I have played this austere course a number of times and can categorically confirm that on each and every visit… this has indeed been the case! Of course, I relate this to the weather and not the actually links itself which is superb.
On a visit in June 2015 it was one of the more pleasant conditions I have experienced here; the wind was gusting to a mere 75mph on this occasion. At least three of the flagpoles had lost their flags, balls were moving on every other green and sand, blown from bunkers, was constantly in the air as it swept viciously across the course on the stiff breeze.
Come to think of it, I’ve never not played Seaton Carew under a grey sky with a fierce wind howling across the links and a threat of rain in the air. Add to this a Nuclear Power Station and various other factories, which are a constant view on the horizon, with smoke billowing out of the many chimneys and you do indeed have a somber outlook.
Obviously the weather isn’t always like that (I hope anyway) and what lights up this links is the quality of the golf. There are 22 holes in total which can be configured as five different courses but mainly done so as three; The Old, The Brabazon and The Micklem. Regardless of the composition you play it will provide a great and true test of your game.
The holes are lightly bunkered from the tee but this is more than made up for close to and around the greens where approaching from the correct side is paramount, especially in the cross-wind that is often present. Fairways are relatively flat although some do play alongside and over ridges. The green surrounds and bunkering is of a particularly high standard as are the putting surfaces too.
There is also real strength in depth at Seaton Carew. There are just three short-holes but each one is exceptional, two of them truly great. The 3rd, named “Doctor” after founder Dr. McCuaig, is a superb knob-to-knob hole with four deep and deadly bunkers short of the large plateau green and another hidden sneakily out of sight over the back. The 15th, called “Cosy Corner”, is usually anything but comfortable at 205 yards and played slightly uphill with the prevailing wind usually in your face. The green location, nestled at the foot of some sandhills, and the bunkering are both outstanding.
The closing stretch is also of the highest quality with three strong par fours to finish. Buckthorn bushes are a real and present danger down the right on each one and the wind is likely to be off your left. The 17th stands out as the best of the trio, one of the finest holes in all of golf. The fairway sweeps left-to-right before you play to the most amazing green complex; raised and exposed, sloping from back to front with a tier in the middle, and the bunkering that starts from 60 yards short is excellent.
Throughout the round there are several good two-shotters and the par-fives are all sound and require plotting; the second hole is fabulous and the pick of the long holes. Most holes run out and back with only the 10th on the Brabazon course playing at right-angles to the rest.
Seaton Carew may not be as easy on the eye or have as an attractive location as some other links courses, although there is some stunningly beautiful duneland behind the 10th green on the Brabazon layout, but there is a real masculinity to the course and every time I play it I come away with greater respect and admiration for it.
Seaton Carew doesn’t quite make the top bracket of links courses in the UK but it is knocking on the door and is certainly one of England’s strongest and most underrated venues. This is reflected in the number of championships it has hosted over the years. The Brabazon Trophy has been played here but this is just one of a series of R&A and England Golf events held over the years.
NB: I finally managed to find a nice day at Seaton in the Spring of 2023. It was a glorious day with a bright blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. I'm pleased to report the course played equally well in these benign conditions.