Dean Bailey ventures south of the Tyne to find a resort which ticks all the boxes
Resort courses can vary a lot – from merely acceptable to the fantastic – and from your first steps into the clubhouse at George Washington Hotel, Golf and Spa you know you’re in for a fantastic experience.
The modern clubhouse is linked to the 16-bay driving range complete with heated bays and six power tees, while you’ll also find a five-hole par three academy course and indoor simulator for your practising needs alongside an excellent bar/lounge, pro shop and changing rooms inside. The luxury continues into the 103-bedroom hotel – which features the Carter & Fitch restaurant, a spa and leisure club. A further 22 executive rooms overlooking the course open this May.
At the heart of the resort is the par 73 golf course, which can be stretched to 6,625 yards from the back tees. Opened in 1979, the tree-lined fairways are reasonably generous, though beware wandering off into the trees as it can be tough to find, and tougher still to play, your ball. A warm-up on the range will come in handy with an opening par five of 488 yards. This dog-leg left requires a long drive to reach the corner, from which the hole plays downhill to a green guarded by two bunkers.
A tough par three of more than 200 yards follows. Club selection is key here to find the right portion of the two-tier green before heading to a par five of 502 yards, which calls for another long and accurate drive. Some may be able to reach the green in two here, though beware the ditch which crosses the fairway 120 yards from the front of the green.
Make the most of the par fives and you may well be off to a fast start, but the near 400-yard par four fourth will test your accuracy with the driver and mid/long irons and there is plenty of trouble to catch those taking too big a bite out of the 512-yard par five fifth, where a water hazard runs to the left of the fairway while a pond lies 70 yards short of a small green with two treacherous bunkers.
Things get tougher still with the stretch of six to eight, which is dubbed Amen Corner by the members. Three tough par fours of 352 yards, 385 yards and 369 yards combine trees, rough and water – the latter crossing the landing areas on the sixth and seventh while trees narrow the landing area at the eighth – to create a challenging stretch most would be happy to play in par and move on. The middle of the stretch got our pick for signature hole (see fact file).
More out of bounds and a tricky tee shot follows at the 492-yard par five 11th. Long hitters will need to lay up from the tee to leave a shot into the largest part of the fairway and a simple pitch over the front bunker. You may try and cut the corner here – though the risk often outweighs the reward. The boundary again lurks at the right of the 12th, though a generous green is easy to find from the fairway.
The key to the 194-yard par three 13th is taking plenty of club. The front of the green lies some 20 yards past the bunker and anything which ends up in the bunker will leave a tough up and down. One of the toughest par fours on the course follows at the 14th, a dog-leg left of more than 400 yards with out of bounds right. Long irons into the green must be well hit to avoid running into the back bunker while a second bunker left leaves a tough up and down.
The 15th, the shortest of the par threes at 153 yards, is a good birdie chance if you avoid the bunker left and find the right portion of the kidney-shaped green. A straightforward par four of 373 yards follows – we recommend laying up off the tee as the fairway narrows around 280 yards from the tee – before the final par five offers a chance to finish strong. At 494 yards, a good drive can give you a chance of getting up to the 17th in two with a generous green featuring one front bunker and a two more to the left and right.
While no pushover, the 18th can yield a finishing birdie chance should you hit driver over the ditch 220 yards from the tee to leave a wedge to green. A great way to finish a challenging course.
George Washington Hotel, Golf and Spa
Stone Cellar Road, High Usworth Washington, NE37 1PH
Golf 0191 417 8346
Hotel reception 0191 402 9988
Buggy hire £25
GPS electric trolley hire £12
White tees – 6,618 yards
Yellow tees – 6,285 yards
Red tees – 5,737 yards
Spacious clubhouse with lounge/bar and balcony overlooking the first tee
16-bay driving range
Junior nine hole course
Par three Academy course
Excellent practice facilities
Though the fairways are generous you can’t spray the ball too far from the tee here
The seventh got our pick for signature hole as it comes in the middle of Washington’s Amen Corner and is a real test at 385 yards. It’s not a monster of a par four, but the right-to-left dog-leg with a ditch crossing the tree-lined fairway makes the drive tough while its small green will test the best putters out there. A hole as beautiful as it is deadly.