Who was it that said familiarity breeds contempt? They obviously knew nothing about golf. You really can’t play a course often enough – to know its quirks, its odd bounces, the subtle borrows on a green.
No one has played the Colt course at Close House, the host of the British Masters, more than Lee Westwood. As attached touring professional to the Newcastle venue, he knows every nook and cranny of the Scott Macpherson-designed layout.
So who better to let us know what the secret is to becoming a Master of the Colt?
“When I’ve played well, I’ve hit a lot of fairways,” he said. “The rough is up but if you are in the semi, the greens are firm and there’s an opportunity of a flying lie. You lose control a lot once you get off the fairways.
“So hitting the fairways is a premium. Obviously, any time you want to win a tournament you’ve got to putt well. But it’s all going to start from the tee and hitting as many fairways as possible.”
He continues: “One of its defences are the elevation changes so clubbing can become a problem.
“The 10th goes a lot uphill, so does the 5th and the 7th. Six is quite a lot down and the 8th is downhill. You’ve really got to know your elevation changes, how far you hit the ball, and distance control.
“It’s playing from those lies, too. You can get some hilly lies and it can be tricky.”
Eagled-eyed viewers who tuned in when Close House last held the British Masters, back in 2017, will notice a big change to the routing this time around.
No fans, and no hospitality, means the course can be played in its conventional routing from 1 to 18 and the expert is convinced it’ll make for a more exciting finish.
“We’re going to play it the normal way round and the finishing hole won’t be the par 3 this time. We don’t need a lot of space around the 18th green because there’s going to be no crowds so we can start on the 1st and finish as normal,” Westwood explained.
“There’s no doubt that, this time round, the 18th is going to be tougher than last time as a par 3.
“In 2017, you only really needed to hit one good shot and this 18th hole is a completely different prospect.
“You’ve got to hit a good tee shot and a good second with the water on the right and the wall round the front. There’s trouble everywhere on the 18th.
“It depends on the wind but 17 is a good birdie or eagle chance and 18 is a tough hole. It will be an exciting finish.”
While Macpherson put down the layout, Westwood’s mark is now all over the Colt course – including this year’s new tee on the 7th, which stretches the hole into a par 5 for the pros.
“I’ve been behind most of the new tees and taking bunkers out and putting some in and changing green slightly. I’ve tinkered with it here and there.
“I put tees in at three, five, six, and now seven. That’s all that’s been needed.”
There was a thrilling finish in 2017, as a field that boasted the likes of Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Ian Poulter, made way for Paul Dunne to hold off a surging Rory McIlroy with a course-record 61 to take the title.
It was a wet week on Tyneside that made conditions perfect for low scoring and Westwood admitted he’d like things to be a bit tougher this time around.
“I’d like to see it play firmer. When it’s firm and windy, it’s a much tougher test. That longer tee (on the 7th) makes it play much longer and it’s dependent on the wind as to how it plays.
“If it blows 15 to 20mph it will be a much tougher test.”
Watch the British Masters from Close House on Sky Sports from July 22-25. Learn more about Close House on the club’s website.
- Related: ‘I love the club’: How Westwood made himself part of the furniture at Close House
- Related: What’s in Westwood’s bag for 2020?
- Related: ‘Everyone said the British Masters was the best working week of their lives’
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