In Praise of the North East

As the the golfing world’s focus turns to the north west of England I turned my attentions, out of circumstance more than contrariness, to the north east coast.

In terms of global fame the courses of Northumberland and Newcastle might not be the in the same league as Royal Birkdal, Royal Lytham and Hoylake but the area is not short of history.

The coastal village of Alnmouth can boast the fourth oldest course in England – dating back to 1869 – and, just a short drive along the Northumberland coastal route, is the nine hole links of Warkworth. As good a place as any to base yourself on a trip to the area, the village of Warkworth offers more than its fair share of pubs, hotels and shops. Oh, and the course was designed by Old Tom Morris.

Old Tom actually planned the Warkworth links in 1891. That was, of course, the same year that he threw down a links in East Lothian called Muirfield. Not bad company for a little nine hole course to share.

I played on the kind of driech, drizzly day that Old Tom, at times every inch the dour Protestant of old Scotland, would have recognised as pay back for having the temerity for spending a working day on the golf course. The weather, although annoying, had certain benefits: I had the course to myself.

The course is challenging without being harsh. The first is a reasonably lengthy par three played down a cliff. You play along the front of the cliff for the second before the third, a severe dogleg par four, has you playing up the cliff with your drive to get position to play into a well protected green.

Jumping up another level takes you to the fourth tee and the breathtaking views (which I’m sure would be even better on a clear day). From there the course levels out but some long par fours and some intriguing tee positions mean this is a course that will have you thinking about every shot.

It’s well worth playing on after nine: although Warkworth has only nine greens there are 18 tees and the inward nine presents some entirely different shot making decisions as the whole line of a number holes is changed. A relaxing round in a lovely spot, Warkworth is well worth the £15 weekday price.

From Warkworth I travelled along the coast, getting ever closer to Newcastle. I endured a litany of disappointment: Newbiggin by the Sea was hosting a Senior’s Medal, Bedlington had no tee off times and, as I brought the weather with me, Blyth was closed.

So I pushed on to Newcastle where, in weather that ducks would balk at, I reacquainted myself with the public parklands course at Wallsend. I have some doubts about the long term damage that will be done to the course by allowing play to continue in such conditions but I was consoled by the knowledge that only me and around three other players had the guts (stupidity?) to carry on.

Wallsend is not the hardest course you will ever play but a few blind teeshots, well planned doglegs and lengthy par fives still provide a test. I enjoy playing in the rain occasionally and, with the greens receptive to almost any club, I put together a fine round. That alone made the £20 green fee a snip.

The final stop on my tour was the Parklands course next to Gosforth racecourse. It would be harsh of me to slag the course off. I was terrible. The course was great. And I can’t blame the course for the engagement party and all day barbeque that I sandwiched in between Wallsend and Parklands.

In actual fact Parklands is a fine looking course that would provide a fine, but fair, challenge for most golfers. That my round was marked by consistent mediocrity is my own fault. Some short par fours are raised from the mundane by small, well fortified greens that are quick enough to send a lot of pitches scurrying for cover in the rough.

Fairway bunkers are well placed and sensible shots will find their reward. At only £20 on weekdays Parklands is a real bargain – and you certainly get more for your money than you do at Wallsend.

A successful trip on some great courses. I’ll be back to play all three. And I will definitely be looking to get some revenge on Parklands.

One note of annoyance though. On the dogleg 12th at Wallsend I played a fine drive that, I could see from the tee, put me in an ideal position to play to the green. Unfortunately the gentleman playing the adjacent 14th managed to play my ball as he searched for his own errant drive. This is the second time this has happened to me in as many weeks – please, please check that the ball you’ve found is yours before you play!

4 Responses to “In Praise of the North East”

  1. Tom Hall says:

    Ray: I agree it was a strange choice of course but as I mentioned in the article the trip was made out of circumstance, the golf was a welcome bonus but I didn’t have the time to plan. Blyth looked brilliant but as I mentioned the course was closed.

    David: I get to the area quite a lot. Unfortunately this time travelling to Berwick would have meant doubling back on myself when time didn’t allow. Next time though!

    Harry: I’m delighted the article brought back so many memories. I actually spent the past New Year in Craster and the Jolly Fisherman pub remains and is going strong. I hope you do manage a return trip and get to play some of the many great courses in the area.

    Thanks for all your comments.

  2. Harry Taylor says:

    Hi Andy,
    Your article made me somewhat nostalgic… You see, I was brought up in Amble, Ashington and Alnwick… went to school in Newcastle, so your article brought back many memories. But what I want to know is why did your NE trip stop at Parklands, just as you were entering some great golfing country?

    You see, I last lived ‘back home’ in 1952, but have visited many times since to visit parents and family, recently only for funerals, sadly. My home was in Alnwick, which has a super course (now 18 holes) where I first wielded a hickory shafted golf club back in 1950.

    However, after I joined the Army, my parents left Alnwick and built a house in Craster, a beautiful fishing village with harbour, cliffs, Robson’s kippery and a great pub, The Jolly Fisherman.

    Best of all, it was within easy walking distance of one of the greatest links courses in the north east… Dunstanburgh… with the mighty castle a backdrop on every hole. Then a bit further up the coast, Seahouses beckons, then Belford and Bamburgh, and more links courses on the blustery coast on the way up to Berwick.

    Yes, I’ve decided I’m going to go back and revisit the courses (and the pubs)…! It’s a great part of the UK… and, Andy, thank you for making me reflect a little, and putting that idea up-front in my mind.

    Enjoy The Open and stay in touch.
    Yours aye,

  3. David Millar says:


    Just a shame you did not manage to play at Goswick (Berwick -Upon-Tweed). Undoubtedly this is the finest Links course in North East and has recently hosted Open Regional Qualifying. See the website

  4. ray watts says:

    strange choice of courses for north of the tyne – how about matfen, northumberland, goswick, dunstanburgh, hexham, bamburgh, foxton etc etc (and Blyth’s fairways and greens are close to being excellent)

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