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Waking a giant

WOODHAM Golf and Country Club returned to the NE and NW PGA pro-am circuit recently which underlines the progress being made at the Newton Aycliffe course.

WOODHAM Golf and Country Club returned to the NE and NW PGA pro-am circuit recently which underlines the progress being made at the Newton Aycliffe course.

“Everybody seemed to enjoy the day,” said director of golf Glenn Lowery. “We had lots of positive feedback from both the pros and amateurs about what we have been doing here and it’s always good to hear that.

The former Ramside and Slaley Hall pro was appointed in August when he described Woodham as “a sleeping giant” and targets this year as a pivotal one for the Durham course.

“This is a fresh start for Woodham and a re-branding with a new approach and a new management team taking over in the last year. It’s taken a while for things to settle down but the changes which people can now see are for the better.”

The changes included spending more than £30,000 on new course machinery as well as a substantial outlay on course fixtures and major improvements to the clubhouse. Work is to be carried out on the pro’s shop and locker rooms with more work planned on the course to improve paths, bridges and other features.

“My objective is, along with course manager Mark Hodgson, to see Woodham fulfil its undoubted potential,” said Glenn. “We intend to invest a lot of money into the main product which is the golf course, curing some of the drainage problems the course has suffered in the past. Woodham has always had fantastic potential and it is a sleeping giant just waiting to realise that promise.

“We have lodged plans for a new hotel and houses on the site and we’re hoping to hear the result of that application soon and if we get the go ahead, it will be all systems go.

Construction of the course started in 1981, opening in 1983 and was known as Rushyford Golf Club before being renamed Woodham Golf and Country Club in 1985.

Owners Washington Developments hope to build a large hotel and develop housing around the course and have fulfilled their promise to upgrade, ensuring it becomes one of the finest facilities in the area. All the foundations now seem to be in place for Woodham to really move forward and fulfil its potential.

The course, designed by James Hamilton-Stutt. is set in 229 acres of parkland not far from Newton Aycliffe and has always been considered a good test at just under 6,700 yards off the white tees.

Its combination of nine par fours, five par fives and four par threes is so well set-up that there is never more than two par fours in a row. There’s plenty of water at Woodham and it’s not called Woodham for no reason – there’s lots of well established trees as well as some testing contours, although the course overall is fairly flat. There are some great holes, such as the fifth with trees tight in on both sides and the final six holes are superb, notably the 13th, 14th, 15th and the magnificent par three 17th.

The course is backed up by some very good practice facilities, including a 300-yard driving ground, a bunkered pitching area and putting green,

The clubhouse is a first-class facility with function rooms and a bar area that opens on to a patio area with great views of the closing holes plus an excellent golf shop.

THE COURSE

Hole 1 Par 5 (510 yards)

There is a fairly wide fairway at this hole which encourages the opening drive, but it’s easy to miss out with trees down the right at driving distance. It can be reached in two but the green is well protected by bunkers left and right and three steady shots might be the best idea.

Hole 2 Par 4 (399 yards)

Beware of the bunkers and water on this hole if you are a big hitter and if you do that, the shot to the green needs to be accurate with another well-bunkered green in evidence.

Hole 3 Par 4 (362 yards)

Not dissimilar to the previous hole but the water is closer to the tee box and the fairway slopes left to right towards a ditch which can gather the cut shot quite easily.

Hole 4 Par 3 (174 yards)

The first of the short holes is possibly the most straightforward, but it still needs an accurate tee shot or you could be in along the trees.

Hole 5 Par 5 (563 yards).

At this length and a dog-leg means the fifth is a good par five and players will be looking to hit the green in three as the fairway is lined by trees that come in fairly tight on both sides. Accuracy is essential here.

Hole 6 Par 4 (369 yards)

Another dog-leg but not as severe as the previous hole. It’s not a long hole but can cause problems and it may be wise to think about a rescue rather than a driver.

Hole 7 Par 4 (336 yards)

Again a par four dog-leg right at 336 yards – it’s short but tricky. You may want to think about leaving the driver in the bag.

Hole 8 Par 3 (176 yards)

Lots of bunkering and it needs another good straight hit to make it to the green and the chance of a birdie or par.

Hole 9 Par 4 (319 yards)

Don’t be fooled by the relative shortness of this par four. It’s another dog-leg right with a green surrounded by bunkers all the way round and those at the front are very deep.

Hole 10 Par 5 (529 yards)

Not a long par five to start the back nine but a challenging one. The fairway looks wide enough but it quickly draws in with tall trees to be negotiated before the hole opens up, although there’s no reward if you go right with some heavy rough. Avoid that and you can contemplate the view of a well-sited green with a stream across the front and framed by trees and bushes behind. It is reachable in two but most will settle for chipping on with their third.

Hole 11 Par 4 (417 yards)

A good strong dog-leg left par four with a contoured green well protected by bunkers. Needs a good drive and positive approach for the par.

Hole 12 Par 3 (148 yards)

It might look a fairly routine par three but the two-tier green is well bunkered and it will test your putting if you’re not on the right level for the pin.

Hole 13 Par 5 (532 yards)

The start of Woodham’s Amen Corner. There’s a blind tee shot to start with to a fairway that slopes left to right with a thicket and heavy rough on the left. Getting the line right is key and if you do get a good drive away, the second shot is just as testing and also needs to be long if you are to get close to the green which is in a hollow with water at the front and surrounded by trees. Going for it in two might not be the best option and if you don’t get the drive right, you will be battling on this stroke one hole.

Hole 14 Par 4 (374 yards)

Another challenging tee shot to another fairway that slopes left to right . . . and it’s a dog-leg right with a large pond to a contoured green. Who says a par four has to be long to be a tester?

Hole 15 Par 5 (484yards)

Another testing dog-leg left with a stream that wends its way across the fairway and makes you think about the second shot just as the pond in front of the raised green will make you think about the third.

Hole 16 Par 4 (390 yards)

Long enough for a par four, but it has a fairly wide, sloping fairway with clinging rough both sides with a contoured and well protected green.

Hole 17 Par 3 (220 yards)

Woodham’s signature hole and a superb par three. Stand on the tee and the hole seems to get narrower as it gets to the green . . . that’s because it does, with tall trees either side. Boy, this is a testing green.

Hole 18 Par 4 (386 yards)

It would be easy for the par four last to be a bit of a let down after 17, but it isn’t, with the tee tucked away and surrounded by trees. However, it’s a reasonably generous fairway, but you have to avoid a big tree and the green is well protected by bunkers and a big pond on the left.

 

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