Located a mere five miles to the northwest of Middlesbrough, Wynyard Golf Club is set within part of the Wynyard Park Estate where a number of fairways are tastefully flanked by a modern, upscale residential development.
Opened for play in 1996 and routed through more than 200 acres of mature parkland, Martin Hawtree’s Wynyard course (known as the Wellington) is a modern championship calibre layout that has more than a hint of classical design.
With four tee blocks that stretch out to more than 7,000 yards from the tips (5,764 yards from the forward tees), Wynyard is a tough test that will challenge even the most able golfers – the European Tour used the course in 1999 for their Stage One Qualifying School.
Wynyard truly came of age in 2005 when it was selected as host venue for the now defunct Seve Trophy – a Ryder Cup-styled event with matches between teams from Europe and Britain & Ireland (captains were José María Olazábal and Colin Montgomerie). Seve Ballesteros was unfortunately unable to influence the outcome due to injury – the competition ending Britain and Ireland 16½ Europe 11½.
The Wellington makes good use of the natural elevation changes throughout the property and the course bares its teeth at the 2nd, a 400+ yard par four that doglegs to the right, while at the short par four 5th, the hole turns in the opposite direction. Golfers will try and claim a shot back to par when they head for home at the short par five 10th, but avoid the bunkers either side of the fairway or the birdie opportunity is gone.
#15 heralds the start of the strong Wynyard finish with a classic risk/reward short par four that doglegs left around a pond, where big hitters will be sorely tempted to cut the corner and carry the aquatic hazard. #16 is a genuine three-shotter for most golfers with out-of-bounds threatening left and right before a left side lake comes into play for the second shot. A classic, well-bunkered, short hole arrives at 17 prior to reaching the home hole’s elevated tee, where more bogeys than pars will be carded on this brutal par four.
Wynyard is perhaps not at the forefront of golfers’ minds when searching for a classy golf course to play in England’s northeast, but it should be. It’s not only tough, it’s also enjoyable with a proud and respected tournament pedigree.
Wynyard is a good, modern golf course. It is well maintained, well thought out, offers some decent challenges and offers more than one way to play many of the holes. As a modern course trees and water play a role, but never over obtrusively. It’s also a relatively big course with room both between fairways and on the fairways. Some courses with trees favour the wild above the merely left or right as the next fairway is ready for the wild but only trees for the off line. Wynyard is not like that. Wild and get punished, be a little wayward and lose half a shot. In my opinion that is how it should be. It’s well bunkered, often in places to make you think. As a modern course a lot of the challenge around the green is from the length of grass: it’s place to chip, not one to pitch and run.
On a fairly still day with a hint of breeze from the north east the stroke indices were a little off, but I’d say that the back nine is more of a challenge than the front, with two long par 5s requiring three good shots by the average golfer and the two par 3s offering different challenges.
So overall a good mix of holes, nothing too frightening (ie very few forced carries) but plenty of opportunity to go wrong or to be rewarded for pulling off the bolder shot. Play it with Seaton Carew to see quite how different good golf courses can be.
It seems a distant memory now. The Wynyard hosted the Seve Trophy in 2005 and I've often wondered how they ever came to host such a prestigious event. Held on eight occasions from the year 2000, Sunningdale was the first and only other English layout to host the tournament which was played for the final time at Saint-Nom-la-Breteche in 2013.
Intrigued by the history and driving home from a nearby course, I couldn't resist calling in to experience what this relatively modern parkland layout had to offer. The course is constructed within the exclusive 270 acre Wynyard Estate and stretches to over 7060 yards from the championship tees. Make no mistake, this is a serious test of golf and in reality, the shorter tees at 6710/ 6264 yards present a much more enjoyable challenge for the vast majority of golfers.
Although a little soft underfoot after heavy rainfall, the course was in great shape for late October with very true and surprisingly fast greens. The spacious routing is laid out in two loops of nine, some holes having quite generous fairways with others playing through corridors of mature trees but standing out most of all for me was the quality of the bunkering. There are almost 80 to contend with and most of them are big, strategically placed, and in your face.
After a lovely tree-lined opener, the 2nd is an excellent downhill dogleg par four which leads you to a section of the course adjoined by the back gardens of some rather palatial mansions. The 5th, another dogleg par four, is attractively bunkered as is the 9th which has a heavily protected green set at an angle.
Overall I slightly preferred the character of front nine over the back but in reality, there's little to choose between them and some will undoubtedly prefer the excitement of the water hazards appearing later in the round. Water is a major factor on the 15th tee shot and 16th approach shot, helping to create two memorable holes. The finishing stretch is strong, concluding with the short, picturesque 17th and the demanding 430 yard 18th, both unsurprisingly dominated by impressive bunkering.
Expectations can be important when playing a course for the first time and being honest I hadn't expected to like the Wynyard as modern championship length parkland courses are often uninspiring. In this case, I admit to being pleasantly surprised. If you live within an hour's drive or like me happen to be passing by, give it a go and decide for yourself.