Once it gets going provides some great links golf


Hartlepool Golf Club

Date Reviewed
March 13, 2014
Reviewed by Ed Battye
Hartlepool is a slow burner of a golf course. It takes three or four holes to really warm up but once it does it produces some excellent true links golf.

There are a handful of holes at this East Coast gem that provide golf approaching the highest order. It's just a shame it cannot deliver this for the full 18 holes.

As with many links courses the poorer, less interesting holes are found furthest away from the coastline and this is certainly the case at the James Braid influenced Hartlepool. The opening four holes are played on flatter, softer ground but these are quickly forgotten once you reach the par three fifth which is played over a wasty dene to an isolated green at the tip of the headland with the North Sea acting as a stunning backdrop and a sandy beach way below. There's nothing for long or left at this cracker of a hole.

A blind drive is a feature at the next with large sand dunes lining the left and smaller ones to the right which you must hit over and through. A small marker post is your only other guide as to where to aim. What waits in store once the fairway comes into view is exceptional. The large dunes continue all the way along the left of the hole with a tumbling fairway to the right which ends abruptly with more hummocky but rougher ground beyond. You are then faced with an approach to a table top green that sits perfectly into the landscape. Whilst it is a little on the short side at 332 yards it really is a hole that wouldn't look out of place at somewhere like Ballybunion.

The next is a short par three with fantastic views from the tee whilst the eighth requires a left-to-right ball flight in order to find the angled fairway running in the opposite direction to the sixth. It's the longest par four on the course (previously a short par five!) and even with your best drive you will still be faced with a long approach.

The ninth is a medium-length and non-descript way to end the front nine but it proves to be merely a blip because the scintillating links golf returns at the 10th where a blind approach between two large dunes is rewarded with a bowl green that boasts a magnificent backdrop of the North Sea. You are given a view of this hole whilst playing the whole of the front nine which helps build the exciting anticipation and it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Back-to-back par three's follow. The first is the longer where you must hit over a sandy ravine whilst the second is a lovely hole played from the highest point on the course, one that commands far-reaching views along the coastline, to a green complex that falls away from the player. The 13th is a delightful short par four that asks the golfer whether he wants to stick or twist in terms of trying to get close to the green but risk ending up in unfavourable rough ground or playing short for a longer pitch into the gathering green from the fairway.

Undoubtedly the best hole on the course is the bunkerless 14th. This stallion of a par four dog-legs right-to-left as it wraps itself around the dunes that protect the course from the beach. Longer hitters are rewarded with a glimpse of the green whilst those unable to drive over 200 yards face a longer and partially blind second shot over the hillcrest to a green edged brilliantly into the far corner of the course. Hartlepool is far from a championship links but this hole is capable of testing the best.

From here on in the course gradually returns to blander terrain reminiscent of the opening few holes. But that's not to say these are poor holes. In fact the 15th is a joy, played from a high tee to a fairway that sweeps left to right it invites you to bite off as much as you dare with bunkers on the corner for those too greedy.

The backdrop of the 16th is a massive sand dune and whilst the bunkering on the par five 17th is unsympathetic to the rest of the course, and looks totally out of character, it still requires strategic thinking. The 18th is an decent finishing hole with out-of-bounds running tight all the way down the left hand side of the fairway and a green that falls away from you and is protected by a large bunker to the right. A par is no guarantee here but it's a satisfying way to end your round.

Hartlepool may not deliver on a consistent basis throughout the full 18 holes but there is more than enough here to warrant a visit from lovers of links golf.

My recommendation would be to tie it in with rounds at nearby Seaton Carew and Cleveland golf clubs and you will have enjoyed a strong trio of links courses.

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