NESTLING in the heart of the Northumberland National Park, Bellingham Golf Club has a long and distinguished history and is proud of its heritage as one of the county’s oldest courses.
Situated in the picturesque North Tyne valley between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish Border, this 18-hole par 70 parkland course offers spectacular views extending up the valley towards the mighty Border Forest Park and Europe’s largest artificial lake at Kielder.
And it is understandable why visitors return regularly, the course is presented well and great fun to play, the greens are excellent and the hospitality is second to none.
Established in 1893 and originally nine holes, Bellingham was extended a number of years ago to 18 holes and is now maturing into a very fine test of golf.
In addition to the course extension, the club has a six-bay floodlit and covered driving range which is open all day to both members and the general public.
And with the appointments of Craig Wright as club manager and Ben Chruszczewski as head greenkeeper, Bellingham Golf Club has now entered a new era.
Craig said: “We now have some new plans for the club to try and take it forward.
“The main thing at the moment is to make sure we keep the visiting parties coming in, making sure they have a good time. I think we have over the years built up the reputation of being one of the friendliest clubs in the area where everyone is made welcome and the food is always excellent.”
Ben added: “My main aim for the course is to carry on converting the greens from meadow grass (poa annua) into bent grass (agrostis cultivars). This will make the greens more sustainable.
“No major work is planned for the first year and we are going to concentrate on preparing and maintaining the excellent conditions members and visiting parties have come to expect at Bellingham.”
Although only 6,093 yards off the medal tees, this gem of a golf course has a teasing mixture of memorable par threes, long par fives and a collection of tricky par fours. Well-placed tee shots are a must and the small well defended greens require accurate approach play.
The first six holes are not long and played sensibly, can be the making of a really good score.
A 367-yard par 4 starts your round at Bellingham, played uphill and usually into the prevailing wind.
Next is a 270-yard par 4 and an obvious birdie chance. The tee-shot is downhill to a small bunkerless green, falling away left towards a stream.
The third hole is a 334-yard par 4 and is also played downhill. Favour the right side of the fairway from the tee, avoiding the fairway bunker and you will be left with a short approach into a saucer-shaped green and bunkered on the left.
The short 120-yard fourth, aptly named “Button’s Tumble” is a cracker of a par 3. Played steeply downhill to another small saucer-shaped green, any shot over the green or to the right will find the out of bounds fence and any shot short or to the left will leave a devilish chip to try and save par.
Another short par 4 is the fifth at Bellingham and although relatively simple, measuring 338 yards, the blind approach shot is uphill and plays a little longer than it looks.
With Haining Rigg Burn, trees and bushes right and a plantation left, a good straight drive is essential at the 359-yard par 4 sixth. Take a little care with the approach at this one; the flat ground in front of the green tends to make the hole appear shorter, deceiving many players into under-clubbing.
The seventh is a strong par 4 measuring 403 yards and requires a long accurate tee-shot to have any chance of hitting the well protected green.
The par 5 eighth is the longest hole on the course. At more than 570 yards, only the biggest of hitters will get anywhere near the green in two. There is a pond on the left and a fairway bunker to the right 135 yards from the green to steer clear of, but a well-placed second shot should leave a pitch of about 120 yards into one of the longest greens on the course.
And the final hole on the front nine is a tough 185-yard par 3 with out of bounds tight left.
The back nine at Bellingham is a much sterner test and will examine the ability of any golfer. Played uphill and a slight dog-leg right, the par 4 tenth plays a lot longer than its 382 yards. The bunker on the right requires a carry of about 230 yards if you want to take the short route and there are two more bunkers short and right of the green waiting to catch any wayward approach shots.
Another slight dog-leg right is the 530 yard par 5 11th. Favour the left side of the fairway to take the four bunkers on the right out of play, although this lengthens the hole somewhat. Following a good drive, you then have a choice of playing short of a deep gully in front of the putting surface to leave a clear view of the green and a shot of around 150 yards or smashing a wood over the top into the gully and leaving a short semi-blind uphill pitch.
The twelfth hole is a real beauty and probably the signature hole on the course. Named the “Dormouse” this par 4 maybe only 347 yards but the downhill drive has to be in the centre of the fairway to leave a shortish iron to a narrow green protected by a stream across the front. With thick rough right and trees left, a wayward tee-shot can be costly – this hole can be a real card-wrecker.
At 365 yards, the par 4 thirteenth is another possible birdie chance. The drive has to be up the left side of the fairway to counter the left to right slope but watch out, there is out of bounds along the left. Take a little care with the approach as this hole tends to play a little shorter than it looks.
Then onto the par 3 fourteenth, 151 yards played downhill over large mounds and with out of bounds close to the left, there is very little room for error. In my view, this hole is as good as any par 3 in the region and a par or better will certainly put a smile on your face.
What can you say about the fifteenth? This par 4 is as tough as it gets. All uphill for the tee-shot and then the fairway swings downhill to the left and then right towards the green. And with trees, gorse and heather everywhere, this hole certainly deserves its stroke index of one and plays all of its 406 yards – a bogey at this one is no disgrace.
The par 4 428-yard sixteenth is a dog-leg left where the longer hitters will try and cut the corner to gain maximum distance to leave a shortish iron into a narrow well-protected green. You do not want to go right at this hole; there is a pond, a stone wall and trees to contend with, so favour the left side of the fairway.
With three bunkers surrounding the green and a small ravine at the front, club selection can be awkward at the penultimate hole, a par 3 measuring 160 yards. And should the prevailing right to left wind be blowing, the target can be difficult to hit and there is every chance of dropping a shot.
And finally “Boggle Hole”. Without doubt, many visitors find it mind-boggling as they come to grief! This 374-yard par 4 has a sloping right to left fairway towards trees, two ravines to play across, the clubhouse and out of bounds to contend with and a very tricky plateau green.
The standard scratch at Bellingham is 70 and if you play the course anywhere near to your handicap it’s a job well done.
Visitors are assured of a warm and friendly welcome in the clubhouse where bar and catering facilities are available all day and everyday throughout the golfing season.
Name: Bellingham Golf Club
Address: Boggle Hole, Bellingham, Northumberland, NE48 2DT
Telephone: Secretary – 01434 220 530
Clubhouse - 01434 220 152
Web Site: www.bellinghamgolfclub.com
Location: Situated 15 miles north of Hexham on the B6320 on the northern edge of Bellingham Village.
Green Fees: Weekdays £25, Weekends £30
Juniors – £8
Discounted rates available for groups of 12+ players
Membership: Available in all categories – no entrance fee
Full – £385; Country – £285
Juniors £35 to £65 depending on age; 18-21-year-olds £192.50
Buggies: £15 a round, £24 a day