- Neil White
Close House (Colt)
“You haven’t hired a buggy for the Colt?”, queried the friendly server in the Close House restaurant.
“Then, you’ll need plenty of energy for those hills.”
She wasn’t kidding. Mrs W and I needed to catch our breath before playing our shots after ascending some of the Colt’s upward holes.
But, to be fair, the routing is such that it is perfectly possible to walk with a bit of effort and it would be a shame to miss out on the wonderful views from the British Masters course.
I had feared that service meant more at Close House than the golf. The clubhouse team are exceptionally welcoming and our courtyard room was very impressive.
This is the home to the north-east glitterati – the professional is Lee Westwood and in the past week luminaries such as England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, singer Roger Daltrey and TV presenters Ant and Dec have been on site.
The photos in the clubhouse are testimony to the magnetism of the venue.
Given this context, we were slightly disappointed by the Filly course which we had played the previous day. It was perfectly fine but didn’t match the sense of expectation which had been building.
However, the Colt was a different matter. Every hole was memorable and thoughtfully laid out, well-manicured. Some were absolute belters.
Indeed, it was so good that we were left wondering why it has only recently emerged into the England top 100 list. In my opinion, it deserves a much higher ranking.
The drama begins from the opener – a gently rising par-four with a brook on the right and trees to the left.
The fairways on the Colt were wonderfully lush on the day we played and wide enough to yield decent scores – however, the wayward will find deep tangly rough in which balls are nearly impossible to find.
This is arguably most dangerous on the dramatically left-to-right sloping third hole because it lies in wait for those trying to bail out on the left.
Meanwhile, strategic bunkers and large undulating, often two-tiered greens are The Colt’s key defence along with the occasional picturesque pond.
No hole is easy and the par-threes are particularly wicked, beginning with the fourth, a near 200-yarder with a narrow entrance between sand traps.
It is followed by the steep par-four fifth – on paper a mere 341 yards but playing much longer into a green protected by yet more sand and deep rough.
The sixth is where The Colt’s quirks begin to emerge, demanding a drive over a wall to the left for the best way into a green which is low on the property’s boundary edge.
The ante is turned up on the downhill eighth through humps and hollows to a brook winding in front and at the side of the target. I attempted to cut the corner to the right never to see my ball again in the long grass.
A vintage red phone box stands next to the ninth tee to enable food orders from the halfway house at Close House’s stunning academy with its driving range and fabulous practice facilities.
How well the sausage roll tastes may well depend on whether the gorgeous par-three ninth has been successfully negotiated and its rather large pond avoided.
There are some fine holes on the outward nine but, in my opinion, the trek home is even more exciting.
The fairway on the par-four 11th feeds through a slither of land between a wall and trees to the right and more out-of-bounds on the left.
My round was floundering at this stage and my first ball bounced over the wall, forcing a reload. After a straight second attempt, I struck the approach of my life to within four feet of the flag and nailed the best bogey I can remember.
The view from the 11th green is just fabulous, reminding us that not only is golf a wonderful sport but also gives us chance to admire our fantastic countryside.
From on high we could see the 13th green - the climax of another dramatic hole which runs to the right from an elevated tee between more light-brown rough and killer sand. I was thrilled with a rare par.
‘Deep water’ warns the sign at the 15th tee, accompanied by a buoyancy ring, presumably to aid golfers who fancy doing a Van Der Velde.
This is one of the most intimating tee shots we have encountered but I managed to squeeze my drive over the water and a marker post which stands on a narrow patch of land between trees.
The fairway emerges thereafter as does the flag which has a beach of sand protecting it.
“I f***ing hate the 18th” proclaimed a quote from former Newcastle United executive Freddy Shepherd on a banner from the previous day’s tournament in his memory.
I could imagine why as I attempted feebly to make up three points on Mrs W by attempting to sling an approach to the side of a reeded-bordered pond over a North Berwick-style wall onto the green.
Inevitably, this attempt at grabbing an undeserved result ended in glorious failure.
It was a pity my round wasn’t quite as stellar as I would have liked because the Colt, an especially classic home hole, deserved me to have risen to the challenge.
It is a course worthy of a venue which prides itself on customer experience.
From the crisp pillows in our room to the Close House breakfast sandwich (I could tell you the special ingredient but I would have to kill you) and the superb, jocular staff, this is a cracking venue and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.