Dean Bailey visits the Colt Course at Close House, the North East’s only top 100 golf course
While it may be Northumberland’s newest golf course, the Colt Course at Close House holds a special place in the county’s golf. The only course in the North East to be listed in the prestigious UK & Ireland Top 100 rankings, last year it hosted the European Tour’s return to the region.
From the moment you turn through the gates and head down to the No.19 clubhouse with the Tyne Valley unfolding in front of you, there is something very special about visiting Close House. Things only get better as you receive five-star treatment from the golf services team, relax in the clubhouse with food prepared by a head chef with a Michelin-starred background then head to the North East’s only PGA Academy to warm up. All of this comes before you even play.
A daunting test from the back tees, stretched to 6,937 yards for the British Masters, the Scott Macpherson-designed Colt Course – which has been tweaked by attached professional Lee Westwood and golf course and estates manager Brian Clark since officially opening in 2011 – suits us best from the white tees at 6,308 yards.
The par four first measures 375 yards and is a tough opening drive with the fairway sloping left away from a fairway bunker on the right side. Aim at the bunker and let the ball roll to the left side to have a view of the green, cut below the fairway with a front left bunker waiting to catch anything which flirts with the left side of the green.
Though shorter at 355 yards, the uphill second hole is just as tough. Out of bounds lurks left while three fairway bunkers will catch any misjudged tee shots. The green is one of the most undulating on the course.
Often downwind, the 327-yard third is a good birdie chance. Aim left as the fairway slopes down into the valley while a deep bunker some 50 yards from the green must be avoided if you’re going to properly enjoy the stunning views down to the River Tyne from the back of this green.
A tough par three of 199 yards follows before heading uphill again at the par four fifth, which requires accuracy and length to avoid three fairway bunkers flanking the fairway and leave an uphill approach to an amphitheatre-like green.
The downhill 383-yard par four sixth, 466-yard par five seventh and downhill 437-yard par four eighth offer three birdie opportunities. At the sixth a generous fairway leads downhill to a large green – though beware one of the deepest bunkers on the course at the front edge. The par five seventh plays uphill, though a generous fairway should enable you to leave a simple pitch to the green, while the steeply downhill eighth affords fantastic views from the tee and your drive should reach the bottom of the slope to leave a short wedge shot to the green.
The 185-yard ninth is the pick of the par threes. Played over a lake with a cavernous front bunker, this is a daunting shot should you take it on while those who bail out to the right face a tough uphill pitch from a tight lie.
Making the turn, the uphill par five 10th is 471 yards, though it plays considerably longer. Out of bounds lies close to the left side of the fairway and the best approach is to leave a full shot to the green, which runs steeply back to the fairway. Accuracy is key at the 373-yard 11th, particularly if you try to hit driver into the narrowest part of the fairway. The semi-blind approach can be tough to get right – particularly when the wind blows at the highest point on the golf course.
The par three 12th measures 184 yards and requires a solid long iron over three bunkers before heading to the signature 13th (see fact file).
The final par three, the 157-yard 14th is the simplest of the short holes and the most picturesque – just watch out for the wind swirling through the trees.
From the simplest par three to the toughest hole on the course at the 353-yard 15th. Starting behind a lake, the tee shot here is uphill and blind. The best advice is to aim at the tallest trees in the distance with a slight draw to find the left side of the fairway. Avoid the left of the green at all costs – par is always a good score here.
Crossing the road and heading for home, the 16th measures 412 yards and requires another accurate tee shot between tall trees. Those who find the fairway are rewarded with a good angle to the green and can use the slopes left of the putting surface, though avoid the right side as a large bunker protects the length of the green.
The 504-yard par five 17th is a superb example of risk and reward. The second shot must be played around a copse of oak trees, though the slopes at the front of the green will help your ball find the putting surface.
The last is a difficult par four of 363 yards to finish your round. A water hazard runs up the right side while a fairway bunker sits to the left side and will catch any drives played too far away from the hazard. Get as close to the green as you can here – the approach is played over a ha-ha wall with the green just beyond it.
Close House, Heddon-on-the-Wall Newcastle upon Tyne, NE15 0HT
tel 01661 85 22 55
£150 per round (2019)
Full membership £2,100pa,
Country membership from £720pa
Blue tees – 6,937 yards
White tees – 6,308 yards
Yellow tees – 5,825 yards
Red tees – 5,133 yards
PGA Academy with floodlit driving range, indoor and outdoor putting greens and large practice green
Toptracer shot tracking in each driving range bay
Stunning No.19 clubhouse with dining, changing rooms and shop
Yearling par three course
Courtyard, Pavilion and Lodge accommodation
The fairways here are designed so players hit into specific areas, and accuracy from the tee is essential as it will give better access to the incredibly tough green complexes.
The downhill, 423-yard par four 13th is a stunning risk and reward par four. Multiple tee boxes are used here to bring the green into reach though the risks are high with thick rough bordering a narrow entrance to the left side of the green with five bunkers close by. A safe play to the right side leaves a much tougher approach to an upturned green – a daunting prospect with so much trouble to run off into.
A breathtaking landscape with a challenging golf course presented in superb condition – what more could you ask for?