Alan Hedley heads to the coast to play Whitburn Golf Club
Whitburn Golf Club may be one of the shorter courses in the North East, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable and it’s no pushover when the wind blows.
Laid out on the coast overlooking Marsden Bay and the mouth of the River Tyne, while it’s not a links course, Whitburn very much feels like one with its fast, undulating greens and often challenging winds. The course also drains well thanks to its location and is invariably in great condition through the winter months when many other courses are less fortunate. Visitors here will always find a friendly welcome in the clubhouse, which offers superb catering.
On the course you’ll find a mix of birdie chances and testing holes with five of the best par threes in the area, which are the key to a good score along with the signature hole.
Many will be happy with par at the 363-yard first hole, which has out of bounds left and two fairway bunkers to negotiate along with a large gully fronting a blind hill-top green. A 191-yard par three follows with more out of bounds left, trees right and a well-bunkered green.
There is a good birdie chance at the 339-yard third if you avoid the big bunker and mound on the left, while the 168-yard fourth is probably the easiest of the short holes should you manage to avoid the two large bunkers guarding the green.
Avoiding the three fairway bunkers at the 350-yard fifth hole will make you think a birdie is within reach, but the severely sloping green is flanked by two more bunkers and a drystone wall, and can be a nightmare to negotiate.
Another par four of less than 350 yards follows. A blind drive must avoid out of bounds left and be careful at this cleverly bunkered, sloping green.
The 318-yard seventh is a real birdie chance, just avoid the swale front left of the green and the deep bunker right. At the first of the par fives – the relatively short 484-yard eighth – it’s tempting to have a go in two, but the hole narrows the closer you get to the slippery raised green with a big front bunker. Out of bounds and trees await left.
A genuine three-shot par five follows, though the pin here can be accessible with a short approach to the two-tier green.
The longest of the par fives at 534 yards, the 10th requires a good drive between two drystone walls. Beware of the massive bunker short of the green, which tends to gobble up anything which lands short. The raised green is truly treacherous.
The uphill 11th measures 408 yards and another good drive is required to avoid the left bunker. The second shot is played uphill to a narrow green.
Following the signature 12th (see fact file), the short 13th measures just 155 yards but is a real test of accuracy. Played from a raised tee, the narrow green is ringed with bunkers.
The short 14th, the first hole across the road which splits the course, requires an accurate tee shot to a fast green which slopes left to right. Aim left of centre here and beware of coming up short, the chip up the green is a quick one.
The 15th is another good birdie chance, but a new pond just short of the green has stiffened the challenge considerably.
A cracking 186-yard par three follows with a long bunker and a ridge left. Many play for the ridge, but miss it too far left and you’ll be left with a wicked chip back to the green. Miss right and you’ll find clinging rough and a deep bunker.
The 316-yard dogleg 17th is proper risk or reward hole. It’s drivable, but there is heavy rough and trees plus a swale and huge front bunker to carry to a narrow raised green set in the cliff side. When opting for the sloping fairway you must carry the two bunkers to setup a short iron approach which must stop quickly after clearing a fearsome bunker.
The spectacular cliff-top tee at the 18th affords breathtaking views of Marsden Bay and the Tyne and, on a good day, the coastlines of North Yorkshire and Northumberland. At 271 yards, it’s definitely drivable, but there are many who have gone for it and ended up in the quarry left, which is out of bounds, or in the big bunker fronting the undulating green – on which there are no gimme putts.
Contact Whitburn Golf Club, Lizard Lane South Shields, NE34 7AF
Tel 0191 529 2144
Green fees £15 with a member
Under 14s free with a paying adult
Weekdays: £20 online (£22 shop); fourball £72 online (£80 shop)
Twilight: £15 online (£20 shop)
Weekends: £25 online (£27 shop); fourball £80 online (£90 shop)
Visiting party rates are available on the website. Contact the secretary or professional for further information
Total distance White tees – 5,877 yards
Yellow tees – 5,685 yards
Red tees – 5,300 yards
Features Superb clubhouse and food
Short game practice area
Buggy hire available
Caddy’s tip Practise your putting to prepare for the fast greens. Having the ability to control your ball flight in the wind is a huge advantage here
Signature hole The 446-yard 12th hole is an iconic par four. Out of bounds on the right, and two bunkers and trees left make a straight drive essential. The lake in front of the green makes the approach tough, particularly when played with a hybrid or long iron from a downhill lie. Be sure to make the carry to the putting surface as anything short will roll back into the lake and the green slopes severely from back to front. Par here is a fantastic score
Our verdict Whitburn if proof that a course doesn’t have to be long to be a test. The greens here are among the very best