BY next summer, Rockliffe Hall, Slaley Hall and Matfen Hall will have a serious rival in Close House. “The Close House vision is to create a golf destination in the North of England, which will offer the quality and service of resorts like Wentworth and Gleneagles giving North East golfers the best golfing experience in their own region.”
That’s what North East entrepreneur Graham Wylie said as the multi-million pound development at Heddon-on-the- Wall moves on apace.
“Being situated close to Newcastle city centre and international airport also means we are accessible for golfers from throughout the UK and internationally,” he added at the opening of the state-of-the-art academy and driving range at the Close House Hotel and Golf Club.
The new academy marks the completion of the first major phase of an £8m. investment. Phase two is a superb new clubhouse opening late spring next year prior to the jewel in the crown, the new Colt championship course designed by Scott MacPherson.
That opens next summer and will sit nicely alongside the current Filly course.
No expense has been spared in the new academy following painstaking research by Close House golf manager John Glendinning and his team.
It combines the very latest in golf technology in a contemporary and attractive environment with a driving range which has an automated teeing system with power tees . . . you don’t even have to bend down to put another ball on the tee!
Close House is also the first venue in the North East with Flightscope launch monitor – a system based on a missile tracking device. Golfers can see instant analysis of their ball in flight, and tuition technology includes Explanar, the Gasp Lab video system, and Forceplate, which is comparable to the Wii Fit Board monitoring how you balance your body.
Close House is set in 400 acres with stunning views of the Tyne Valley and includes Close House Hotel, currently with 19 bedrooms, though phase three of the development will see a further 12 bedrooms opening next summer as well as the £2.5m clubhouse with floor to ceiling glass windows and panoramic views.
Wylie was co-founder of Sage, the Tyneside-based business accounting software firm. He retired in 2003 at the age of 43 and is now finding success with his IT company TSG, his large collection of racehorses and his rapidly-developing golf club and hotel.
“I play golf, but not a lot. I enjoy the game and enjoy playing good courses. Having played around the world, I know what I want from a new golf course so we’ve put those plans into place,” he said.
The 18th Century site was initially the home of the Bewicke family, but Graham bought it in 2004 as a means of repaying his alma mater, Newcastle University. While attending the university he designed an accounting software package that led to the launch of one of the region’s most successful companies in 1981.
Sage now provides services to nearly six million customers worldwide and employs nearly 15,000 staff.
He said: “I’d always wanted to give something back to the university but had never found the right thing to donate. I was chatting to the chancellor and he mentioned that they were looking for a buyer for the hotel. I said: ‘Why don’t I buy it from you and let you use the facilities for free for a while?’”
Close House is at the mid-way point of his plan to turn it into a venue that “the North East can be proud of”.
If things go to plan that’s very much on the cards.