Strategic bunkers, fast running fairways and immaculate greens make it stand out as a real Angel of the North when it comes to inland golf in this region.
It is no surprise that the R&A have chosen The Northumberland Golf Club to host regional qualifying for The Open Championship until at least 2017 and its rich history also includes the staging of several professional and national amateur tournaments.
Indeed I recently enjoyed golfing here on three consecutive days in the English Mid-Amateur Championship (Logan Trophy) where the course was set up superbly.
Two famous course designers from the Golden Age of golf architecture were influential in the layout; first Harry Shapland Colt and then, following the first World War, James Braid. They have helped shape an excellent course which continues to stand the test of time and modern equipment.
The condition of the entire course on my initial visit in March 2014 was excellent but the putting surfaces are worthy of special mention, they are absolutely superb. On each visit the greens have been not only true but had a lovely pace to them where the ball rolled out beautifully. The members must be very proud of the condition of them. And whilst they are not overly undulating there is more movement in them than you might initially think and provide a tricky challenge during the summer months, potentially a terrifying one if your approach finishes above the hole!
Two prime examples of this are at the par three seventh and the final hole, the latter of which is located perilously close to the clubhouse and made to look even nearer to the impressive building due to the fact that you are playing up to it from the fairway several feet below.
The Club also has the luxury of having 22 holes. Four of these come in to play during the off-season, replacing numbers 12 to 15 at the far end of the property, but the first time visitor wouldn't necessarily know this 'winter' quartet of holes wasn't part of the main course.
Both the first and last holes are played over a valley from high tees, down to their fairways below, and then back up to the greens. They are played in opposite directions and are both sound opening and closing holes respectively, however, it is the rest of the course where The Northumberland really excels.
Holes two to 17 are played on flatter, more heathland-like terrain with firm and tight fairways that make playing from them a joy. There is a beautiful open expansive feel to these holes yet each one retains its individuality without question. The fairways are generous but should you venture a little further offline there is juicy rough and shrubbery that will swallow up your ball.
It may surprise you to learn that most of these holes are played within the Newcastle Racecourse at High Gosforth Park! Naturally some of the holes border the track but it never really interferes with play. The only exception to this is at the par five third hole and par four 13th where you must drive over the running rails which obscure what would otherwise be superb views down the holes, the third in particular with strategic bunkers to contend with all the way down its 497 yards.
Nicknamed 'The Park' this is probably something of a misnomer because it implies a parkland layout and this is anything but the case. You won't find any tree-lined holes, pretty ponds or lush green fairways here. Target golf, this is not. In fact there is very much a 'linksy' feel to most of the holes, especially around the greens.
The Northumberland Golf Club consistently delivers throughout the entire round in terms of the quality of the holes. There isn't a weak one on the course and only good shots are rewarded. It is also a fair test with very few forced carries, in fact many of the holes invite a running approach, especially when the wind is whistling across the heathland.
And it is not just on the course where quality is assured. The traditional but modernly furnished clubhouse is a fantastic place to enjoy some post match refreshments and has a front row view of golfers continuously coming up short at the 18th! A strong sense of tradition and history mix well with the demands of modern golf at The Northumberland Golf Club.
The Club's proximity to the A1 makes this a very accessible course for those travelling to or from Scotland and one I would wholeheartedly recommend you stop off and play if you get chance.
Waterville provides a fantastic mix of championship golf & more quirky duney fun.
Dingle Golf Links, sometimes referred to as Ceann Sibéal Golf Club, is one that is trending in the right direction.