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Sean_A

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Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« on: July 26, 2020, 06:57:37 AM »
Gosforth Park was the estate of the Brandling family until 1852 when it was sold.  Some 30 years later the house and half the estate were sold to High Gosforth Park, a company formed to establish a racecourse which came to be known as Newcastle Racecourse.  The racecourse isnít one of the premier tracks in England, but with its fairly new all-weather track it is a very busy course.  The most well-known race held at the park is the Plate, one of the richest handicap events for a 3-year olds in the world. Other than the racecourse, the park hosts two golf courses, a large hotel, a football centre and a nature reserve.  In fact, there are no less than four golf courses very near the A1 within a few miles of the park just north of the city centre.  Northumberland GC has traditionally been the consensus #1 pick among the wider Newcastle area.  However, competition was mounted in 2011 by Sage co-founder Graham Wylie who built Close House using the architectural services of New Zealander Scott Macpherson to design the Colt Course. Incidentally, Scott wrote the terrific St Andrews: The Evolution of the Old Course, a book I highly recommend.

Back tracking to Northumberland GC, I have been told that Colt redesigned an existing course sometime before WWI.  However, it doesnít seem as though the design was completed prior to the advent of the war.  Shortly after the war Braid was called upon to add his 2 pence, but again, it isnít clear as to what was done and how much survives.  As a layman fan of Colt, I honestly canít discern much of what I thought Colt might have producedÖ. Northumberland doesnít FEEL very Colt-like to me.  That feeling, however, doesnít imply quality is lacking, for Northumberland has its moments.  The course is marked by its rig and furrow fairways, interesting greens, very fine turf and of course the racetrack. Holes 4 through 12, 16 and 17 are fully within the rails. There are holes too which play over the rails.  Without a doubt, playing around the racetrack is the primary memory I have of Northumberland. 

Because of the hard dogleg right, the opener is slightly confusing because of all the trees. A big selling point of the course is the track and yet views are blocked by trees.


Climbing steadily uphill, the 2nd is a decent hole. We get to the meat of the matter on the long third. Over the rails we go, but staying left of the track.


A shortish par 5, the green is reachable in two.


The dead ground shy of the green is particularly effective in conjuction with a front to back putting surface. 


Another par 5, the fourth has a bit more kick than the previous hole.  Perhaps the plan was to keep the track out of play, but its seems to me the hole would flow better if the right bunker were removed.


Another front to back green preceded this time with a dip.




A good short hole, the 5th features a green which includes rig and furrow flowing from the short grass behind the green.


A reverse camber hole, the 6th really needs more fairway left and/or trees removed on the corner to make sense. This is a great shame because another good green is on display.


A beautiful green flowing from the fairway.




Another short hole, the severely tilted 7th green can be problematic. The bunkering reminds me of Copt Heath, another Colt course which doesn't seem to fit his style.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 28, 2020, 05:19:38 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Thomas Dai

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-7
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2020, 02:32:21 PM »
Looks like a lot of rig and furrow and quite a severe version too. Wet, heavy soil site?

Atb



Mark Pearce

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-7
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2020, 07:00:21 PM »
Wet, heavy soil site?
Not really.  It dries pretty well by the standards of most inland courses in the UK.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Richard Fisher

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-7
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2020, 05:00:06 AM »
Sean  - a pedant writes (sorry  :)). The Northumberland Plate is for 3-year-olds and up, but is run over two miles, which may be where the 'two' has come from.
Really interested to see this tour, not least as The Northumberland GC hosted the English Amateur in 1972 (Harry Ashby winning), in the midst of a really class run of for the English that venues that went Ganton, Royal St George's, Birkdale, Burnham, Northumberland, Formby, Woodhall Spa, Lytham and then back to Ganton. So somebody must have thought pretty highly of it. Interesting also that the national championship went north seven times in nine years. Gosforth Park GC hosted the English in 1929 - can't quite determine if that is the 'other' Gosforth park golf club?

Richard Fisher

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-7
« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2020, 07:11:00 AM »
Mucked up that sentence completely.  :(Should have said
Really interested to see this tour, not least as The Northumberland GC hosted the English Amateur in 1972 (Harry Ashby winning), in the midst of a really class run of venues for the English  that went Ganton, Royal St George's, Birkdale, Burnham, Northumberland, Formby, Woodhall Spa, Lytham and then back to Ganton.

Sean_A

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-7
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2020, 07:47:13 AM »
Thanks Richard.

Northumberland Tour Cont

Slightly confusing from the tee, the fairly short 2-shotter eighth is a sleeper.  The ideal line, if the carry is on, is over the tree or perhaps just left.
 

The rear definition of many greens is difficult to ascertain.   
 

Blind from the tee, the par 5 ninth can eat your lunch if the drive is wayward.  In firm conditions and downwind, many golfers will be wise to lay-up shy of the bottleneck in the fairway. The green remains reachable in two though a two putt birdie is not a given.  A short hole, the 10th isn't a looker, but that is no reflection on the quality.


Visually an odd hole, the 11th fairway is pinched at the turning point of the dogleg.  It does pay to carry the right side if possible because approaching the two-tier green is not easy.


A recent bunker redo pops the 12th above the parapet.  The drive looks alright, though I prefer the rolled over style of bunkering seen on earlier holes.


Something has gone badly amiss with the greenside bunkering.  The bunkers don't match the fairway efforts and they look to be out of scale with the green. I don't know if the green was redone, but it is one of the dullest on the course.


More to follow.

Ciao
« Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 11:21:57 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

John Mayhugh

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-12
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2020, 08:56:38 AM »
Sean,

Thanks for doing this tour. My lone visit was disrupted by trying to stay dry, so it's good to have a sunny revisit.

I, too, would appreciate fewer trees and a better view of the track. The trees are also especially unwelcome on the 18th.

Good observation on the lack of rear definition for many of the greens. Combined with front to back slope on some and hitting out of unpredictable fairway lies (due to rig & furrow), I would think that approach shots here are more challenging than one might think.

The 6th was maybe my favorite hole, but agree that tree removal on the right would make it much better. Assume they are there to ensure longer players have to deal with the tilt of the fairway. Besides, approaching from the right would seem to provide enough problems with that green site.

Not sure what to say about 12. Is all the bunkering being changed to that style? It doesn't fit the rest of the course. I don't like it as well as what we see on the other holes.

Sean_A

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-12 New
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2020, 05:19:29 AM »
Tucky

I don't know what the plan is for the course...ask Pearce. As usual, its probably best to remove trees and push out fairways here and there and control rough a bit better...then take a view. Clubs seem intent on diving into bunkering first...seems bass ackwards to me.

Northumberland Tour Cont

13 is one of my favourite holes.  I like how the hole visually narrows to the green and the bunkering is well placed.  There are some trees down the left which should be cut down to preserve the racetrack aesthetics.  I did notice that on this hole and the 3rd the rails are on my eyeline which makes it difficult to properly see the hole.  I wonder if some thought will be given to raising the tees.






Another good short hole follows. Its a shame the trees on the right are not on the club property as they do need whacking back. 


For mine, Northumberland's finish isn't as interesting as the previous holes.  Perhaps I am unduly influenced by four holes in row playing into a headwind.  Yet I don't think the details are as interesting and I am not convinced by the bunkering.  Individually the holes are fine, as a group I am less convinced.  The exception is 18.  Removing the trees to open the view would transform an otherwise handsome finishing hole. 




I actively avoided playing Northumberland in the main because I don't recall my host having had much positive to say about the course.  Maybe I should seek out courses this way because I was pleasantly surprised.  I can't point to any hole as exceptional, but there are many holes which I find highly engaging and can imagine the course would play quite differently through the seasons.  The racetrack is the overriding visual feature of Northumberland, but the playing characteristics as defined by the large rig & furrow fairways, good set of greens and fine turf  make for a favourable game of golf.  Its easy to say Northumberland is a great place to stop for a game when heading north/south on the A1, but I think the course is better than that.  I am told Newcastle, the centre can't be more than a 10 minute drive from the club, is a banging town.  Stop in, have a look!  2020

Ciao 
« Last Edit: May 25, 2021, 09:09:02 AM by Sean_A »
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Thomas Dai

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2020, 05:49:06 AM »
Thanks for this Sean.
Thanks Mark for the response about dryness/wetness. Race courses usually avoid wet ground which was what spurred (groan!) my comment.
The tree aspect is curious as well particularly as there seems from the photos to be some new tree planting. Maybe it's the specific layout of both this golf course and this race course but race courses usually seem to not want trees around as these block any views of the GG's from the spectator and camera viewing points.
atb

John Mayhugh

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC 1-12
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2020, 08:45:57 AM »
I did notice that on this hole and the 3rd the rails are on my eyeline which makes it difficult to properly see the hole. 
Agreed that the rail does make seeing the fairway a bit difficult, but I wondered if that was intentional?

While the stretch of 15-17 may not be the best on the course, certainly the visuals/interaction with the racecourse make them worth discussing.

The tee shot on 15, with the track to the left.IMG_2148 by john mayhugh, on Flickr

If you pull it far enough left, you get an interesting lie. The track surface is Tapeta, not sand. One of our group managed to lose a ball here, and I've wondered if it ever caused problems for a horse.
IMG_2149 by john mayhugh, on Flickr


Those that prefer jump to flat racing are rewarded on the 16th.IMG_2151 by john mayhugh, on Flickr

As a big fan of horse racing, I really enjoyed the way the course was entwined with the track. But there are a lot of good holes/features there as well. I also think that your host undersells the course a bit.

Tony_Muldoon

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2020, 09:04:01 AM »
Fine tour, thank you.   I have played it twice now and each time come a way with the strong impression there's more than meets the eye. You mention deception and its frequently subtly done. I agree it doesn't feel like a typical Colt or Braid or anyone else, but playing around the racetrack does gives it a flavour unlike any other I've played.
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Jason Topp

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2020, 01:51:10 PM »
I love courses that take you to an interesting place.  I loved playing Northumberland and imagined several Dick Francis plots during the course of our round.  The rig and furrow adds a very unique dimension as well. 


I would recommend a visit to anyone in the area. 

Mark Pearce

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2020, 02:24:46 AM »
I think the course is a lot better in recent years for a widening of the playing corridors.  A new green keeper a few years ago has widened some fairways and, more importantly, the first cut of rough.  Whilst it's still not hard to lose a ball and the deeper rough would still benefit from a bit of maintenance the course is undoubtedly more playable than it was 10 years ago.


There's an obvious need to lose some trees.  Those between the 1st and 18th fairway are particularly egregious.  The ones on the left of 13 which Sean mentions are new and are an abomination (anyone keen enough to look will find posts from me on here complaining when they were planted).  They were added when other trees were taken out (some of the trees on the course are protected and there was a legal requirement not to reduce the total number.


The recent changes to 12 are a disaster.  A brilliant (and typically Colt) green bunkering scheme used to dictate play.  These bunkers meant that there was a huge advantage to approaching from the right, as near as possible to the right fairway bunker.  However, those who didn't understand that, or simply bailed out for the safe drive left, were left with a really difficult approach.  Too difficult, it turns out for a lot of committee members, who vandalised the green side bunkering to give themselves an easy approach from the wrong side of the fairway.  McKenzie & Ebert arrive and, having paid lip service to the traditions of the club and its heritage, bugger up the fairway bunkering rather than restoring the original strategic intent.  Depressingly, when I spoke to Martin Ebert after a presentation to members, he seemed entirely unaware of the original bunkering scheme and its effect.


I believe there has been some thought given to raising a couple of tees to improve visibility over the rails.  I have to say, I really don't have a problem with the rails myself, I guess I'm just used to them.


I have probably been a bit harsh on the course historically.  The use of rig and furrough is inventive, particularly in the way it can be seen running through a few greens in moderated fashion.  The greens are an excellent set and the course does ask questions.  Whilst I question some of the recent decisions taken, many of M&E's proposed changes will benefit the course, though I do think there are some glaring opportunities (restoring 12 amongst them) missed and I am sad that someone like Frank Pont, who I suspect would have had a better feel for the course, was not given a chance.  As others have said here recently, I do feel that M&E's approach feels rather standardised.  The club has strong R&A connections, though, so the appointment of M&E wasnt any surprise.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

John Mayhugh

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2020, 07:37:45 AM »
Mark,
Thanks for sharing those thoughts. M&E arrived after the 12 greenside bunkering was changed?
Agree that Pont would have been a great choice.

James Boon

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2020, 07:45:52 AM »
Sean,


Thanks for the tour.


I grew up playing on a course with rig and furrow and there are plenty of courses near me that still have it on their fairways. So its generally not a feature I enjoy or that would encourage me to play a course. However, I've never seen the rig and furrow blended to become green contours before, so it would certainly be interesting to see how that works!


Mark has spoken about it so often I really should drop in for a game next time I'm passing. Especially as I've now realised how close it is to the A1 so any journey is hardly disrupted by a stop there, and it certainly beats the ubiquitous Moto (or whoever) service stations!


Cheers,


James

2022 Highlights: Hollinwell (Notts), Brora, Reay, Ganton, Burnham & Berrow, Royal Dornoch, Woodhall Spa

"It celebrates the unadulterated pleasure of being in a dialogue with nature while knocking a ball round on foot." Richard Pennell

Mark Pearce

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2020, 11:14:56 AM »
Mark,
Thanks for sharing those thoughts. M&E arrived after the 12 greenside bunkering was changed?
Agree that Pont would have been a great choice.
Yes, the guilt for the greenside bunkering on 12 cannot be laid at M&E's door.
In July 2022 I will be riding 3 stages of the Tour de France,  in the Alps, to raise money for the William Wates Memorial Trust which is dedicated to providing opportunities for under privileged young adults.  To support the Trust, please visit https://fundraising.wwmt.org/fundraisers/MarkPearce/rid

Sean_A

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Re: Newcastle's NORTHUMBERLAND GC
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2020, 05:19:49 AM »
Sean,

Thanks for the tour.

I grew up playing on a course with rig and furrow and there are plenty of courses near me that still have it on their fairways. So its generally not a feature I enjoy or that would encourage me to play a course. However, I've never seen the rig and furrow blended to become green contours before, so it would certainly be interesting to see how that works!

Mark has spoken about it so often I really should drop in for a game next time I'm passing. Especially as I've now realised how close it is to the A1 so any journey is hardly disrupted by a stop there, and it certainly beats the ubiquitous Moto (or whoever) service stations!

Cheers,

James

Perhaps the rig & furrow routing is overdone, but it does afford Northumberland a standout feature besides the racecourse.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

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