Slaley Hall Hunting Golf Course Review
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Par 72, 6,850 yards
GM Verdict – A big golf course playing over both moorland and parkland with a wonderfully secluded feel in places.
Favourite Hole – The 18th is one of the best par 4s, playing gently uphill to a raised green via a fairway that pinches in around driving distance.
Slaley Hall, south of Hexham on the Northumberland side of the border with County Durham, was once an Edwardian mansion with a 3,000-acre sporting estate, created by the Hunting family. That name lives on in the highly regarded Dave Thomas golf course built in the 1980s when the original mansion was extended and transformed into a top-class golf hotel. With flowering shrubs flanking some fairways, and towering pines and other mature trees enveloping others, the course was hailed by some as ‘the Augusta of the north’ - it's certainly one of the best golf courses in Northumberland.
Related: the best golf courses in Durham
The nines were switched around a few years ago on the Hunting course, which has a moorland feel in places, and parkland feel on other holes where beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons line the fairways. This makes good sense, for although the 1st is now steeply uphill, it is not overly long, and the two par 5s that follow let you open your shoulders more than on the early holes of the back nine. The uphill par-3 5th is then a cracker played through a slender funnel of pines.
It also means that the final hole is now one of the best on the course, a testing long, narrow par 4 that plays gently back up to a raised green. There’s water to contend with near the end too - left of the par-4 14th and then on long par-3 15th - before three suitably stout par 4s close things out. The views are, at times, liberating, and the feeling as you play your way round is one of serenity and seclusion.
On several holes the premium is on positional play, most notably on the 11th where the tee shot must steer its way round bunkers and a ditch yet be sufficiently long to leave a clear view of the green hidden away round to the right. The par-4 12th is another of those pretty holes adorned by flowering shrubs.
If the final hole is now one of the toughest on the course, the former 18th – now the 9th – is no slouch either as, despite playing downhill, there is a cross-hazard that may well take driver out of your hands. Laying back on the fairway will then leave a long approach to a green set in front of the mansion, which may prove visually appealing but also technically challenging.
This is one of the north-east’s premier golf venues, and although comparisons with Augusta can be a mixed blessing, these are undoubtedly magnificent surroundings in which to enjoy a round. The sister Priestman course, which opened in 1999, allows perhaps a little more room to manoeuvre.
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Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.
Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf
Jeremy is currently playing...
Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft
3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft
Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft
Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts
Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)
Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response
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