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  • Neil White

Seaton Carew

Greek philosopher Plato said: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and, although he lived centuries before golf was invented, it is as if his words were intended for Seaton Carew Golf Club.

A recent review on GolfShake describes its course as “probably the ugliest in England… a dystopian landscape consisting of a nuclear power station, defunct oil rigs and heavy industry.”

Others label it a “North East gem” and “one of the North East’s best courses”.

The truth lies somewhere between the two. The vista of Seaton Carew conjures thoughts of Kevin Costner’s ill-fated Waterworld but, for us, its course encouraged wonderful memories of rounds at the likes of Goswick and Perranporth.

The fact is that the club’s founding members worked in shipbuilding, iron, steel and chemical manufacturing and so it is right that there should be a glimpse into its industrial past.

But it also has very high aspirations for the future.

With its 150th anniversary on the horizon, it appointed Royal St George’s deputy greenkeeper Tom Coulson to recreate aspects of the MacKenzie-designed course to their original state.

He has begun his work on the bunkers and I can testify that he has paid particular attention to the huge one on the left-hand side of the fourth where I remained for three shots.

Meanwhile, Mrs W demonstrated that staying on the fairway can reap significant rewards at Seaton Carew by hitting a straight tee shot and sublime approach before sinking a birdie putt.

Sand is even more in evidence on the outstanding par-three third which has a green raised above EIGHT huge bunkers. I was very pleased with myself when I nailed my par.

Seaton Carew is a curiosity – the sea cannot be seen despite it being adjacent to a huge beach which attracted many a family on the day we visited.

It stands next to rows of shops, offering rock and buckets and spades to excited children but it was as if they had vanished after we had turned into the golf club.

Despite its plans, Seaton Carew is far from grand. Its clubhouse has a 1970s working men’s club feel but the food is appetising and plentiful and the welcome is very friendly.

The course layout caused me some angst because it is 22 holes and the one chosen for our mixed open was the Micklem as opposed to the feted Old course.

Club officials insisted that it should still count as a tick-off in my top100 quest because 14 holes of the Old are used on the Micklem and the latter is the track England Golf has designated for the 2021 North of England Open Amateur Championship.

For the sake of completeness, I asked the chap in the pro’s shop if I could play the remaining four holes of the Old after our round but he pointed out that they were undergoing maintenance.

In other words, the Micklem was the only version of the 22 available and, in any case, the starter said it was the toughest.

Actually, he indicated we might struggle but the truth is that if you keep the ball out of the rough and bunkers Seaton Carew offers many opportunities.

True, the rough is thick in parts but only penalises the very wayward. The greens are more receptive than many links and, while a bit slow, belied MacKenzie's tough reputation by being fairly easy to read.

Indeed, we loved our game at Seaton Carew, enjoying the battle with the narrow entrances to greens which are often two-tiered, the rolling fairways and the quirkier holes which include a few risk-and-reward doglegs.

And we were lucky to be accompanied by a couple from the area who knew where the ball should be placed to avoid it sliding into trouble.

Sadly, before my advisor could claim his 10 per cent caddie's fee, a potentially winning round came to grief on the tricky last hole where the fairway is barely visible from the tee and both balls were snaffled by bushes to the right.

This prevented us from emulating an earlier competitor whose overhit approach to the 18th had scattered the folk lunching outside the clubhouse.

Overall, we had a very positive experience at Seaton Carew but my biggest beef remained that sea views are interrupted by the course boundaries which appeared to be overgrown.

Nevertheless, I live in hope that the enthusiastic new greenkeeper may have ideas in that direction and look forward to returning to see his progress.

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