The course was designed back in 1981 by James Hamilton-Stutt, the grandson of one of the greatest course designers James Braid.
The lay-out set in 229 acres of parkland, comes in at just under 6,700 yards off the white tees and has a par of 73. Members are really proud of the course's unusual combination of nine par 4's, five par 5's and four par 3's; which are spread around so effectively that you only ever get two par four's in a row; giving a great feel of variety and real sense that you have to plot your way around.
There's plenty of water at Woodham and it's not called Woodham for nothing; there's also lots of well established trees about, as well as some testing contours here and there - though the course overall is fairly flat.
Woodham has some great golf holes, like the 5th with it's dense trees tight in on both sides; and the amazing final six holes, notably the 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th.
A History of Woodham Golf Club
The existence of the golf course at Woodham owes its development to a piece of government legislation of the 1980’s. This allowed Development Corporations ( of which “Aycliffe and Peterlee” was an example ) to borrow money to build a golf course and repay the loan by selling plots of land around the course for building development.
Construction of the course began in 1981 during which the disused “Woodham Farm North” was removed to make way for the 15th green, trees were removed to create the 5th,6th and 17th fairways, and the two branches of Woodham Beck diverted to create water hazards which must be crossed on no less than ten occasions.
The course was opened on a “pay as you play” basis in 1983 and was known as Rushyford Golf Club. Facilities at this time were rather basic being housed in two Portacabins. Nevertheless, in December 1984, a group of around 50 enthusiastic golfers met in the Eden Arms Hotel to form the Golf Members Section. Registration to the Durham County Golf Union followed and the committee set about organising handicaps, competitions, and applying to enter a team in the County League Competition.
During this time, the course had been leased to the Dave Thomas/Peter Alliss group, however in 1985 the course was sold to a private company with permission to build a club house. The club house was completed in 1987 and the course became Woodham Golf Club. (courtesy of Harry Stafford)
'Off the white tees'
There is a great deal of unpredictability at Woodham and that's quickly evidenced at the par 5 first hole. At 510 yards, off the white tees and judged a stroke index 8, it is more than deceiving. The fairway is fairly wide and inviting, but many members have had to fetch their ball off the practice ground, or get stuck behind the fast growing trees down on the right hand side of the fairway, placed at driving distance. The green on the first has a good putting surface and is well protected by bunkers on the left and on the right.
The par 4 2nd hole, at 399 yards off the white tees, features bunkers and even water at driving distance for the big hitters; and if you do avoid these hazards, you will need an accurate second to the well-bunkered green. Lots of interesting stories on the second hole, i.e. distance driven back up the first fairway, number of re-loads after going out-of-bounds, yells of 'fore' for those in range on the third tee box etc.
The par 4 third hole, is almost a carbon copy of the the second; but it boasts water nearer the tee box this time and watch out for the left to right slope on the fairway, which pulls your golf ball towards a ditch, when you cross the water.
The first of Woodham's par 3's can be found at the 174 yard 4th. This is judged to be a straight forward test and is rated as the course's easiest hole. This assumes though that you can hit straight off the tee box. Often the first visit into the woods.
The 5th is a testing par 5 of 563 yards and is a genuine three-shotter to the green, due to it's shrewdly crafted dog-leg design. The fairway is guarded by thick trees, that come fairly tight in on both sides, then takes a sharp turn left at two-thirds the distance. Always a good feeling to get out of the gap and not have a N/R on the card.
The par 4 369 yard sixth and 336 yard seventh are almost as tricky, as they both have a dog-leg right, though not as severe as the 5th.
The par 3 176 yard 8th hole is very well guarded by sand, so again you need to hit straight off the tee box. The front nine concludes with a gentle looking par 4 of just 319 yards, though again it has a dog-leg right and a green that has bunkers all the way round. The bunker's at the front are steep to get out of and can challenge even the best golfers at times.
The back nine begins with an interesting and challenging par 5 of 529 yards. The fairway is initially generous in width, before it narrows through a gap between some tall trees and then immediately opens out again; there's also some nasty rough on the right. The green sits in a lovely scenic spot, defined by a stream across the front and thick trees and bushes behind. It is reachable in two for the big hitters, but most members opt to get as close as they can with their first two shots, then leave a chip to the green. Simple as that, rated as a stroke index 15.
The 11th is a fairly tough par 4 of 417 yards, that again hinges around a dog-leg left, to a contoured green that is well protected by sand. The members will tell you that 'canny positional play' is needed here. A four on this hole is a good par.
The 12th is a fairly routine par 3 148 yards, though the two-tier green has an abundance of sand to protect it. One of the highest scores recorded here is a 12, by Messr's Brown & Moore in a foursomes medal. Their first shot landed in the left-hand bunker and looked okay, then standing on the 13th tee box became dangerous for the group in front. The story is interesting and has lots of 'finger pointing'.
Woodham also has an 'amen corner', the 13th, 14th & 15th.
Things get more testing at the par 5 532 yard 13th. The tee shot is blind, to a fairway that slopes left to right; and with a thicket and dense rough encroaching on the left. It's important to line up correctly (so they say), and if you do get a good drive, the second long shot is just as testing. The green is hidden by a hollow, with water in front and trees around the back and sides. Most members opt to lay up and chip on. A true test of golf and worthy of the rating of the hardest hole.
The par 4 374 yard 14th also has a challenging tee shot across a fairway that slopes left to right. The hole then dog-legs right across a fairly substantial pond to a contoured green. Highest recorded score in a competition on this hole is 19, with the member landing his ball at the top of the green on his 11th shot. This left a tricky putt down to the hole near the water, water!! who mentioned water again?
Things don't get any easier on the par 5 484 yard 15th, this hole dog-legs left at the driving length and there are trees and a big bunker on the corner. If you try and shorten the distance, higher up there is a stream that snakes across the fairway, meaning that you have to be really accurate with your second to the green (if you are a big hitter); or land between the stream and the pond (if you are mortal). The green is raised with a big pond in front of it and houses to the left. Great wildlife in this area and the hole is well worthy of it's stroke index 3 rating.
The par 4 390 yard 16th has a fairly wide fairway, sloping gently to the left. There is nasty rough close in on the right and the left. The green is nicely contoured and well protected by humps and sand.
Now we come to the 220 yard 17th, a super par 3. The fairway is wide to begin with, before narrowing appreciably between tall trees to a green that boasts another tricky putting surface. This hole is a real stunner and the view from the green to the tee box, is worth the competition entry fee alone.
Things conclude with a 386 yard par 4. The tee box tucked away is surrounded by trees, but the fairway is reasonably wide, once you miss the big tree. The green is protected by bunkers and a big pond on the left hand side, which all members generously hit balls into, to keep the 'great crested newts' company.
In all a great test of golf, which greenstaff and especially the members are very proud of. Long may the course stay this way.
Lee McCavanagh gross 66, beat that.
David Brown is the only player on our current records to play in a competition and record 18 straight pars, playing off 7 handicap. Sadly he didn't even win, being beaten on the back 9 by a lower handicapper, Andy Stafford; but well done David.
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