Dean Bailey plays The Lee Westwood Filly Course at Close House
A golf venue with an international reputation, Close House has been a major part of the region’s golfing landscape for more than 10 years. The Filly Course, set out on much the same ground as the first set of golf holes at Close House, which were laid out in the 1960s by previous owners Newcastle University, has been reconfigured several times and today provides a perfect accompaniment to the challenging Colt Course.
Following the launch of the Colt Course at Close House in 2011, the Filly was fully redesigned by New Zealand-born architect Scott Macpherson. Working closely with attached professional Lee Westwood, Scott rerouted the golf course to create two nine-hole loops returning to the clubhouse. Set out at the foot of the Tyne Valley, the climb up the valley at the seventh hole is rewarded by the views from the eighth tee, while the bunkers, particularly those flanking the fairways, are positioned to test the best players while presenting a playable challenge to the shorter hitter.
A par four of 388 yards, the first is an opportunity to get your round off to a flying start. A long iron or three wood just short of the fairway bunker on the left corner of this dogleg right leaves a short approach a very generous green.
At the second, stay left of the trees guarding the direct route to the green. A centre-line bunker marks the right limit of where your drive should be placed to have an unobstructed view of a dramatically sloped green guarded by a large bunker which wraps around the front and right sides of the putting surface.
The fairway of the 424-yard third hole is pinched by two daunting bunkers some 230 yards from the tee. Big hitters can go over the left bunker to shorten the approach, while shorter hitters and the more cautious should lay up short and face the long approach to a generous green which slopes from back to front.
The short par four fourth can be driveable if the conditions suit, though beware the numerous bunkers which guard the left side of the fairway on the most direct line. A severely sloping green, shortening your approach as much as possible is recommended here as the rewards often outweigh the risks.
The toughest hole on the Filly Course, the 382-yard fifth is pinched by two fairway bunkers around 250 yards from the tee. From here, the left side of the hole is guarded by water which almost touches the edge of the putting surface. Two large bunkers guard the right side of the green for those wary of a trip to the water – leaving a downhill bunker shot with water beyond. Taking a risk from the tee can yield a big reward and a much shorter approach if you can find the fairway here.
Stay short of the bunker beyond the end of the fairway at the sixth, some 260 yards from the white tees, and you’ll have a short pitch over the edge of the lake to a generous green. Sounds simple enough, but when the water to the right of the fairway and short of the green is in your eyeline, this one can be a card-wrecker.
Played steeply uphill, a long iron or fairway wood will reach the plateau of this generous fairway, which is flanked by two small bunkers. A gently uphill approach must find the correct tier of a sloping green which falls away in every direction.
The climb at the seventh is rewarded with the view from the tee at the signature eighth.
A short par four, the 295-yard eighth offers stunning views over the Tyne Valley from the tee. A lake short of the green is closer than you think when the ground is firm, and a confident pitch is required from a downhill lie over the hazard to a large green. Birdies are possible here, but you must play the hole with some respect.
A walk through the trees follows to play a pair of par threes in the shadow of Close House and the clubhouse. Near-identical in length, the uphill ninth requires a mid to long iron approach which favours the left side of the putting surface to avoid a deep front bunker and tree en-route to the green. The downhill 10th plays much shorter than its 166 yards and a ball bouncing short often finds the putting surface, should it avoid two bunkers cut well short.
Back through the trees and onto the valley floor, the short par four 11th is a good birdie opportunity should you drive past the pair of fairway bunkers on the right. The green here is split in two by a small bunker – be sure to miss on the correct side.
The 159-yard par three 12th can play completely differently depending on the tee position. From the left tee box, the approach is unobstructed to a green some 34 paces deep. From the right, the largest bunker on the course guards the approach, which must carry all the way onto the putting surface to give you a chance of making par.
Played in a straight line, the tee shots at the par five 13th and par four 14th feature out of bounds left and challenging fairway bunkers on the right. Avoid those and the 13th yields many birdie opportunities, while the 14th yields a similar tally of bogeys with the long approach played through banks of trees which flank the fairway.
The second of the par fives, the 525-yard 15th is a three-shotter. Long hitters may fancy their chances of flying over the bunker on the right side, but beware the bunker to the left which is just 50 yards beyond. Those who find the fairway need to hold their nerve and lay up between the banks of tall trees to leave a simple approach to a long, narrow green.
Be wary of the hazard to the right of the fairway at the long par four 16th, though it gets further away the longer your drive is. Approach bunkers to the right will catch mishit second shots, while one of the smaller greens on the course is almost completely ringed by sand – many will be relying on their short game to make par here.
The 160-yard 17th is well-guarded by bunkers short left and long right as well as trees looming close by. One final climb, though gentle, awaits at the 363-yard 18th. Note the position of the bunkers and choose your club wisely to avoid the sand as the semi-blind approach must make it over a hazard and ha-ha wall to find another generous green flanked by two bunkers.
Close House, Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle, NE15 0HT, (Sat nav postcode: NE41 8BL), Tel 01661 85 22 55, www.closehouse.com
See www.closehouse.com for full details
White tees: 6,034 yards
Yellow tees: 5,640 yards
Red tees: 5,064 yards
PGA Academy with TopTracer driving range, outdoor hitting bays, short game and putting greens
Custom fitting, teaching and putting suites
No.19 clubhouse serving food daily
Courtyard, Lodge and Pavilion accommodation
Buggy, trolley and club hire
Stay away from the fairway bunkers, they’re the course’s primary defence and they’re designed to severely punish the overly aggressive
A fun challenge, the Filly is perfectly paired with its big brother and is great fun to play while presenting a challenge to those who choose to play aggressively