NESTLING in the heart of the Northumberland National Park, Bellingham Golf Club has a long and distinguished history and is proud of its heritage as one of the county’s oldest courses.
Situated in the picturesque North Tyne valley between Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish Border, this 18-hole par 70 parkland course offers spectacular views extending up the valley towards the mighty Border Forest Park and Europe’s largest artificial lake at Kielder.
And it is understandable why visitors return regularly, the course is presented well and great fun to play, the greens are excellent and the hospitality is second to none.
Established in 1893 and originally nine holes, Bellingham was extended a number of years ago to 18 holes and is now maturing into a very fine test of golf.
In addition to the course extension, the club has a six-bay floodlit and covered driving range which is open all day to both members and the general public.
And with the appointments of Craig Wright as club manager and Ben Chruszczewski as head greenkeeper, Bellingham Golf Club has now entered a new era.
Craig said: “We now have some new plans for the club to try and take it forward.
“The main thing at the moment is to make sure we keep the visiting parties coming in, making sure they have a good time. I think we have over the years built up the reputation of being one of the friendliest clubs in the area where everyone is made welcome and the food is always excellent.”
Ben added: “My main aim for the course is to carry on converting the greens from meadow grass (poa annua) into bent grass (agrostis cultivars). This will make the greens more sustainable.
“No major work is planned for the first year and we are going to concentrate on preparing and maintaining the excellent conditions members and visiting parties have come to expect at Bellingham.”
Although only 6,093 yards off the medal tees, this gem of a golf course has a teasing mixture of memorable par threes, long par fives and a collection of tricky par fours. Well-placed tee shots are a must and the small well defended greens require accurate approach play.
The first six holes are not long and played sensibly, can be the making of a really good score.
A 367-yard par 4 starts your round at Bellingham, played uphill and usually into the prevailing wind.
Next is a 270-yard par 4 and an obvious birdie chance. The tee-shot is downhill to a small bunkerless green, falling away left towards a stream.
The third hole is a 334-yard par 4 and is also played downhill. Favour the right side of the fairway from the tee, avoiding the fairway bunker and you will be left with a short approach into a saucer-shaped green and bunkered on the left.
The short 120-yard fourth, aptly named “Button’s Tumble” is a cracker of a par 3. Played steeply downhill to another small saucer-shaped green, any shot over the green or to the right will find the out of bounds fence and any shot short or to the left will leave a devilish chip to try and save par.
Another short par 4 is the fifth at Bellingham and although relatively simple, measuring 338 yards, the blind approach shot is uphill and plays a little longer than it looks.
With Haining Rigg Burn, trees and bushes right and a plantation left, a good straight drive is essential at the 359-yard par 4 sixth. Take a little care with the approach at this one; the flat ground in front of the green tends to make the hole appear shorter, deceiving many players into under-clubbing.
The seventh is a strong par 4 measuring 403 yards and requires a long accurate tee-shot to have any chance of hitting the well protected green.
The par 5 eighth is the longest hole on the course. At more than 570 yards, only the biggest of hitters will get anywhere near the green in two. There is a pond on the left and a fairway bunker to the right 135 yards from the green to steer clear of, but a well-placed second shot should leave a pitch of about 120 yards into one of the longest greens on the course.
And the final hole on the front nine is a tough 185-yard par 3 with out of bounds tight left.