History of WBGC
Founded in 1890, the 9-hole course at Whitley Bay Golf Club was only used in the winter, with locals and visiting holidaymakers taking full advantage of its situation for relaxation along the Northumberland coastline during the rest of the year. In 1906, the club moved from this location on the 2-mile strip of Whitley Links to its present position, less than a mile further inland.
It’s not known who set out the club’s 18-hole course but an exhibition match was arranged between Harry Vardon and Ted Ray to mark the opening of the new layout in July, 1913. Another member of the Great Triumvirate, James Braid, visited in May of 1931 to audit the course, charging £13.6s.0d for his services, but there’s no record of what work, if any, was carried out following this appraisal.
In more recent times, the European Tour’s one-off Callers of Newcastle tournament was held at the club in 1977, with John Fourie of South Africa winning a four way playoff at the second extra hole against Peter Butler, Angel Gallardo and Tommy Horton. It’s said that during the event, a young Seve Ballesteros drove the par four 7th green before the previous group had cleared the hole.
Today, the layout has undergone a number of changes since then, including a renovation of all the bunkers. More recently, holes 6 to 10 have been completely redesigned, re-opening for play in May 2017. Starting and finishing with a par five, this gently undulating course presents a challenging test for golfers, offering views from various parts of the property out to sea beyond St Mary’s Lighthouse.
A key component of the modern day course is the Briar Dene, a treacherous burn that appears at several holes on the card. The 582-yard par five 12th (rated stroke index 1) is regarded as the signature hole, doglegging left along the side of this water course, before the fairway then narrows upon reaching a bunkerless, two-tiered green. It’s a brave golfer indeed who tries to tame this beast in fewer than five shots.