par three played to a narrow, well-protected green and the 10th is another dogleg par four with emphasis again on accuracy as out of bounds, trees and heavy rough await, while a ditch runs across the fairway 60 yards short of the green.

A long, testing par four dogleg right follows and you need to be left to really get at the green – par is a good result here.

The 582 yard par five 12th is simply magnificent and is rated one of the North’s best and toughest par fives.

Whitley3A drive to the right of the fairway misses the bunker left and a second shot to the right of “Charlie’s Folly” and short of the Dene gives a testing third to a two-tier green. Few walk off unscathed from this one. It is followed by a downhill par three with a small, bunkered green which slopes from right to left.

Now it gets really interesting with one of the most difficult finishing stretches you’ll find.

The 14th tee is tucked away and you must try to negotiate the valley. Not easy, and you’ll often be left with a blind shot to the green.

The 15th is a lovely hole and needs a decent drive to the left over the Dene and gorse. Beware – the green is not an easy one to read.

The toughest drive on the course awaits at 16, requiring a long carry over the dene, while the approach to the plateau green is always one more than you think.

A cracking par three with an uphill tee shot follows and then it’s on to one of the toughest finishing holes you’ll play in the North East.

The views are magnificent and you’ll need to be at your very best at this massive 459-yard par four to have any chance of a par.

One of the best courses in the North with first-class facilities. Well worth a visit.