Overlooking the Angel of the North, Ravensworth Golf Club has always been renowned for its golfing excellence with the course offering golfers of all abilities a tough and enjoyable challenge. The original 9-hole layout designed by J. W. Fraser was developed on land owned by and leased from Lord Ravensworth and opened for play in 1906. Seven years later, a further nine holes were added on land which later became the property of the National Coal Board - the club subsequently purchased this section of the course in 1995.
Three years later, Lord Ravensworth informed the club that he wanted to re-develop the land on which the old club house stood. This was seen as an opportunity to build a new club house along with a revamp of the course. Funding and planning permission took a great deal longer than expected but remarkably the club raised the money needed with a mortgage, a brewery loan and from members.
The new club house, an ultra-modern two-storey building was finally opened for use in December 2003 and as you would expect, the facilities are first class. The spacious lounge and dining area are located on the first floor with a balcony overlooking the course and the County Durham hills to the west. The locker rooms are located on the ground floor along with a golf shop run by Steve Greener and stocked by Shaun Cowell Discount Golf.
Northern hospitality is at the top of the agenda at Ravensworth and one of the major keys to the growing success of the club. Members and visitors are treated as equals so you can be assured of a warm welcome from club steward Peter Inness and his staff. And as people are tightening their belts due to the current financial problems, Ravensworth's chef Les Carr provides a restaurant and bar service at a price you will find hard to beat anywhere.
With the 18 hole parkland course now starting and finishing at the new club house, the lay-out is much better with a demanding start and finishing stretch. 5874 yards from the medal tees and 5674 from the tees of the day, the par and SSS are both 70 and you will have to play well to beat it - accuracy is a must at Ravensworth.
The first at Ravensworth is one of the toughest opening holes in the region, a 451 yard par 4 and if you haven't warmed up properly, no chance of playing it in regulation figures.
With trees on both sides, the tee-shot is slightly uphill to a fairway that gently dog-legs right. Distance is paramount, only a long straight drive will leave any chance of reaching the putting surface with the approach shot. Watch out for the out of bounds along the right and don't be long with the second shot, there is plenty of trouble behind the green.
The second hole is a 142 yard par 3 and although the tee-shot is blind, a precise shortish iron towards the marker post should leave a putt for birdie. Three bunkers protect the green which is banked on the right and falling away to the rear towards thick rough.
Following a short walk across Black Lane, the third hole is a straightforward par 5 and at 502 yards, one where the longer hitters will be looking to get pretty close in two. There is out of bounds to the left and plenty of trees on both sides of the fairway waiting to make life difficult for the wayward golfer. The approach is played to a green bunkered front left and sloping quite severely back to front.
And then it's through the tunnel under Easedale Gardens where you can admire the work of local kids who were recently invited to paint murals in a successful project to stop a graffiti problem.
The fourth, aptly named 'The Hill' is a short par 4 and at 255 yards, a good birdie chance. Although uphill, an accurate drive should leave only a short chip to a green falling away steeply on both sides and rear and defended by two bunkers at the front.
To put a good round of golf together, you have to play the par three's well and the old thirteenth, which is in Peter Alliss's top 100 short holes is next and probably the signature hole on the course.
This 191 yard par 3 is played downhill from an elevated tee, over gorse, bushes and deep undergrowth to a green surrounded by bunkers. Take your time on the tee, not only to admire the view but to consider carefully which club to select - anything short will not make the putting surface and you will be left with a tricky uphill chip to save par.
Although the sixth is only 313 yards, this par 4 is not easy especially when playing the course for the first time.
There is no sign of the fairway which is hidden to the right of the steep slope directly ahead of you. An accurate tee-shot should leave another short chip to a bunkerless green, falling away steeply on the right.
Measuring 244 yards, the seventh is a monster par 3 and for some golfers, may well be out of range from the tee. Aim for the front right of the green to allow for the right to left slope and hopefully the ball should gather towards the centre. This really is a tough hole and a dropped shot at this one, is by no means a disaster.
The eighth is 264 yard par 4 which dog-legs to the left and although played uphill, some maybe tempted to have a go. Beware! There is out of bounds tight left and lots of trees, bushes and deep rough on both sides of the narrow fairway. A well placed iron from the tee should leave only a wedge to a two tier green bunkered front left and sloping severely right to left and back to front.
The next which used to be a tough par 4, has now been extended to 479 yards and is played as a par 5. Played from another elevated tee, the tee-shot is over quite a severe dip to leave an uphill lie for the second shot. Watch out for the three bunkers on the left - find one of these and will have difficulty in scrambling a par. A good second shot over the top of the rise should leave a short downhill approach and the possibility of getting another birdie on the card.
And onto the back nine which starts with a fairly simple par 4 measuring 309 yards. Although the tee-shot appears a little intimidating, the fairway does open out and providing you miss the two fairway bunkers, the approach will be nothing more than a short chip. Make sure you find the right tier at this one or you will be faced with a very tricky putt on a putting surface which slopes steeply from back to front.
The eleventh is another short dog-leg left with a pond coming into play on the right. The fairway slopes left to right, so favour the left side and watch out for the big bunker on the left, half way along the hole. The approach is played uphill to a small target, falling away to the right.
Stroke one is the twelfth and at 465 yards, this par 4 is a three-shotter for most and a real card-wrecker. The drive is downhill, over the pond to quite a wide fairway and there are three well placed
bunkers to avoid. With out of bounds tight left along with all sorts of deep undergrowth, there is no room for error with the second shot and only the best of strikers will have any chance of reaching this green in two.
Back through the tunnel and the next hole is a 316 yard par 4 with out of bounds to the right. The approach is slightly uphill to a raised green, defended by three bunkers - you should be looking to make at least a par at this one.
The par 3 fourteenth is downhill and at 209 yards another strong short hole. Any tee-shot sent right will be out of bounds and with the green sloping front to back, it can be difficult to get the ball to stop.
The next at Ravensworth is a terrific hole and at 406 yards, another testing par 4. The tee-shot is blind, played to a fairway sloping left to right and with out of bounds on the right along with dense woodland and rough, you have to aim for the left side of the fairway. The second shot is played downhill to a green falling away steeply to the right and rear - if you are going to miss at this one, miss left otherwise you may well be reaching into the bag for another ball.
Overlooking the 'Angel of the North', the sixteenth is a par 4 and at 393 yards, another tough hole. Following an uphill drive to a fairway sloping right to left, the approach is played to a tricky well defended green falling away to the left and at the back.
The penultimate hole is a dog-leg right, played uphill and then downhill and with the fairway sloping left to right, aim left of centre from the tee. Only 368 yards, the longer hitters will be left with only a wedge for their second shots resulting in a par or better.
And finally, a steep uphill 250 yard par 4 to finish with. This hole is drivable for the bigger hitters but take care, there is out of bounds on the right and also behind the green. A tempting proposition where the wrong decision may well result in disaster and with on-lookers sitting on the veranda of the new clubhouse watching every shot, you might end up ruining a very good score.
Ravensworth Golf Course has a very good selection of varied holes and is well worth playing - a very good test for golfers of all ability.
Course Name: Ravensworth Golf Club
Telephone: Shop: 0191 4913475 Clubhouse: 0191 4876014
Address: "Angel View", Long Bank, Wrekenton, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, NE9 7NE
Location: Leave the A1 at the junction signposted Angel of the North, and follow signs towards Wrekenton on the B1295 - entrance to the club is approximately 500 yards on the left
Green fees: Winter rates commencing 01/11/08 - £10 a round (Mon - Fri)
Membership: Available - No entrance fee - 2009 Fees - £560
For other categories contact the Secretary on the above numbers
Societies: Welcome - packages available. For details contact the Secretary on the above numbers