City of Newcastle Golf Club - Course Profile
By Alan Hedley, Newcastle Journal / Golf North East
As published in the May 2005 issue of Golf North East Magazine
Seldom can the history of three clubs have been so intertwined as that of City of Newcastle, Newcastle United and Northumberland.
All three clubs can trace their origins back to the City of Newcastle Golf Club formally founded in October 1891 and playing on a course on the Town Moor.
The old mill on Claremont Road, which still exists, was the clubhouse. The early years were not easy and in 1898 a group of around 130 left to set up the Northumberland Club in Gosforth Park.
The City club remained on the moor but playing golf there became a problem, due mainly to unrestricted public access and to damage caused by animals and in 1907, the club moved to Grange Farm at the Three Mile Bridge in Gosforth, which is where it is still today.
The Town Moor Course and the clubhouse on Claremont Road were handed over to the Newcastle United Workmen's Club who continued to play there and became Newcastle United before moving further up the road to their current
course which some still refer to as "The Moor" and happily the result has been three excellent courses all with a rich and varied history.
But back to City and the great Harry Vardon was engaged to design the new course and he played a challenge match against James Braid over the new layout. The course length then was 6,068 yards with a par (then bogey) score of 82.
During the inaugural match while playing the very first shot on the first hole, the secretary James Potts hit a crow with his ball and killed it. The bird was stuffed - no pun intended - and is now on display in a glass case in the clubhouse.
Obviously, the course has changed since Vardon's original lay-out and in 1962 part of the course bounded by Broadway West was taken to make playing fields and build a school. New land was provided to the west and nine new holes were constructed.
However, much of Vardon's influence can be seen in the course which is rated one of the best in the North East and has staged many county events including last year's county championship won by Scotland cap Sandy Twynholm.
Now 6,523 yards off the back tees and just over 6,141 off the yellow tees, it's a good test and has one of the best starts and finishes of any golf course you'd wish to play and if there is a real feature to the course it's the fact it has excellent greens with the need to hit the right area of the fairway to get at them.
Head greenkeeper Barry Walker, who has been with the club six months, has already been making interesting and beneficial changes by opening up some of the tree areas, shaping the fairways and improving bunkers.
At 378 yards, the first hole is not particularly long but it doesn't have to be with out of bounds and trees on the left, more trees on the right and a burn running across the fairway in front of the green, it's not easy to get off here with a par.
The second is the first of the short holes at 180 yards and anything too long or left will be in trouble and this is quite a sloping green which requires some care.
The third again is not a long par four at 348 yards with a slight dog leg but the drive needs to avoid the bunker on the left and the second is to a raised green and it's a good iron to get it close.
The fourth is a magnificent par five and is a severe right hand dogleg of 488 yards and the drive must be long to make the corner and set up the second shot although the big hitters will be tempted to cut the corner but there is plenty of trouble on the hill. Get a good shot to the corner and you can make it in two but many will settle for a drive up the middle, a mid iron or little wood over the edge of the hill and a third into the green.
The fifth at 347 yards is all about the tee shot and avoiding the line of trees coming into the fairway from the left but go too far right and you will be in more trees, but it is a genuine birdie chance if you hit a good tee shot.
The sixth is a fine par three at 184 yards from a raised tee to a green guarded by bunkers and a straight hit with enough club will do the job and the 367 yard seventh again is all about placement of the drive with the fairway narrowing the closer you get to the green which is on the top of a small hill.
Too far right and you're blocked out, too much left and long and you may not find it never mind being blocked out. Quite a tricky green to putt on this one.
At 503 yards, the eighth is a par five but it's not a difficult hole and a couple of good straight hits will bring it in range although the green is well guarded.
Coming back up the hill, the ninth is a cracking par four at 391 yards. It really does need a thumping drive and you must avoid the bunkers and you'll need a good second for your par ... a really good golf hole.
It starts a run of five excellent holes with the 10th another good par four of 395 yards with a drive that drops away down into a lower level, almost a swale, which makes the drive somewhat blind and the green here is not an easy one to hit.
The next is another par four of 390 yards and the drive is slightly blind and must not be left with the Ouse Burn all the way down the hole and the ball does have tendency to go left off the fairway. Not an easy pitch as it's usually played downhill to a green that is quite small.
The 12th is a great par three at 204 yards with trouble just about everywhere but mostly on the left and the difficulty here is persuading yourself to take enough club to make it.
There's no real relief at the 382 yard 13th with a long drive needed to get at the green which again is not that easy to hit.
The 14th does come as a relief - a short hole of 138 yards and stroke 18 can't be difficult can it? It can because it's almost in a bowl and if you are long and right it's not an easy chip down, if you're long and left you could be in the burn.
The par five 15th is the longest hole on the course at 523 yards but get that drive around the slight dogleg left to right, miss the bunkers and you're quids in.
Then it's on to a great three-hole finish with a 440 yard 16th which a is monster par four up the hill with the drive menaced by bunkers and little chance of seeing the the bottom of the flag as you play your second unless your a gorilla off the tee.
There is the chance of birdie at 17, which is a par five of 515 yards, provided you stay out of the trees and the last has to be one of the best driving holes in the country. It's not a long hole at 350 yards but you have to carry the burn which runs across the fairway and all down the left and anything hooked is a goner. Too far right and you have trees to contend with but middle of the fairway should leave a comfortable iron to a big green.