Golf break - Close House Hotel, Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle
18:26 25 March 2014
The luxury Close House Hotel is leading the drive to make the North East a top golf destination. It didn’t help Paul Mackenzie’s game though
The ball lay just a few feet off the green. He approached it slowly, and carefully adopted his stance. A quick glance up at the flag and he drew back the club, bringing it down and through the ball smoothly. The ball lifted, bounced and rolled, following the contours of the undulating green before plopping satisfyingly into the hole. He raised his arms aloft as my slightly grudging applause echoed around the empty practice greens.
He’s seven for goodness sake, and my ball was just an inch or two from where it had started, although I was sure that ugly looking divot that had just appeared can’t have helped my shot at all. My son had clearly learned a lot from his golf lesson, but the morning confirmed for me that the course with the windmill and the clown’s head is more my level.
If you can’t produce your best golf on the beautifully manicured courses at Close House, where Ryder Cup regular and former world number one Lee Westwood is the attached tour professional, then you should come and join me.
The setting is idyllic, the views incredible and the two courses (so I’m told by those who regularly make it all the way round) are as challenging as they are impressive.
And as well as the Colt and Filly courses, the hotel has the driving range and coaching rooms where my young protégé had picked up so many handy hints from PGA teaching professional, Tim Cockill.
Close House, an 18th century mansion, stands in extensive grounds near Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley, just a few minutes drive from Newcastle and within easy reach of many of the region’s glorious attractions, but it is quite possible that you’ll not want to leave the hotel.
There are 19 rooms in the hotel and 12 more arranged around a courtyard in the old stables which have been converted into stylish contemporary suites, each with an en-suite bathroom, and each named after famous golf courses.
But there are some for whom golf is a four-letter word and there are plenty of good reasons for them to stay here too, even though Close House is spearheading the North East’s drive to be the second best corner of the country for the sport (well come on, it’s not going to better Lancashire is it?)
The location is great, with Hadrian’s Wall and much else close by, but the food alone is worth making the journey for. Executive chef Simon Walsh and his team in the kitchens at the Argent D’Or restaurant produce the sort of sublimely brilliant food that has people queuing up to give him awards.
Almost every hotel and restaurant now makes a point of telling its diners that they have sourced their ingredients locally, but that counts for nothing if they don’t use them well. It’s the same message here – as much as possible comes from within a 30 mile radius of Simon’s stove – but the results are astounding. Put simply: some of the best you will taste. Anywhere. Ever.
And although the food is served in the lavish surroundings of an undeniably posh venue, there is none of the snobbish pomposity you’ll find in so many places. The staff are friendly but not overfriendly and chatty without being intrusive, and they’re discreet enough not point and laugh when you’re embarrassed on the golf course by a child.
Close House Hotel, Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE15 0HT. 01661 852255, www.closehouse.co.uk.