Course Review - The Northumberland Golf Club
Modern, yet traditional, would be the best way to sum up The Northumberland Golf Club. This outstanding 18-hole facility in the North East of England celebrates the finest in British golfing traditions while boasting the quirkiness of being situated around, and in the middle of, Newcastle Racecourse.
Designed by Harry Colt and James Braid, and just a few miles outside Newcastle city centre, this golf course regularly hosts national and regional championships – including the Open Regional Qualifier.
Pre round thoughts
Having heard nothing but good things about this course, I was quite eager to get on the first tee. As you arrive (from the A19) you drive along a grand driveway and past the main entrance to Newcastle Racecourse. One tip would be keep driving further than your sat nav says; otherwise you may turn up at Parklands Golf Club like we did.
Despite being a highly regarded golf course in the area, the small car park immediately gave me a sense of how traditional the club is. The friendly greeting from Julie in the office was welcomed, as she explained the difference between the winter and summer courses on the card, and where certain facilities are.
The large putting green next to the 1st tee immediately got me excited for the round ahead. Usually, a putting green isn’t quite at the level of the ones on the course, but I couldn’t believe that greens could get any better than the one I was putting on before I’d even made the 1st tee.
The front nine
Pre-round, I had been told the course can be quite fiddly, and this was clear from the 1st tee. Playing off the yellow tees, the 1st hole is only 309-yards but a long iron off the tee played up the left side of the fairway is the clever shot here. If you do hit driver, there is room to bail out over the trees on the right. The racecourse to the left and a deep bunker to the right guard the green, and it is worth noting that you do get relief off the All Weather Track.
The 2nd hole requires a long and accurate drive as there are trees to the left, out of bounds to the right and a couple of well placed bunkers on the edges of the narrow fairway. At 431-yards, most will require a mid-iron to reach the green protected by two bunkers. A few practice putts before your round may come in handy because if you’re like me, you may not be used to such quick and true greens.
Hole three is where the quirkiness comes into play. For many horseracing fans, it may be quite surreal to tee off over a racecourse but do not let this deter you from the test of this par-5. Several deep bunkers come into play off the tee so you must make sure you miss them if you are going to reach in two. It is also important to avoid the heather that runs up the entirety of the left side of this hole, and you must avoid hitting your approach shot long as more long rough beckons.
The 4th hole is the second of these back-to-back par-5s and again, it is important that you avoid the bunkers off the tee if you want to go for this green in two. At 447-yards off the yellow tees, this hole is definitely a birdie chance.
The first par-3 at The Northumberland comes at the 5th hole and is a reasonably straightforward one that plays back towards the racecourse stands in the distance. The middle of the green tends to be the play, although the bunkers aren’t awfully difficult to get out of. The toughest up and down comes if you miss the green long.
The 6th tee is a blind tee shot and it can be quite difficult to figure out where to play. My tip would be aim for the fence on the racecourse in the distance with a long iron or fairway wood. The fairway falls away to the left, which is another thing to keep in mind. The previous holes had been reasonably straight, so it was nice to play a hole that required some form of shot shaping.
Although the easiest hole on the course, do not mistake this 160-yard par-3 for an easy par at number seven. If you miss this green on the right hand side, you face an extremely difficult up and down as the green slopes steeply from right to left.
For the long hitters, the 8th hole is well in reach off the tee at 307-yards, especially when the ground is running hard. However, do not make the mistake I did and miss the green long and left, as you will end up on the racecourse, ten feet below the level of the green. The safe play is probably an iron off the tee, while avoiding the numerous fairway bunkers.
The final hole on the front nine is a great chance to send one out there off the tee. The 500-yard par-5 may be difficult for many to reach in two, and it is important to get the distance right on the approach otherwise you may face a very long birdie putt – and I mean very long.
The tight back nine
The back nine kicks off with a 150-yard par-3, where club selection is key. Bunkers surround almost all but the front of the green, and any shot missed either side of the green will require an incredibly soft touch to get up and down.
You have two options off the tee at the par-4 11th. You can either lay up short of the bunker on the left side of the fairway, or cut the corner with the driver to a narrow part of the fairway. An iron off the tee leaves around 150-yards to a green with some testing slopes.
The test on the 12th hole comes with the approach. Seven bunkers – yes, seven – protect the green and it is vital that you do not leave your approach short, in the middle greenside bunker, as you will leave a tough and slightly length sand save.
The 13th hole was up there with the toughest on the course, for me. You drive over the racecourse to a narrow fairway that gets narrower the further you hit it. Most golfers will then have a mid to long iron left for the approach, to a reasonably small green. As the hole plays slightly uphill you may not notice the small pot bunker protecting the left side of the green. The racecourse on the left hand side also seems to attract a few golf balls.
Although only 136-yards, the 14th hole is a testing par-3. You play over the racecourse for the penultimate time and although the green is quite large, there are four bunkers and out of bounds to the right, to catch any ball slightly off line.
The final par-5 at The Northumberland Golf Club comes at the 15th. The hole plays slightly downhill and at 476-yards off the yellow tees, it is definitely a birdie chance. An accurate drive down the right is the play off the tee, and should leave the green reachable in two. Two bunkers protect the left and right side of the green, but are not disastrous misses when going for the green in two.
The fairway at 16 is quite narrow and it can be quite an intimidating tee shot as the racecourse guards the right side of the fairway. It can also be difficult to run your ball up onto the green here as the entrance is narrow and a mound to the left hand side can throw your ball off line.
At first, you may struggle to get a line off the 17th tee but the smart play is to hit a long iron off the tee, towards the trees on the right, which should not be in reach. The approach shot is quite simple from there but anything long may end up on the racecourse.
One thing is for sure on the final hole and that is you have a lot of room to bail out left. With out of bounds on the right, you will see many golfers hit their ball left as the 1st hole runs alongside the 18th.
The uphill approach will require an extra club, and if you manage to get a glorious, sunny day like I did then try not to be put off by the members sat outside the clubhouse when you’re putting. This is a great finishing hole, and I was quite disappointed the round had come to an end, as it was so good.
The extremely short walk to the bar was also welcomed, as an ice-cold drink was well needed.
It is no surprise that The Northumberland Golf Club hosts numerous prestigious events such as Regional Open Qualifying, as the course is outstanding. Most impressive for me were the greens. They were lightning quick and there was not one suspect green.
I also enjoyed the peculiarity of playing around and in the middle of Newcastle Racecourse. Although only five miles outside Newcastle city centre, with things such as St James’ Park in view, and just off the A1 and A19, I was surprised at how tranquil the course was.
This is a must play if you find yourself playing golf in the Newcastle area and also features on our top 10 courses to play in the North East for under £100.
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