EVERYTHING'S changing at Parklands in Newcastle's Gosforth Park.
EVERYTHING'S changing at Parklands in Newcastle's Gosforth Park.
There's a really positive, go-ahead attitude in evidence right through the club - from the friendliness of the comfortable and modern clubhouse, to the state-of-the-art driving range and mini course, to the much improved, much more difficult 18-hole course itself.
Considerable work has been undertaken over the winter to enhance the quality and playability of the course, which dates back almost 40 years now.
The complex began life back in 1966 as a driving range only and was originally known as the John Jacobs Golf Centre.
A nine-hole course was added and opened in 1971 as Wideopen Golf Club. It remained as nine holes until it was extended into a full 18-holer in 1984 and two years later changed its name to Parklands Golf Club.
It's probably fair to say that Parklands has always had a reputation as the ideal course for beginners, not least because of its excellent facilities.
But it also owed its repute to the nature of the course itself, which was regarded as being short and relatively easy to play.
Modern drivers and clubs have probably shortened the course further.
But Parklands has been on an all-out offensive to change things in recent years - and all the work is starting to pay off.
The course has been toughened up immeasurably thanks to the addition of more water, open ditches and bunkers all over the course, while many greens have been reduced in size to offer smaller targets.
Head groundsman Steve Quince and his staff have carried out all of the work, with the emphasis on both improving drainage and increasing the difficulty.
Parklands clearly boasts a superb setting in Gosforth Park opposite Newcastle racecourse and the layout certainly makes the most of the natural features.
The course enhancements have taken things to a new level. The overall length has been increased but more importantly the course is now very tight in places while the new ditches and bunkers will make even the big hitters stop and think.
All in all, there's a lot to commend at Parklands.
The clubhouse is modern and pub-like with a great bar and good food; the driving range is ultra-modern and has a couple of wrecked cars for users to aim at (it's also just been stocked with new balls and mats); there's a super 18 hole mini golf course that adds a real element of family fun; there's a nice little pitch and putt; there's a good putting green; and professional Craig Fetherston has a large, well-stocked shop.
And the club is making the most of these facilities with 300 people per week currently participating in coaching (from beginner up to pro standard).
While Parklands is a members' club it's also a pay-and-play (green fees are just £20 midweek) and its motto is "Golf for All", which is to be highly applauded.
Overall, Parklands is a first-class golf complex with unbeatable facilities, a course that is really starting to become a series test and a very friendly atmosphere.
Things get underway with an inviting par 4 that comes in at 300 yards off the yellow tees. You can see all the way to the flag from the tee and despite the two lone trees on either side of the fairway some 20 yards from the tee box and the fact that the hole bends slightly left. Consequently, you'll be tempted to wind up for a big drive but beware of the out of bounds down the left and the pond and forest on the right. The green is well protected by sand.
The second is another par 4 of 314 yards which has out of bounds down the right. You can either lay up short, leaving a long shot to the green or attempt to drive over the water trying to avoid the bunker 70 yards short of the green.
There are two well-placed fairway bunkers to avoid on the 281-yard par 4 third while the green presents a smallish target if you get into a good position from the tee.
There's out of bounds down the left as well as some trees on the par 4 331-yard fourth so it's best to be on the right of the fairway but note that the green tends to slope away on both sides.
The next two holes are rated as, respectively, the third hardest and most difficult at Parklands.
The fifth is a pretty tight 354-yard par 4 with out of bounds on the left, a thick clump of trees on the right and a green that is well guarded.
The 371-yard par 4 sixth is another tight hole, though most of the problems are on the left. The two-tiered green is fairly small and again well protected by sand.
The first of Parklands' three par 5s awaits at seven. At 467 yards it's not a monster but considerable care is required. There's a ditch about 150 yards short of the green that needs to be negotiated while there's out of bounds down the left.
The 162-yard eighth is a fairly straightforward par 3 while the ninth is the longest hole on the course at 504 yards. There's the familiar out of bounds all down the left of this par 5 while there's an array of bunkers running up to the smallish green.
The back nine begins with a long par 4 of 453 yards with the length of the hole its main weapon, though the green is particularly well defended too.
The tough nature of this section of the course continues with a 498-yard par 5. The tee shot looks very tight but the course does open out further up the fairway, though there's a narrow entrance into the green through more trees.
The 12th is a fairly tricky par 3 of 149 yards. The green has bunkers all around and if you miss the green on the left there's a patch of deep rough.
Thirteen is a 364-yard par 4 that doglegs right, though the trees on the corner are not that high and so it is possible to take them on and leave yourself a short iron in to a green that slopes forwards.
There's another par 3 at the 14th, this time measuring 140 yards. However, this is undoubtedly one of the toughest holes on the course and though it now is rated as the sixth hardest hole on the course, it was SI 2 as recently as a couple of years ago. That's because the green is raised and protected by a battery of deep bunkers while there's water on the right.
The next three holes are all par 4s - of 287, 336 and 338 yards respectively - and have all been toughened up in recent years, the hardest of the three is the 16th with its tight lines and small, well-protected green.
The final hole is another tricky par 3, this time of 192 yards. With out of bounds to the left and trees on the right you will need to manufacture a good tee shot to a small target.
Parklands is a fairly flat track and so offers good walking though there are buggies.
All in all, a good test for every level of golfer - as Parklands' rival teams in the Hadrian League are already starting to find out this season.
Name: Parklands Golf Club
Address: High Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3 5HQ.
Tuition: Mark Watkins - 0191-236-4480
Location: From the A1 (North or South), take the exit towards Gosforth Park (B1318) and follows signs for Gosforth Park. Enter the Park through the main entrance and continue past Newcastle racecourse (on the right). Parklands is on the left just after the main racecourse entrances.
Green Fees: Midweek visitor £20, guest/juniors/OAPs £13; Weekend visitor £27, guest/juniors/OAPs £15.
Memberships: Available. Fees from April 1st 2009-March 31st 2010 - Full £450; Veteran £420; Youth 18-25 years £289; Junior £139. For membership enquiries ring 0191-236-3322
Societies: Welcome - packages available from £20 per person including food. For further details and availability ring 0191-236-3322.
Buggies: £15 non-members.