The newly renovated Filly Course in play
The newly renovated Filly Course in play
The newly renovated Filly Course in play
New fairway bunkers and greens complex on 1st Hole following initial shaping works
New fairway bunkers on 1st Hole following turfing
New fairway bunkers and greens complex on 1st Hole, complete
Shaping new bunkers
New fairway bunkers on 2nd Hole
New pond and mounding at 5th Green
Construction of new 7th Green in progress
7th Green complex following turfing
8th Hole prior to construction of new pond
8th Hole after construction of new pond
New 17th Tee ready for turfing

Close House Hotel & Golf, Newcastle

Reconstruction of the Filly Course

A major golf course refurbishment project at Close House Estate, Heddon on the Wall, near Newcastle upon Tyne, has won praise from the estate’s owner and from Lee Westwood, attached tour professional at the luxury Northumberland hotel and golf club since 2011. Carried out by golf construction specialists MJ Abbott Limited, working to a Scott Macpherson design, the project saw extensive modifications, additions and renovations made to Close House’s 18-hole Filly Course during 2013.

In addition to raising the all-round standard of the course, the changes have produced a layout that sits comfortably within the surrounding landscape while providing an interesting challenge for golfers, complementing Close House’s new Colt Course which opened in May 2011. Designed also by Scott Macpherson and built by MJ Abbott, the Colt Course was voted one of the top 100 golf courses in England in its first year of existence.

Close House’s General Manager, John Glendinning, explained that the Filly Course had originally been built in 1963 as a nine-hole course, being extended to 18 holes in the early 1980s. However, the course had been pushed somewhat into the shade since the opening of the new Colt Course in 2011.

“The high standards of design and build that went into the creation of the Colt Course made it very successful within a short time,” he said. “We were concerned that this popularity could have a detrimental effect on the Filly Course, making Close House’s original golf course appear to be the poor relation going forward. It was decided, therefore, to raise the standard of the Filly Course so that golfers could enjoy a great experience irrespective of which of our two 18-hole courses they decided to play.”

John pointed out that Scott Macpherson’s exceptional work on the new Colt Course – utilising the design philosophies of Harry Colt - had made him the clear choice for the refurbishment of the parkland-style Filly Course.

“Scott has a great eye for detail,” said John. “We wanted the renovated course to provide an interesting challenge to golfers of all abilities without being too difficult. It was most important also that the changes helped the course blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. This is where Scott demonstrated what a great designer he is.”

Other important factors taken into consideration by Scott were the need to improve the drainage and year-round playability of the Filly Course and include a number of additional features requested specifically by Close House’s owner, Graham Wylie.

Having finalised the specifications for renovating and improving the Filly Course, Scott obtained competitive quotations on behalf of Close House from three independent sports turf contractors. With the tendering process completed, MJ Abbott was awarded the contract for three principal reasons, explained John Glendinning. “Not only did the firm submit the most competitive quote, but the company was able to complete the job within the required tight timescale using entirely its own staff and machinery,” he said.

“A further key point was the excellent co-operation and consideration shown by MJ Abbott to Close House, its staff and guests during the construction of the Colt Course in 2009.”

Moving onto site in February 2013, MJ Abbott rebuilt the 1st and 7th Greens and carried out major alterations to 20 tee complexes and 36 fairway bunkers. The firm also extended the lake in front of the 5th Green and built 36 new fairway and green-side bunkers and surrounds.

Because Close House wanted the Filly Course back in play by July 2013 - an event to be marked by an official re-opening by Lee Westwood – MJ Abbott laid 20,000 square metres of turf to produce playing surfaces that were ready for golf far sooner than if they had been seeded.

While on site, the company carried out specific re-modelling also on the Colt Course, raising the level of the 8th Tee and constructing a new lake on the 18th Hole.

The entire Close House project was completed on schedule by the end of June, drawing praise for the quality and efficiency of the work from architect, Scott Macpherson, from course manager, Brian Clark, and from estate owner, Graham Wylie.

Having spoken with Lee Westwood following the completion of the first round played on the newly-refurbished Filly Course, John Glendinning commented that Lee had been very complimentary about the renovations and improvements made to the course.

“Lee considers the Filly a really interesting course off the tee, as the fairway bunkers now come into play on every hole, making golfers think about their shots rather than simply hitting the ball in the direction of the green,” he said. “From our viewpoint, the renovated course suits players of all abilities as it is not too long yet is full of interest on every hole.

“We feel that a really great contrast has been achieved between the two courses, both of which are being presented to the same high standard, thanks to the efforts of Brian Clark and his greenkeeping team. We had high expectations as to what we wanted the Filly Course to be when it was finished, but I think we can safely say that the end result is far better than anyone expected.”

Golf at Close House:

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