THE golf club formerly known as Swarland hosts the Dixon Cup on Sunday, and some of the players representing the champion clubs of the five golf leagues in the North East may need local knowledge to get there.
Those driving there along on the A1 have been advised by the organisers to turn off at a sign which says Swarland Golf Club, even though the name was changed to Percy Wood Golf & Country Retreat six years ago.
Some bureaucratic red tape is at the heart of this, and the players will find Percy Wood’s parkland course in the village of Swarland.
It has views across the Simonside Hills and golfers share the course with red squirrel, pheasants and roe deer.
The Dixon Cup venue is decided by each of the five leagues in rotation, and Percy Wood was the choice of North Northumberland League secretary Malcolm Lynch.
“As we are the most northerly golf league of the five, somewhere relatively south in our territory was a consideration to help players in the other leagues,” said Lynch, retired as secretary of the Magdalene Fields club.
“Also, there is no doubt that the course at Percy Wood has matured and improved enormously. It is unrecognisable from the course which first opened in 1993.
“I played Percy Wood a few weeks ago and it was in excellent condition. They have made a significant investment in their drainage and that is paying off because there had been a lot of rain not long before I played there.”
Since the name change, Percy Wood have invested more than £350,000, not only in more than 3,500 metres of drainage but also machinery, bunkers, tee boxes and 12,000 trees, mainly poplars. They have given free practice rounds to Dixon Cup players, as well as the courtesy of the course.
Simon Olver, who became course manager four years ago, said: “We regard the Dixon Cup as an excellent opportunity to showcase how far we have come, and, although we still have improvements to make, we have come a very long way indeed.
“The trees were planted a couple of years before I arrived so I have seen them mature. The separate holes are clearly defined by trees now.”
The trophy will be contested by the 2012 winners of the North Northumberland League (Foxton), the Hadrian League (Bedlingtonshire), the Newcastle and District League (Tyneside), the North Durham Union (South Moor) and the Teesside and District Union (Bishop Auckland).
Three clubs will be without top-flight amateurs, all otherwise engaged at Woodhall Spa this weekend.
Tyneside’s Durham County champion, Ricky Lee, and Bedlingtonshire’s Northumberland title holder, Mathew Webb, are playing in the England Golf Champion of Champions the same day. The in-form Lee has a chance to become a double Champion of Champions, having won The Journal event at Close House earlier this month.
Foxton’s English under-16 champion, Jake Storey, contests the Boys Champion of Champions the day before and has England Under-18 squad coaching on Sunday.
South Moor are missing their top two players, Ian McEntee and Michael Finley. Bishop Auckland’s No 3, Wayne Hewitt, is on honeymoon.