The classic links finally getting the recognition it deserves
Golf was only just spreading its tentacles into England when Dr Duncan McCuaig found himself in Teesside after qualifying as a surgeon at Edinburgh University.
The Scot was dismayed there wasn’t a club to be found throughout either North Yorkshire or County Durham and so he found a piece of land close to the mouth of the River Tees and started the Durham & Yorkshire Golf Club.
Seaton Carew, as the club are now known, are the 10th oldest in England – with written records dating back to 1874.
The clubs fate has been inextricably linked with doctors, the great Alister MacKenzie designing much of the present layout in the 1920s.
With the 150th birthday on the horizon, we sat down with bookings manager Roy Leonard to talk wispy grasses and big dunes…
What a links…
It really is. We had the Brabazon Trophy here in 2014 and, at that time, it was absolutely benign conditions and we thought course records were going to tumble. They didn’t.
I think one guy managed to equal the course record but, the rest of that week, the guys were not getting anywhere near it.
It just proves that the MacKenzie and Frank Pennink holes are still really good golfing holes – even with the modern ball and equipment. It’s still a good test of golf.
Elite tournaments are important here. You talked about the Brabazon but you have the Seaton Salver every year over 36 holes….
It’s both a Yorkshire and a Durham County Order of Merit qualifier. It gets very good support and we also have a Senior Salver as well.
I have noticed we are getting bookings from much further afield – from Wiltshire, Cambridgeshire, I think we had one from Essex. Word is starting to spread that this a competition that’s worth having a go at.
You undertook some work on the rough a couple of years ago. What have you got in mind for the course over the next few years?
We’re still doing work on the rough. We found that over a period of years different grasses were starting to encroach into the rough and they were making it much more difficult to find the ball, rather than just play out of it.
Over the last 18 months or so, we’ve been cutting it back so that the wispier grasses start to come through.
You will still be able to find the ball but that grass tends to wrap round the hosel and still makes the shot quite difficult.
We’re doing quite a bit of work around the greens, particularly on the fringes, again to try and get rid of any grasses that shouldn’t be there and introduce the much finer grasses you would expect to find on a links course.
There’s a lot of work being done on the bunkers. We’ve started to use artificial faces, which really is no different to having them revetted but they then last about 25 years rather than three or four years.
Did you know?
How many holes are on a golf course? 18. Everyone knows that. But, at Seaton Carew, they’ve actually got 22. Dr Alister MacKenzie, designed much of the Old course, as it’s played today, in 1925.
But how did the other four come about?
“In about 1975, it looked as though we might lose the top four holes because they were on land that, at that time, we rented,” explained Seaton Carew’s bookings manager Roy Leonard.
“Thankfully, we had some more – even further east near the coast – and they invited Frank Pennink to come in and design four new holes there.
“Lo and behold we were told by the people who had the land that they weren’t going to develop it after all.”
The construction of the Ekofisk pipeine provided the club with the cash to build the holes and the extra quadruple means there are a number of different ways you can play Seaton Carew.
“We have five different configurations that we can actually play,” Leonard added. “Two of them we don’t play a great deal – the Bishop and the New.
“The main three people would play are the Old, the Brabazon, which is all four of the Pennink holes plus 14 of the MacKenzie, and the Micklem. That’s three of the Pennink holes.”