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A Towering Success

Nestling on the hills between Whitburn and South Shields next to Cleadon water tower, is one of the longest established clubs in the North East of England.

Nestling on the hills between Whitburn and South Shields next to Cleadon water tower, is one of the longest established clubs in the North East of England. South Shields Golf Club was founded in 1893 following a meeting at a local Grammar School and within months, a nine-hole course was laid out on a 26 acre site on Cleadon Hills. Local architect Thomas Page was responsible for the design and had the honour of striking the first shot on the course.

During 1903 and 1904, the course was extended to eighteen-holes and measured 4725 yards. In 1913, the club acquired further land and Dr C. A. Mackenzie was commissioned to oversee the development of the new course but a year later, the First World War started and the Military Authorities took over the area.

It wasn't until the period 1922 to 1928 that the committee implemented major initiatives. In 1928 and following a successfully negotiated tenancy of 187 acres of Church Commissioners land on Cleadon Hill Farm, the course as we know it opened for play.

Although this is a predominantly a heathland course, the gorse and many bushes combine to give it a wild links feel and one of the things South Shields is famous for is the fact the course is open 12 months of the year. Built on limestone, it never floods and any lying water is gone in minutes leaving the course playable.

Another great asset is the scenery with views up and down the River Tyne, the North Sea coastline and on a clear day, the Cleveland and Cheviot Hills - they all add to the charm of playing the course.

By modern day standards, the 1960's style club house may appear externally a little dull but plans for a new modern building have been prepared and hopefully work will commence on the project in the not so distant future. Inside the present club house, you are assured of a friendly welcome, the lounge is comfortable and there is a spacious dining area along with a gent's only bar.

The membership at the club is strong however, like most clubs there has been a decline in young adult members. And in a very brave step for a Private Members Club, they have now introduced an increment ladder style membership fee for adults between the ages of 21 and 30. Starting at £195 for gents and £185 for ladies, the club hopes to entice players back who have given up the sport for one reason or another.

The Course

Despite its relatively short length, 6263 yards off the medal tees, South Shields is not the longest course but it is a track that has to be treated with respect.

The opening hole is a pretty tough par 3 measuring 176 yards and depending on the wind direction, can play anywhere from a short iron to a fairway wood. There is out of bounds all along the left, deep rough and gorse at the rear of the green and a total of four bunkers to avoid. Try and keep you tee shot below the pin or you will be facing a difficult downhill putt - the putting surface slopes severely back to front.

There then follows a 344 yard uphill par 4 with out of bounds on the left. A straight drive just left of the bunker on the right, should gather back towards the centre of the fairway on the right to left slope. The approach shot is played to another well defended green, sloping back to front, right to left and falling away to the rear.

The third hole is a relatively straightforward 374 yard par 4 and providing you avoid the bunker on the left 140 yards from the green, a good drive should leave a shortish approach shot. Four bunkers surround quite a long green necessitating a little thought on club selection, depending on the pin position.

The fourth at South Shields is a tough par 4 which gradually climbs uphill and plays all of its 418 yards plus a little bit more. With bunkers left and right, a long straight drive between them is required to leave any chance of reaching the putting surface in two. The long approach is played to a bunkerless green with out of bounds at the rear and sloping right to left - a par at this hole is always a good score.

Following a short walk through the dry stone walls, the fifth hole is the second par 3 measuring 185 yards. Usually played into the prevailing wind, the long tee shot is by no means easy and with plenty of sand to worry about, you will do well to find the target. This is another long green so take a little time in deciding which club to use.

With out of bounds all along the right, the 518 yard sixth is the first of three par 5s on the course. Following a slight uphill drive, the second shot is played downhill to leave a short approach into a smallish green, bunkered at the front. Two good strikes at this hole will give you a good chance of a birdie which might be needed considering what comes next!!

At 458 yards, the par 4 seventh is a monster and rated the toughest hole at South Shields. The drive is uphill to a fairway sloping right to left and then you are faced with a long blind second shot over the top of the hill to a small flat green. For many, this hole has to be played as a three-shotter in the hope of chip and single putt to make par - a dropped shot or two at this hole is probably the norm for the average golfer.

The 485 yard eighth is the second of the par 5s and reachable in two for the big hitters. Following a good drive favouring right of centre, the second shot is played downhill, but watch out for the two bunkers in the fairway, 30 yards short of a severely sloping green. Don't miss this one on the right or you will be left with a very difficult chip back up the slope.

There then follows a lovely teasing 338 yarder to complete the front nine. With the fairway dog-legging left and four big bunkers all within driving range, the prudent golfer may well leave the driver in the bag and go for position. Having found the fairway, the approach is played to a green falling away to the right and to the rear - not a long hole but one can make a right hash of it without a little thought.

The 171 yard par 3 tenth has out of bounds along the right, gorse bushes left and another well-bunkered green. Depending on the teeing position you will have either a full view, a semi view, or no view of the green because of the big clump of gorse bushes in the centre of the fairway. The tricky undulating putting surface slopes front to back and if you are too far away, makes for a difficult two putt.

The eleventh is another short par 4 and a sharp dog-leg right. The big hitters may be tempted to cut the corner but if it goes wrong, you're out of bounds. Played sensibly, a long iron from the tee should leave a mid-iron approach shot to an awkward two-tier green.

Then it's the twelfth, the final par 5 on the course measuring 490 yards and played uphill. There are a number of fairway bunkers waiting to catch shortish second shots but keep it straight and you could be putting for a birdie four.

The thirteenth is a super short hole and one to be savoured. Played from the highest section of the course, the tee shot is downhill to a green surrounded by six bunkers. Only 144 yards, club selection can be difficult depending on the wind direction and if you are unlucky enough to find one of the bunkers, your ability to use a sand wedge will be tested to the full.

Back through the walls again and another gruelling par 4 waits. 455 yards, slightly uphill, out of bounds tight left and played invariably into the wind, only the longest of hitters will have a chance of making it home in regulation. Watch out for the two bunkers 25 yards short of the green and another front right.

The short par 4 fifteenth represents a great chance for a birdie at just 281 yards. Depending on the wind direction, the green maybe driveable, but a three wood or long iron up the left side of the fairway is the sensible option. Try and keep your short approach shot below the pin or you will be faced with a tricky downhill putt.

The sixteenth is a dog-leg right and a 367 yard par 4. There are three bunkers on the right forcing the tee shot out left and with the fairway sloping right to left; players tend to find the short rough, adding difficulty to the approach. Once you have found this severely sloping green, you are then faced with a very stern examination of the putting stroke - I wouldn't be conceding putts at this one.

The 386 yard seventeenth requires a good drive avoiding three fairway bunkers to leave an uphill second, to another well-defended green, sloping left to right and back to front. Don't over-shoot this one or you will be in the gorse or out of bounds.

And finally, a downhill 353 yard par 4 takes you back to the club house. The drive is over rough and gorse to a fairway that swings left with three bunkers coming into play on the right. No real need for a driver at this one, a three wood or long iron should leave a shortish approach and every chance of closing the round with a final birdie attempt.

This coastal heathland course is easy walking, renowned for its quality greens and rarely closes due to the excellent natural drainage - a really good test of golf.

Factfile

Course Name: South Shields Golf Club

Address: Cleadon Hills, South Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE34 8EG

Contact: Manager 0191 456 8942 Catering 0191 456 0475 Pro 0191 456 0110

E-mail: ssgcsecy@gmail.com

Website: www.ssgc.co.uk

Location: From the A19 (North & South) exit at the Lindisfarne roundabout, the first major junction South of the Tyne Tunnel, then take the A194 towards South Shields. At the next roundabout, take the A1300 to the coast. After approx. 2 miles, after the shops at Harton Nook, follow the golf course signposts and take the first right into Pine Avenue, left at the end of the road into Quarry Lane, then first right into the Lonnen. Take the 2nd left into Hillcrest and South Shields Golf Club.

Green Fees: Weekdays - £24 a round, £36 a day, Weekends - £30 a round, £44 a day, Juniors - £9 a round, 2 for 1 day ticket - £36 weekdays & £44 weekends

Membership: Available - No joining fee Gents (30 years+) £565, Ladies (30 years+) £495, Phased rates apply for adults aged between 21 and 30 years, starting at £195 for the gents and £185 for ladies, Juniors under 18 - £100, Juniors over 18 and in full time education - £100, Juniors 18 - 21 - £150, Social membership - £30.

Societies: Welcome - various packages are available - details can be obtained from the Manager on the above number

Buggies: Available - £12 a round

 

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