Home to thirty-six holes of championship golf designed by respected architect Jonathan Gaunt, Ramside Hall Hotel lies next to the little village of Carrville, less than a 10-minute drive from Durham’s famous Cathedral.
The 18-hole Prince Bishops’ course was first to appear in 1996, occupying a forested parkland setting around the 4-star hotel, with sixteen water hazards coming into play.
The adjacent Cathedral course followed eighteen years later, with holes winding across a broad hilltop plateau then into a lovely wooded valley before returning to the parkland estate where the closing holes end back at the clubhouse and hotel.
Gaunt calls the stretch of holes from the 11th to the 14th “Ramside’s Amen Corner,” with the downhill par three 12th inspired by its famous counterpart on Augusta National, but instead of Rae’s Creek, it’s Sherburn Beck that protects the front of the green at this little beauty.
Played the Cathedral Course yesterday, as following the Top 100 rankings, this sat higher than it’s sister course at this resort style hotel and spa complex. And I’m glad I did, as this expansive course was a pleasure to play.
Set out over a rolling hill top and sides, nestled between arable farming fields, you can easily imagine the landscape which the designer, Jonathan Gaunt, could see before him when he started on this project. Whilst only 6 years old, the course is already showing signs of maturity, especially in the areas which have been routed through the woodland areas.
Set on a large scale up market resort, with large clubhouse and practice area, the course, whilst walkable is set up for buggies, with some considerable distances between greens and tees at various points around the course.
The course offers wide fairways and large American style green complexes, plenty of fairway and green side bunkers and water features on the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
Holes 1-2 and 17-18 are set close to the hotel, but the other 14 holes are accessed via an under path across the road. This area of the course is open and the wind was blowing plenty, booth aiding and abetting, dependent upon which way the hole was playing.
It’s an easy start, with a dog leg Par 5 1st, followed by a short par 4 at 380 yards. These 1st 2 holes are cut through woodland, with rises and falls in the fairways. The greens throughout were a tad slow, requiring a cut, but this meant that the expected movement on the greens was less than you would expect, so if doubt putt straight and 9/10 that would be the correct decision.
Then you get 2 quality holes, a 428 yard par 3rd hole with playing a gentle left to right, down the hillside and over water to a green which offered multiple options for pin placement. This is then followed by the 1st of the par3’s. At 194 yards downhill, with a brook to the rear, this is a good early challenge on the shorter holes. There are only 4 par 3’s on the course, all good in design. The 6th is the shortest at 150 yards, again downhill, but with severe slope to the right should you miss and a green which has a plateau at the back portion. The 12th, the start of a quality section of 3 holes, also is similar to the 4th, playing downhill, over a brook, this time to the front. The longest par 3 is saved for the 18th at 214 yard, again over water. I took driver, walked off with a par, and whilst not a fab of par 3 finishes, at this length, it was a nice hole.
The best section is hole 12-14. After playing the downhill par 3, you then play a par 4 across the valley floor, to a green tucked on the bank side of the brook, so again accuracy is key. Then a delightful par 4, up the hillside, so a fade into the slope will help keep the ball where you want and then to a green built onto the bank side and surrounded by trees, A lovely, quirky hole built using the natural contours.
Before crossing back across the road to finish the last 2 holes, the short 16th again is good hole, playing into the prevailing wind is played longer than its yardage, but a good birdie opportunity.
Talking of birdies, 2 of the par 5’s are less than 500 yards so give ideal opportunity, with the best being the 3rd par 5 at 605 yards long. This, the 7th hole plays around the hillside to a green uphill.
There was only one hole I thought could do with being reworked. You are requested not to use a driver off the 17th tee, given the proximity of houses nearby, and as such playing a 4 iron, meant that I had a long 2nd shot in, The hole off the tee, with an iron means laying up ahead of water and the hole slightly bends right then left again. With driver, whilst the water poses danger, a shot down the right edge over the trees would make the 2nd shot more straight forward. If drivers are to be permanently banned on this hole then I would suggest a remodel of the hole would make sense
And then the par 3 18th finish.
Coupled with the Prince Bishop course, this hotel provides an excellent overnight stay and choice for society golf or a weekend away with golfing friends and I would recommend.
If I was scoring the overall experience I would probably go higher on the rating but for the course itself 3 1/2 - 4 is about right. Improve the speed of the greens and it would be 4 without any doubt,