New Close House course reviewed


New Close House course reviewed
Sean Dudley

The new Colt course at Close House Hotel in Newcastle, England, is nearing completion ahead of its 1 May 2011 official opening. GCA visited Close House recently to take a look.

Close House is Kiwi architect Scott Macpherson’s first course in his own name in the UK, and sits on a fairly steep piece of property on the north bank of the River Tyne. As well as being steep – there is around 85 metres of elevation change on the course – the site is also fairly constricted, with areas of protected land and trees complicating the routing. Thus, the course will be a relatively tough walk, although golfers who have climbed up the par five tenth will be glad to know they have reached the highest point on the course, and it is mostly downhill from there on!

The course’s name is a tribute to Harry Colt, and it’s appropriate that a track named for the greatest designer of one shot holes in the game’s history should have an outstanding collection of par threes. My choice for the pick of the bunch is the twelfth, a sidehill hole with a contoured green banked into the slope, and plenty of opportunity to run the ball in from the high side. Golfers who leak their ball to the low side, though, will find themselves in deep trouble, and may be grateful if they finish in the severe bunker that protects the left of the green.

Historic rig and furrow patterns in the fairway of the tenth hole were protected during construction, so at first glance, the hole may appear to be something of a slog uphill. But a well-placed ‘coffin’ bunker in the front of the green adds interest, and the view back down the hill richly compensates for the climb. Another of the course’s par fives, the seventh, is also uphill, though less severely in this case, and presents a wide choice of options. A bunker on the left side, around fifty yards short of the green, makes layup second shots more interesting, and the wide green means that positioning of the second will be crucial if players hope to put their third near the flagstick.

Close House also has one of the most intimidating opening holes I have seen in a while. Golfers will cross a bridge in front of the new clubhouse, which is currently under construction, then walk through a small wood before seeing the challenge that awaits them. Although there is more width to the fairway than is apparent from the tee, it remains a tough shot first up, with a severe dropoff to the left side threatening those inclined to hook the ball. I assumed this slope was the result of building up the fairway with fill, but general manager John Glendinning told me it was in fact a natural slope, believed to be the result of glacial activity in the last Ice Age. Either way, it makes for an opening tee shot perhaps less in the style of Colt himself, who felt that golfers should generally be eased into the round. Still, the course is a fine tribute to the great man.

A more detailed report on Close House will appear in issue 23 of GCA, to be published in January 2011. Subscribe now to receive the magazine when it is available.