Lee Westwood: Filly can stay the course at Close House

Professional golfer Lee Westwood takes over from Tim Taylor today to talk about his stay at Close House this week

Lee Westwood at Close House
Lee Westwood at Close House

It's always good to mix business and pleasure in equal measures and I really enjoyed a short stay-over at Close House Hotel this week.

The Ryder Cup Challenge match was mainly about flagging up the official opening of the only two Lee Westwood golf courses in the world, the Colt and the Filly, my connection being that I am the club’s Attached Tour Professional.

There was an important subplot I learned about late last year when the owner, Graham Wylie, told me why he was going to spent £1m on refurbishing the Filly this season.

That investment was completed well before Tuesday and having worked with the Close House architect, Scott Macpherson, on the changes, I was delighted to finally get the chance to play the course.

Graham said that because of all the promotion put into the other fine Close House course, the Colt, in previous years, the sister course had been overshadowed somewhat.

A genuinely-nice guy, Graham had been a bit taken aback when he heard some of the members had been disappointed when they could not get on to the Colt because it was too busy because some had tended to be not so keen to play the Filly.

I think the Filly is a really interesting course, especially after the changes, and it has held PGA tournaments.

The Journal Champion of Champions and the Grand Final of The Journal Ladies Trophy are both being played on the Filly this year.

In terms of setting, the Filly is a cracker with some fantastic views of the Tyne Valley. But golfers tend to be more interested in the course and it is a challenging test for all levels of ability.

The bunkering is of a really high standard with some interesting cross bunkers, and they are all in the right places. There are lots of undulations on the greens and the two-tier seventh is tricky. Throw in the water hazards and there’s a lot going on.

Any golfer who own a Bushnell definitely does not want to forget it when they play the Filly because on pretty much every tee shot, a range finder will come in handy to decide how far away the bunkers are and to choose your strategy.

The aim was to increase the challenge for golfers of all abilities and enhance the overall experience at Close House and the objective has been achieved.

The Filly was closed throughout March and the work included new tees and adding extra length to seven of the holes. Rebuilding two greens (the first and seventh) should offer more potential pin positions for the course manager Brian Clark.

The course has been re-routed so the ninth hole returns to the club house and the previous second hole now becomes a strong finishing hole, playing up the hill to the mansion house.

The extensive re-bunkering has dramatically changed the way the golf course plays. Previously, you could hit driver on many of the holes without much penalty for a misplaced tee shot.

Players now play much more strategically and are tested on every tee shot.

I would like to congratulate Brian and his team for presenting the golf course in such fantastic condition on Tuesday, despite only having four months to complete the work.

The Lee Westwood Filly Course now offers a perfect contrast to the Lee Westwood Colt Course.

Naturally, all of us associated with Close House hope golfers come along and enjoy the new layout at the Filly. I am sure you will not be disappointed.

:: Players in this year’s Journal Champion of Champions on the Filly course at Close House play free on Sunday, September 8, and get a free practice round.

Up to three guests can join Champions players in practice on the Filly for £25 a head, the members’ guest rate.

Clubs need to enter their players in the Champions and will soon receive an email from Craig White at Close House. To see separate info for clubs and players, visit www.closehouse.co.uk and click on golf then The Journal Champion of Champions 2013.

The Champions has a prize table for the top five worth £1,500 with a £500 first prize voucher to spend at Close House.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer