From miners to majors

South Moor

South Moor Golf Club

Date Reviewed
July 12, 2016
Reviewed by Ed Battye
South Moor is a very thought-provoking golf course in County Durham with a handful of excellent holes that has ties to the famous Dr. Alister MacKenzie who had a hand in designing the course.

The Club started life as a miners only National Coal Board golf club in 1923 and with MacKenzie, the man responsible for designing Augusta, the members are fond of the term that he designed courses from miners to majors.

The first six holes are fairly standard tree-lined, parkland holes that gradually zig-zag their way up the hillside and you may wonder what all the fuss is about but please bear with the course. A par three-five-three start is somewhat unusual with the secluded green complex at the short third the highlight of this opening gambit.

Green complexes at both the tough fourth and blind sixth are very good; both long and although quite flat for the most part each having quarters towards the back left that have more pronounced slope. Indeed the greens and their surrounds are mostly very good throughout at South Moor.

However, the undisputed highlight of this section is the uphill and dog-legging fifth. At just 311-yards it may have bigger hitters tempted to have a pop at the green downwind but the sensible play is to hit to around the 200-yard mark for a pitch into the tiny shelf green which is one you don’t want to miss!

The remaining holes, save for the 18th, are played on far more interesting terrain on the other side of some sort of bridle path and contain a few fabulous holes.

Sightlines are impeded by overgrown trees at both the seventh and eighth, as it is at the 15th also, and the holes – which are still good regardless – would be so much better if opened up a little from the tee.

Things really get going from the ninth as the land becomes much better for golfing. There is now a more moorland feel to the course. The ground is much firmer – not to say it was soft prior to this – and there are lovely hints of gorse, heather and bracken surrounding us on this part of the property which lasts for a handful of holes.

The only hole that didn’t really impress me in the stretch from the seventh to the 17th was the par-three 11th but a well struck mid-iron is still required to find the putting surface.

The two holes that really stood out for me were the par-five 12th (even though I lost my second shot after what I thought was a perfect 3-wood). The hole is quite unique in that it plays uphill but in two sections. The first 250-yards or so is quite flat before the hole rises sharply to the upper section which is then also quite flat. This means that the second shot is blind but it’s also quite possible to get too close to the start of the slope which would result in you having to hit a more lofted club to clear the escarpment. Lay back off the tee too far and you will have no chance of reaching in two. It’s quite an ingenious hole and one that impressed me greatly.

The previous par five (the 10th) is also very good, with a stream to negotiate, but it’s the 16th I would like to highlight as another quite remarkable hole. I looked at the tee-marker and when it said 439-yards, par five, stroke index 3 I had a feeling it would be special. Indeed it’s fantastic. There are three clear options from the tee at this hole that doglegs sharply to the right at about 230 yards and then plays uphill for the remainder. The first, and safest option, is to hit a long iron down the centre of the fairway and to the left of a cluster of tall trees – if you manage to get enough length and a touch of fade you may catch a slope and eek out an extra 30 yards, but no problem if not. The second option is to carry the trees on the corner and stop the ball before running out of fairway on the other side. The third option is to be as aggressive as possible and cut the entire corner which probably requires a carry of around 250 yards to clear the stream. Sorry, did I forget to mention the stream? Well, this runs diagonally across the fairway at around 220-240 yards. Get the tee-shot right and there’s every chance of a birdie. Get it wrong and well any number is possible.

Elsewhere the 13th, 14th and 15th are also particularly strong holes, each with brilliant green complexes and whilst I’m not sure how much of Mackenzie’s work still remains at South Moor I suspect these could well be part of his original handiwork.

Each hole at this 6,293-yard, par 72 layout (SSS 71) presents a different challenge and with some fine green complexes this is a course that, although won’t blow you away in terms of quality, is very enjoyable and has some excellent moments. There had been lots of rain in the days leading up to my visit and after the round there wasn’t a hint of mud on my trousers so I suspect it plays well 12 months of the year too.

Whilst South Moor is not a course I would term as “championship” standard it did host the English Boys' Under 16 Open Amateur Stroke Play for the McGregor Trophy in 2011 and The Club are rightly very proud of this.

Submit your own review

Latest Reviews

Get Involved

Submit your own reviews. We'd love to hear what you think about the courses we have reviewed.