Take a look at Crook

Alan Hedley travels into County Durham to find a course with stunning views and full of natural challenges to enjoy.

Many courses are described as a hidden gem – few deserve it – but Crook certainly does.

With five par threes and three par fives, only one of them more than 500 yards, plus an overall length of just 6,076 yards, it would be easy to dismiss Crook. However this quirky, hilly course with undulating fairways and quick, sloping greens is a smashing, natural challenge.

Crook 6There is a former quarry to contend with on a couple of holes on the front nine – you do not want to be tangling with that – and some exhilarating views. There’s a standard opening par four, which might be tempting for the big hitters, but the green is protected by four bunkers and conservative play is best.

The challenging par three second is usually one more club than you think, but don’t be too bold as there are trees and bushes behind the green, which slopes down to the third tee.

The third is an intimidating par four with a tee shot across the quarry, and you need to avoid a fairway bunker while a real slice could find the small pond on the eighth. The approach is also to a raised two-tier green with a bunker front right.

A long par three follows with no bunkers and it’s a small target with slopes all around the green. Again, a testing par four follows with trees and blind second shot to a green with out of bounds beyond it.

There is a birdie prospect at the short par four sixth, but you need to be accurate here as there is deep rough and out of bounds, then it’s on to a picturesque par three with a carry over the quarry to contend with – a great hole.

Crook 3Avoiding the trees is key at the eighth and the front nine ends with a decent par five with options.

The fairway here slopes to the left and two decent hits will leave a wedge to a sloping green, while long hitters will fancy getting home in two.

The back nine starts with a long, testing par four and a 200-yard par three – another candidate for signature hole – most will be very happy with two pars here. The same applies at 12, which is rightly classed as the signature hole.

At just under 400 yards, the 12th is stroke index one with a hogsback fairway, a water hazard and trees, plus a raised green…in short one very good par four.
The fairway hogsback means it slopes both left and right, a real danger on a tight tree-lined hole and a good drive is needed to get at the raised green, which slopes from back to front

There’s not much let up with a long par five with a right-to-left fairway camber and a long, narrow green.

There’s some respite at the next, a par four which is a good birdie chance with sensible play, but par again will do at the uphill, blind par three 15th which is well named Little Waster.

Crook 1The par four 16th is also uphill and you have to avoid the trees to the right and the whins left. The second shot is a medium to short iron shot to a very small green.

It’s another uphill tee shot at the par five 17th and staying away from trees is the key, not easy as the hole slopes away to the left. The green can be found in two, but anything short can bounce severely left where there’s a ditch and more whins.

The last has a blind tee shot and anything left will finish in the rough while too far right risks the trees, but get it right and the second is fairly straightforward to severe sloping green with out of bounds behind.

A true gem and a course which is worth cherishing