Old course still fresh

FORMED in 1879, Tyneside Golf Club is the oldest inland club in the North East of England and, like any good wine, the course has matured into one of the region’s finest.

FORMED in 1879, Tyneside Golf Club is the oldest inland club in the North East of England and, like any good wine, the course has matured into one of the region’s finest.

The initial Ryton Willows nine-hole course was designed by Mungo Park (Open Champion 1874, and club pro at Alnmouth) at a cost of £27. Willie Park Junior was appointed as the club’s first professional, and play commenced in the spring of 1880.

By the early years of the 20th century, the Willows had become the home of two clubs, Tyneside Golf Club and Ryton Working Men’s Club. The congestion, especially at weekends, was considerable and the members of Tyneside decided they needed a different course with greater privacy and a greater golfing challenge. New land was acquired and, in 1903, the Western Falls Course opened for play.

In 1910, following the purchase of additional land adjacent to the new course, golf architect Harry Colt was commissioned to lay out a further course, and the present design – originally known as Ryton Falls – was established in 1911. Since then, a small number of major changes have been made but, today, the course is still generally Colt’s original design.

Tucked away close to Old Ryton Village, this truly wonderful course is set in stunning surroundings offering magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. One particular advantage of playing at Tyneside is that the course very rarely closes – the drainage is brilliant and, when other courses in the region are suffering, members and visitors continue to enjoy their golf.

It is also a very good test, with many natural hazards, well-placed bunkers and smooth, quick greens – a credit to course manager Dave Simpson and his staff.

The course is not particularly long, measuring 6103 yards off the medal tees, 5851 yards from the yellows and, for the ladies, 5504 yards.

Although there are a number of hills to negotiate, walking Tyneside is not too strenuous, but a buggy is recommended for those who struggle with inclines.

Away from the course, Gary Vickers is the club professional. He has a compact golf shop with goods competitively priced, along with tuition service should your golf swing require an overhaul!

And, in the grand old pavilion club- house, you can soak up the atmosphere from years gone by while being looked after by the club’s caterers, Matt and Helen Attridge.

Following major renovations and updating to their clubhouse, Tyneside will be celebrating the building’s centenary in 2011 – the club will spend a nostalgic weekend with specially convened competitions using hickory shafted clubs only.

On Saturday, April 9, there will be a “pavilion 100” competition for members, playing in two shotgun starts.

On Sunday, April 10, the club will hold a Hickory Shafted Open, with teams of four competing. Entry fee will be £100 per four-person team, which includes club hire’. Further details will be available in the New Year. Register your interest with club manager Alastair Greenfield at secretary@tynesidegolfclub.co.uk

The course

THE opening hole is a 351-yard par 4, played uphill and a slight dog-leg right. There is a bunker on the left, 200 yards from the tee to avoid, but a long, accurate drive over the trap should leave a shortish second shot. The approach is played to quite a large, generous target, bunkered at the front and sloping severely up at the front before flattening out. Don’t be long – there is out of bounds at the rear.

Measuring 468 yards, the second hole is a very tough par 4 and stroke index one. There is out of bounds all along the left plus a water hazard which you can’t see from the tee.

Favouring the right side of the fairway, a big drive is needed to leave any chance of getting home in two. The approach is blind and played to a green, bunkered on the right with the out of bounds very close to the left side – a bogey is a good score at this hole and anything better is a bonus.

The third is a 387-yard par 4 with an uphill tee shot, and you do need to get to the top to get sight of the green. The second shot is played to a long green falling away to the left and bunkered to the right. Get a good drive away at this one and you should have no more than a short to mid-iron.

There are no prizes for leaking the ball right at the fourth, where all the trouble is, or you will be reaching into the bag for a provisional. An accurate drive over the marker post at this 389-yard par 4 will find a steep down slope which will add further distance to leave another short second shot.

There is a large bunker in the centre of the fairway, 25 yards short of the green, to be wary of – but an accurate approach should result in a good birdie chance.

The fifth is another demanding par 4 measuring 395 yards with an uphill tee shot to a fairway sloping left to right. There is a small bunker on the right which shouldn’t come into play from the tee, another on the left 70 yards short of the green and a third one on the right, 20 yards from the putting surface. Again, an accurate drive will leave a mid-iron to quite a small, flat target.

Tyneside is renowned for its par threes, and the sixth at 195 yards is real tester. Usually played into the prevailing westerly wind, this hole requires an accurate long iron, or more for some players. There is out of bounds to the left and two bunkers to avoid at the front of a large two-tier green falling steeply away at the back towards more trouble – a par at this hole is always a good score.

At 521 yards, the par 5 seventh is the longest hole on the course, and a chance for the big hitters to have a go. The fairway rises slightly and then drops towards a very deep dip in front of a raised green. It might pay to lay up with the second shot to leave a short pitch to the target and another good birdie chance. You don’t want to overshoot this green – there is a lot of trouble at the back.

Next is a short par 4, only 343 yards, where the premium is getting the tee shot into the right place, avoiding the deep rough and hillside on the left and the trees to the right. Find the fairway and you will have a short pitch into a small green defended by three bunkers – no real problems at this hole, providing you find the short stuff.

Another cracking par 3 completes the front nine. It may be only 152 yards but it’s played from an elevated tee across a steeply sloping valley to a target tucked into the hillside. Any shot short will be gathered into a very large bunker on the right to leave a very difficult up and down to save par.

The tenth is a 490-yard par 5 played from a very elevated tee, downhill and then uphill to the green. Don’t let the spectacular views distract you – there is plenty of trouble on both sides of the fairway and a ditch comes into play for the longer hitters. A well-placed second will leave a very challenging pitch, steeply uphill to a plateau green bunkered left and right. Don’t miss left at this one or you will have one ball less in the bag.

The eleventh is a 355-yard par 4, played downhill to a fairway sloping left to right with trees on both sides. Watch out for the ditch crossing the fairway 60 yards short of the green, out of bounds on the right and a pond to the left.

There then follows a bit of a climb up to the 12th tee, but it’s worth the effort – the views are stunning. This hole is a 172-yard par 3 played downhill, where club selection and accuracy are essential. A total of four bunkers surround the putting surface and, with all the trouble short of the green, make sure you take enough club to reach the centre of the target.

And then it’s the 13th, aptly named The Coffin, and a hole that has destroyed many a good card. At 410 yards, this par 4 has a narrow fairway, sloping uphill initially before flattening out towards the green. The second shot is very tight with no room for error and, if you haven’t got a good tee shot away, it may pay to lay up and play the hole as a three-shotter. Many a ball has been lost to the left, so make sure you favour right of centre all along this hole.

The 14th is a 305-yard par 4, played over the brow of a hill with out of bounds all along the left. The approach shot may be only a short pitch but there are a total of five bunkers around a green sloping right to left and falling away left and to the rear. Only 281 yards, the next par 4 is drivable for the big hitters. The fairway drops downhill before rising to another well-defended putting surface. Newly-planted trees on the right will significantly tighten this hole up in the future but, at the moment, it is a very good birdie chance.

The 16th is a gem of a par 3, surrounded with bunkers and sheltered by huge, mature trees. It might only be 120 yards and a wedge from the tee but, miss this green, and you will be in danger of embarrassingly dropping a shot or two.

The penultimate hole is a 382-yard par 4, played slightly uphill with trees lining both sides of the fairway. Out of bounds comes into play on the left but the fairway is generous and dog-legs right. The green at this hole is huge, so take note of the pin position – there may well be a three-club difference from front to back.

The par 4 18th is 387 yards and downhill back to the clubhouse. There are trees right and left but, again, the fairway is wide – inviting you to give the ball a really good belt favouring the right side. Another large green, sloping right to left is the target, and don’t be long or you will heading for the car park and out of bounds.

This lovely parkland course has stood the test of time and, once played, will be an experience you will treasure for years to come.

Course facts

Name: Tyneside Golf Club

Address: Westfield Land, Ryton, Tyne & Wear, NE40 3QE

Telephone: 0191 413 2742

Secretary: Alastair Greenfield

Email: secretary@tynesidegolfclub.co.uk

Website: www.tynesidegolfclub.co.uk

Professional: Gary Vickers

Location: Tyneside is seven miles west of Newcastle.

Directions: From the A1, take the A695 and head for Blaydon. At the roundabout, take the B6317 signposted Ryton. On reaching Ryton turn right onto Holburn Lane and head into Ryton Old Village. Approximately half way through the village, the golf club is on the right and sign-posted (off Westfield Lane)

Green Fees: Winter rates:

Adult weekdays – £15 a round

Adult weekends – £20 a round

Juniors – £10 a round

Membership: Winter three-month special £120 (Saturdays not included)

Full membership available (From March 1, 2011)

Full Gents: £635, Ladies: TBC

Junior under 10: £19, 10 to 15: £50, 16 to17: £105 18 to 21: £305

Societies: Welcome packages available. Details from the club

Buggies: £18 a round, subject to ground conditions


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