The Lee Westwood Filly course at the Close House Hotel has its origins in the mid-1960s when it was initially built as a 9-hole layout for staff and students at Newcastle University. Expanded to a full 18-hole course a couple of decades later, it was substantially upgraded and refurbished after the property changed ownership in 2007 when USGA-standard greens were installed on every hole.
Lee Westwood, in consultation with architect Scott Macpherson, cut his golf course designer teeth when he further enhanced the layout in 2013, introducing forty new bunkers, half a dozen new tees and a couple of lakes.
Other alterations were also made, such as installing bunkers on the left side of the fairway and re-shaping the green at the 1st, removing trees on the left of the fairway and enlarging the water hazard in front of the green at the 5th and adding a new tee, cross bunkers and greenside traps at the 18th.
The course now extends to just over 6,000 yards from the medal tees, with only two par fives on the card at holes 13 and 15. Interestingly, a round on the Filly begins with eight straight par fours then, just when golfers wonder if they’ll see a par three hole at all, three come along in four holes, between the 9th and the 12th.
The Filly is certainly shorter and more forgiving than the Colt, but it’s the perfect golfing foil at Close House, complementing its feisty younger sibling rather splendidly. Whether you tee it up here in a more relaxing, non-medal round or perhaps as a warm up before tackling the championship course, you’re bound to enjoy the experience of playing Lee Westwood’s first design.
Lee Westwood commented as follows:
Scott and I like to see a lot of the same things in golf course design and it was a pleasure to work with him on the project. I felt that while it was a great and much loved course, the original Filly lacked a clear sense of strategy from the tee. There were a lot of opportunities to pull the driver out and overpower the course. An extensive re-bunkering has now changed the way it plays. Longer players are now forced to play strategically and are tested on every tee shot, while there’s still a little room for the mid-high handicapper.
The biggest change to the Filly was rerouting it so that the ninth returned to the clubhouse. Scott and I agreed that it was really important to have the opportunity to enjoy nine holes, whether in the evening after work or at the weekend with your children. The Filly now offers a perfect contrast to the tough test presented by the championship Colt course.
The Filly offers something for every player at any level, whether the bigger hitter who has to think twice about taking out the driver or the beginner who will benefit from the slightly wider fairways and flatter greens. Having made my first steps in golf course design with the Filly, it was great to play it for the first time and I hope you agree that it enhances the overall Close House experience.