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.
The hard dogleg right 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.