“I imagine that the golfer’s eye must be more often taken off the ball at Bamburgh than on any other course,” wrote Bernard Darwin in his 1920s book Golf on the LNER, “the view is so compellingly beautiful that we really have to look at it, no matter how critical the shot. First of all of course there is the Castle which is gorgeous beyond words, as it stands huge and menacing on the top of its sheer wall of rock, looking out to sea. Then in the middle distance are the Farne Islands and away to the left across a stretch of water and sandy headlands we see another castle, small by comparison, but looking very splendid, perched on its stony pedestal, Holy Island, Lindisfarne. Altogether there may be prettier golf courses, but I really don’t think that I have ever seen them, and I have seen a good many by this time.”
There are many scenic golf courses around England’s long coastline but there are none more glorious than Bamburgh Castle. Its elevated cliff top site provides a natural platform from which to drink in the 360-degree views and also the topography provides for some truly memorable holes. We think Bamburgh Castle has a unique opening series of holes, at least we can’t think of any course that starts with two back-to-back par threes followed by two par fives.
According to the R&A Golfer’s Handbook, George Rochester originally fashioned Bamburgh Castle. The course opened for play in 1904 and was apparently later revised, but the vast majority of this 5,621-yard par 68 layout remains as it was back in the times of Bernard Darwin all those years ago… including the warm welcome in the old pavilion styled clubhouse.
This is a truly unique golf course on an elevated cliff site to the north of the small town of Bamburgh. In fact, on a sunny day as we enjoyed, the 360 degree views from the higher vantage points on the course can probably not be bettered in the whole British Isles, a point proudly asserted by the Club in its Course Planner. To the North across a low-lying coastal estuary lies Lindisfarne and the Holy Island, to the West the scenic Cheviot Hills, to the South Bamburgh with it’s own majestic castle and to the East the North Sea. Splendour indeed!
But it was the golf course we came to play and we were not disappointed. It is short and very quirky and definitely not for the purist, but if it is excitement you’re after you’ll get it here in bucket loads. However on a less good day with strong winds and rain, the exposed nature of the course would make it a difficult proposition.
Golf was never meant to be fair and at Bamburgh Castle you get huge swings of fortune, but isn’t that life? My best shot of the day at the short 8th got a wicked bounce and led to a double bogey, my worst shot a hooked drive at 17 which I thought was lost was sitting pretty a full 50 yards left of the driveable green to where I pitched on and holed the putt for a birdie!
Every hole had its features and few were out of the golfing textbook. I loved the start of two par 3s followed by two par 5s and after that there were many memorable holes. My favourites were:
1. Number 6 named Plateau, a 200 yard strongly uphill par 3, this is Stroke Index 1. Against the wind, even Driver may not be sufficient.
2. Number 14 named Farne Islands, another par 3 this time of only 140 yards. The similarly uphill tee shot over impenetrable rough to a sunken green is aimed at only the tip of the flag.
3. Number 16 named Castle Keep, a 270 yard par 4 across a dip to a dogleg- left fairway, located half way up the next hill. From this fairway the view of Bamburgh Castle through the hills is purely magical, and there below is the glistening green awaiting your best efforts to make par or better.
One reporter on this site said of his visit back in 2014 that the course is off the charts on a ‘good to be alive scale’, a view with which I totally agree. And this is why golfing travellers come to isolated outposts such as Bamburgh Castle in their daft pursuit of striking a little ball into a little hole in the ground. When it’s good like this, it can be brilliant fun!
Another early Sunday start, another great Northumbrian links course ahead of us. This week we were at Bamburgh Castle Golf Course, located in the shadows of the impressive Bamburgh Castle, you can't help but feel a little rush of anticipation whilst approaching along the windy roads from the A1.
Bamburgh is not the longest course by any means, but it certainly should not be underestimated, playing just under 5300 yards from the yellow tess and with more par 3’s than you might be used to, the course offers an exciting challenge with many interesting risk/reward holes that require a lot of thought.
The exposed, cliff top location meant we were dealing with a constant 40+mph wind coming straight in from the North Sea, making it a tricky round for all of us. With the wind in play this is easily one of the most challenging links courses in the region with thick gorse, rough, heather, large sloping greens and well placed sand traps. Accuracy, not distance from the tee is crucial!
Despite what feels like weeks of rain the course was in great condition, with almost no water logging. Superby maintained fairways, fast greens and only a couple of tee box mats for the par 3s. This course really does hold up well to the worst weather the North East has to offer, a great winter course.
The par 3s at Bamburgh are excellent, every one offering a unique challenge. You will be playing shots to greens perched on the edge of cliffs, small tight greens to large/sloping island greens, varying levels of elevation and distance, all of them offer something different.
The last three holes offer an enjoyable end to the round, 3 relatively short par 4s offer a good chance to finish your round on a high. Teeing off from the raised tee box on the 17th again allows for a superb view of the coast line and the imposing Bamburgh Castle in the background. This hole also offers the enticing opportunity to drive the green on a par 4, a short one at 235 yards, a really decent birdie opportunity before going down the last
One of the standout features of this course is undoubtedly the views. Every hole has simply great views, be it the beaches and North Sea coastline, Bamburgh Castle, the Lindisfarne or even the snowy peaks of the Cheviots in the distance, our pictures really couldn’t do it justice. I often found myself scanning the view as I wondered from shot to shot, it never got boring, it has to be the best course in the region for its views.
There are a few blind tee shots and approach shots to play but they are well posted and we were able to navigate these with little issue. Also, a few of the tee boxes are housed right up next to the previous green, which could be a problem especially in strong winds but it’s nothing to be too concerned about if you are aware of what’s going on around you.
The clubhouse is an old pavillion style building which is perfect for the setting of the course, with a friendly atmosphere and again excellent views out over the bay. I can only imagine how good it would be in the summer! We are told the food is great too!
Overall the layout is excellent, the variety in every hole allows for a thoroughly enjoyable round, a truly unique challenge, we will be back.
Bamburgh Castle has had lots of varying reviews, and as with many similar courses this indicates that it is a course worth visiting and making your own mind up. Personally I love the course for its scenery, elevation changes and sheer fun. It's a sporting course that would never be made these days. Often we play a traditional course and compare a hole to one at Bamburgh, particularly if it has an elevated tee playing across broken ground to a green nestled amongst rocks - superb fun ! It's a quick, great value, supremely enjoyable game of golf to be included in any itinerary in the area or if heading up to or back from Scotland. Not to be missed.
I've played Bamburgh a handful of times now over the years, and it remains one of my favourite courses in the country. It is the epitome of what golf should be about - natural, fun and transportive. Yes, it is short, but never boring, and I don't have much truck with people who measure the test of a golf course on its length anyway. And if you play here when there's a 4 club wind (which there often is!) you will have played magnificently if you've played to handicap. If there is a course with better views in British golf, I'd like to know about it! Surely worthy of nudging ahead of some of the unremarkable tracks languishing near the bottom of the English Top 100?
Bamburgh Castle most definitely falls into the ‘odd sock drawer’ of golf courses… and that’s a good thing!
Sporty in nature this entertaining course was in fantastic condition towards the end of February 2015. It’s an unusual course and whilst I don’t think I would personally wish to play it ‘week-in and week out’ my first round here was highly enjoyable and I would return to play again without any hesitation.
It is very much what I would class as ‘old fashioned’ golf. The terrain is undulating which requires a lot of shot-making and the course boasts exceptionally fine turf; although not a true links it certainly walks and talks like one on many of the holes. The views along the Northumberland Coast and across the sandy beaches out to the North Sea are simply breathtaking too.
The oddities start from the off as you commence the round with two par three’s followed immediately by two par fives! I only found this out for sure after my round because it was a windy day and the scorecard I picked up from the recently refurbished clubhouse was already drifting out to sea by the time I had reached the first green.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.
Great location: yes
Great condition: yes
Six stars: No! A decent 3.5 stars and maybe 4 if I'm being generous but Bamburgh is nowhere near as good as Pebble Beach, RCD!! I'm rolling around laughing at the thought.
I can only surmise that the six star review was a loyal Bamburgh member after a couple too many beers post-round. Sincerely, Becky (+2 handicap)