Whitley Bay Golf Club, one of the oldest clubs in the north-east of England, has completed a major course upgrade programme with the assistance of golf architect Jonathan Gaunt.
The club was founded in 1890 and moved to its present location, only half a mile from the North Sea, in 1906. The course, which measures 6579 yards from the back tees and a par of 72, presents generous fairways, bordered by undulating native roughs, gorse and large trees.

A key feature is the Briardene watercourse which runs through many holes including the 12th and must be carried from the tees on the 5th, 15th and 16th holes. The course is considered to be one of the finest tests of golf in the North East and has hosted many National and County events over many years including a European Tour event in 1977. Holes #6 to #9 were added to the course in the 1980’s on a piece of land that has ever since been known as ‘the field’ by members. It is much flatter and less interesting than the rest of the golf course.

Significant improvements have been made to the course since 2015. Course manager, Simon Olver, who joined the club in 2014, was instrumental in getting the project off the ground and in overseeing every aspect of design and construction with Jonathan.

Our work firstly involved creating a new and more exciting vision for the 6th, 7th and 8th holes, which then needed to be presented to the members by the green committee to get approval. The vote passed without objection, and in Autumn 2015, we reconstructed holes #7 and #8, working with NLS Contracts. It was a relatively quick project – Simon closed the holes at the start of September 2015, the diggers came in and we completed the construction work in 8 weeks. In September 2016, we reshaped the 7th fairway and completed worka on the 9th hole. This has transformed the area previously known as ‘the field’.

The sixth hole is now a challenging par 5, played as a slight dog-leg left-to-right, and we created a ‘speed slot’ at 250 yards in the fairway to give interest to the drive, and excavated a wetland area to the right, which gives the hole much more interest, more environmental value and it provided a significant volume of subsoil fill material to create features elsewhere. There are now three bunkers protecting the green, which is much larger and raised, with a runoff at the back, maintained at fairway height. On the 7th hole, we remodelled the mounding to create a dogleg (right-to-left), and the hole, with a sharp rise up to the green, it has been commented on, now looks a little like the 1st on the King’s course at Gleneagles.

At the 8th we totally reshaped the fairway, which was previously very bland, again, to emphasise the left-to-right dog-leg with a large fairway bunker at its apex. NLS Contracts spent four days moving soil to reshape it. There was a very bland ditch in front of green, which we have turned into a haha with fairway cut right over one side. It’s quite a short hole – a good tee shot to the corner of the dogleg leaves an approach of 100-110 yards. But the green sits sideways and is quite shallow, so even though the hole is not long, it still has plenty of challenge.

The new holes were brought into play in Spring 2016 (holes #7 and #8) and in Spring 2017 (hole #6).

Photo Credit: JG/Simon Olver/Seton Wakenshaw