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The North East of England boasts some fine golf courses with tranquil hotels to match, none more so than the mini Gleneagles nestled deep in the heart of Northumberland, within touching distance of the Tyne Valley and Hadrian’s Wall. Close House was everything Grahame Anderson hoped for

The long, winding drive into the Northumbrian paradise that is the glorious country estate of Close House was purposely designed to make visitors feel they had arrived upon something special. Just nine miles from the Big City, it works a treat. On passing a state of the art academy and driving range you experience your first glimpses of more heavenly delights in the shape of two tumbling golf courses, each of them blessed with scenery that lives long in the memory.

Modern blends in with old as the eyecatching 19th hole sits invitingly across from the stylish country house hotel, the main buildings, dating back to the 18th century, formerly owned by the Bewicke family. The breathtaking glass clubhouse energizes the soul, with the bright and delightful No 19 restaurant a real gem in a hideaway that promises a grand finale to a day’s golf. And the hospitality here is served against the stunning backdrop of the Tyne Valley.

“Close House is about service and quality and we cater for people from all walks of life,” says Russell Smith, Director of Golf and a man who clearly understands what golfers are looking for in a home from home that has all angles covered. “We like to think of the place as a mini Gleneagles, and our energies are devoted to providing our guests with an experience they will not quickly forget. Standards here are reflected in the fact we have Lee Westwood as our touring professional – that gives us a real edge in terms of the excellence we offer.”

Reached via a quaint bridge to a path through a small wood, the testing par 71 Colt Course provides me with a muchanticipated opportunity to open the shoulders and tackle a layout that looks like it has been here for years. The name tips a wink to one of the game’s most prolific and accomplished of course designers – Harry Colt. And it is a testament to the work of course architect Scott MacPherson that the layout features classic characteristics of English golf design from the neat, square-cut tees to bunker complexes and the sweeping lines of each sculpted fairway.

There’s more width to the opening fairway than is immediately apparent from the tee, but it’s a tough shot first up, with a severe drop off to the left threatening those inclined to hook. Focus is paramount – and not easy to maintain with the hues of an ancient forest beyond the green.

The fascination of this course, you quickly realise, is that its design maximises the use of the natural habitat, with delightful challenges around every corner. The par-five 10th marks the highest point of an invigorating walk – and as you would expect the views from here are quite something (unless you’re up against the face of the well-placed ‘coffin’ bunker at the front of the green!).

Zig-zagging the glorious countryside, the real beauty of the Colt course is that no two holes are the same, and as you navigate the compass so the golfer is challenged to recalculate the wind direction and flight the ball with the trajectory and control to find the fairways and greens – more Lee’s department than mine! Historic landmarks abound. Depending on the severity of that hook, you’ll find the remains of a Roman Fort to the left of the 11th, while at the 18th the well-known ‘Ha- Ha’ wall is a constant and menacing companion to all those who prefer the slice.

Lee’s advice is clear if a little optimistic: “Hit down the right side of the fairway, and this will give you a good shot to the green. It’s well guarded with a wall and a bunker and the old ‘Ice lake’ round the right side. Par on this hole is a result.”

The 18 hole Filly course – a parkland treasure of 6,000 yards with 18 USGA-spec greens – is testing to golfers of all abilities and is the perfect complement to the Colt course; a real test of control and finesse – with magnificent views as standard.

The beautifuly restored and renovated mansion house at the centre of the estate makes for a boutique-style hotel of proportions that guarantee a homely atmosphere, with attentive staff going the extra mile to guarantee a friendly welcome. The champagne bar and lounge with views out to the golf courses has a wonderful air about it, while the 19 hotel rooms continue a theme of understated quality with all you’d expect of four-star luxury. And a nugget of local knowledge here – ask for one of the 12 courtyard rooms. Simply stunning.

Owner Graham Wylie again: “I wanted to create something people from all walks of life could come and enjoy, making them want to come back time and time again. I believe if you produce something really special, then people will enjoy it.”

Valid until the end of September, visitors are invited to enjoy dinner, accommodation and a round of golf on each of the two courses for just £172 per person. And you won’t find a luxury retreat offering any better value than that this year.

 

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine











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