Ten-minutes outside of Newcastle city centre, you’ll find the glorious Close House in the village of Heddon-on-the-Wall, and with it the Colt course. Don’t expect to get the best of the Colt first time out. Designer Scott Macpherson has said it’s a course that doesn’t give its secrets away easily and those of us who’ve played it a few times have a definite advantage over first timers. There are some places you just can’t go: you’ll find yourself buried in deep fescue or in a spot where it’s difficult to play an approach.
You’ve just got to be accurate – finding fairways and greens bring huge rewards. So it’s probably no surprise it’s so fondly regarded by attached professional Lee Westwood, one of the best drivers of a ball in the world.
Westwood’s had an increasing say in the shape of the course, having been heavily involved in work to ‘toughen’ the layout up for the arrival of the 2020 British Masters, which he is hosting for a second time.
Bring a trolley to Close House, as you’ll definitely get a good workout on some strenuous climbs as you go round. The second, seventh and 10th instantly spring to mind. The latter’s a par-5 that basically is vertical for 500 yards. The rewards come at the summit, though. From the 11th and the 13th you’ll witness some wonderful views of the whole of the Tyne Valley.
The par 3 14th is one of the most picturesque on the course. It’s the calm before the storm, too, with the stroke 1 15th – and its terrifyingly tight drive – just a couple of shots away.
Your tee shot shoots through trees enclosing either side and the back of the green, so it is difficult to accurately assess the wind. A new bunker has recently gone into the front right but all the danger comes if you are short.
The trap and a deep drop into some tangly stuff awaits anyone a little to the right. It plays around 157 yards for the members and isn’t the Colt’s hardest hole. But it might be the prettiest.
It’s named the Colt for two reasons. The inspiration behind the design was the legendary course architect Harry Colt. The names of the two Close House layouts, though, also reflect a passion of owner Graham Wylie.
He’s a prodigious racehorse owner, some of his former equine heroes including the Cheltenham Festival winners Inglis Drever and Arcalis. As you make your way round the complex, look out for the ornate sculptures – including a spectacular driftwood horse statue behind the 18th green.