Blackwell Grange Golf Club was a private members golf club when, in 2013 Darlington Council, the local authority, requested that they make a planning application for a housing development on the land they owned, which part of the golf course was built on.

In return for using golf course land for a housing development, Darlington Council offered Blackwell Grange Golf Club their own municipal golf course in return, just across the road at Stressholme Golf Club. This course was built in the early 1970’s and designed to a good standard by C K Cotton, who was a compatriot of Tom Simpson, Frank Penninck and later, Donald Steel, so it already had good credentials.

In 2014, we were appointed to produce a masterplan for the golf course at Stressholme (renamed Blackwell Grange and operated as a private members club). Within our design we proposed improvements to all course bunkers, some tees, greens surrounds, drainage and woodland management. These proposals were considered by the golf club committee for over 4 years and, in Autumn 2018, Phase 1 started off the golf course redevelopment project.

Phase 1 included bunker remodelling and tee reconstruction on holes #9, #11 and #13 – all par-3’s, to create a dramatic first impact. We produced all the details and tender documentation which was put out to competitive tender and the successful contractor chosen was NLS Contracts Limited, based locally near Scotch Corner and headed by Nathan Stones. We’d previously worked with NLS on many projects in the Northeast, including High Throston, Ramside, Barnard Castle, Whitley Bay and Wetherby.

The work started on site a little later than planned, in early November 2018 and proceeded well for the first few weeks, followed by some wet weather interruption, but NLS managed the project extremely well and Phase 1 was finally completed in February 2019. Within Phase 1 we remodelled all 11 bunkers, which included reshaping of all green surrounds, new drainage, new irrigation (supplied and installed by AV Irrigation, based in Ripon) rubber crumb lining with Blinder bunker liner (supplied by Profusion Environmental) and turfing throughout, supplied locally, by Jeff Farnaby. Also, a new 400 sq.m tee was built on hole #13 with a dedicated access pathway.

Now this work is completed, and the 3 new holes have already been brought back into play to great acclaim, by Course Manager Richy Pybus – the members have welcomed the improvements wholeheartedly and fully supported the ongoing course improvements.

Phase 2 included the construction of the new short game practice area in a field 80 x 80 metres – this is a “state-of-the-art” practice facility, not equalled in the Northeast, that incorporates a 400 sq.m practice chipping green, 2 bunkers (pot bunker and an greenside/approach bunker (both lined with Blinder), 4 artificial turf tee platforms and numerous hollows, swales, humps and mounds, offering numerous playing opportunities for the professional, Peter Raine, his pupils and members, alike. The entire short game area is fully irrigated to ensure the playing surface remains in excellent playing condition at all times, again installed by AV Irrigation. The short game area will be in play in Summer 2020. The work at Blackwell Grange has continued in 2019 and into 2020, with bunker remodelling works now completed on holes #1 and #18.

The course redevelopment project will extend to 2025 and the finished result will be a fully upgraded, high quality golf course which we hope will provide the club with a golf course that is attractive to all levels of golfer, of all ages. We consider that it will be regarded as one of the best golf courses in the north of England.