Close House review: luxury hotel and bracing golf in Northumberland
Tradition, it seems, isn’t everything. While most leading golf institutions strive for acclaim and for a legacy that can only be built over time, it is refreshing to see Close House showing that newer venues can make a name for themselves relatively quickly.
For a resort that opened its doors in 2011, this bucolic site nestled in the rolling hills of Northumberland has quickly acquired a reputation as one of the best stay and play experiences for golfers in England — a status that we found to be more than justified on our visit.
Where is it?
Close House is an eight-mile drive from Newcastle city centre. The venue is set in the sprawling grounds of the Grade II-listed property, which proudly observes all from atop one of the many hills on the estate.
During our stay, we found the surroundings to be luxurious and elegant, while still feeling accessible and non-intimidating for golfers of all abilities. That is down to the relaxed atmosphere fostered by the welcoming and helpful staff; the site is only 12 years old, and stuffy golf course practices are thankfully one of the habits they have clearly decided not to adopt.
The idyllic courtyard that houses most of the rooms at Close House was lit up when we arrived at dusk, and the charming set-up proved to be one of the real strong points of our experience at Close House.
The twin room was spacious and fitted out to a very high standard, full of furnishings that elevated it to a standard far above your average golf trip bolthole. The open-plan space was spacious, with wooden beams running along the ceilings, integrating tradition with contemporary furnishings. We would best describe the aesthetics as an update on classic British countryside style, with a nod to the history and character of the 18th-century site.
The real hero was the palatial bathroom, with a standalone bathtub that might well be the nicest I’ve ever experienced – although that could have been something to do with the battering we had got from the elements out on the golf course earlier that day. The underfloor heating and decadent shower all added to the experience.
It made for an exceptionally comfortable stay, in lovely surroundings. After a good night’s sleep, the orange glow of the sun coming up over the grounds helped us rise for breakfast at 7.30am and make our tee time in the sunshine shortly afterwards.
The courtyard rooms aren’t the only options. The lodge found in the former gatehouse offers more luxurious accommodation. It comes with a lounge with cast-iron woodburner, as well as breakfast kitchen, two en-suite rooms and a private garden with a hot tub.
The pavilion accommodation offers another option for visitors looking to push the boat out, with a cottage playing host to two en-suite bedrooms, an open-plan lounge and dining area and terrace.
Food & drink
The No. 19 restaurant and bar is an elegant building right in the middle of the estate. It is the most striking on the site — think plenty of sleek lines and glass panelling — and overlooks the first tee of the Filly course, and the pond at the centre of the estate. The balcony skirting the main dining room was a pretty dreamy spot for a drink: a pint of Guinness in the low winter sun, looking down onto the first tee box of the Filly was a delightful way to end the trip on the second day of our visit.
Our trip to the restaurant was much needed after our testing game on the Colt, and we found a very welcoming atmosphere upon arrival. The food is contemporary British – think of pub classics done to a very impressive standard – and good value for money.
There was real sophistication and indulgence in the cheese soufflé starter, while the mussels and lamb noisettes main dishes were hearty and well presented.
Breakfast can make or break the mornings of golf trips (either providing energy for another 18 holes or helping with hangovers acquired the prior evening) and Close House’s offering didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of staple options again done to a good standard, with table service and food included in the room booking.
Golf, obviously, is the draw here. Close House boasts two 18-hole courses, including the Lee Westwood Colt course, which hosted the British Masters in 2017 and 2020 – a major event on the DP World Tour.
The Colt made for the single toughest test of golf my guest and me have experienced, not least because of the conditions. The 40mph gusts of wind straight into our faces for most of the round didn’t help but, even on the most perfect summer’s morning, it is a serious golf course that would challenge anyone.
On paper, it is not a particularly long course (even from the back tees it is shorter than 7,000 yards) but the steep inclines on the fairways and the robust prevailing wind made it feel a good 1,000 yards longer.
The course, designed by Scott Macpherson and endorsed by attached professional Lee Westwood, is true to the rural landscape and sits naturally in the hilly landscape. While well-manicured and conditioned, it never feels overly constructed or contrived. Even the short walls in front of the greens on the 18th holes on the Colt and the Filly courses feel as if they could have been there for hundreds of years, and there is a pleasing rusticity to the undulating fairways and punishing fairway bunkers. The condition was routinely excellent throughout, especially for the time of year we played it, and the greens were quick and pure.
It is worth bearing in mind that a round on the Colt will take it out of you. Some will definitely benefit from using a buggy to whizz up the steep climbs on the second, fifth, seventh and 10th holes. You do get your reward for making it up to the summits of the various hills, though, with resplendent downhill fairways like the 13th making for incredibly inviting tee shots. The tee boxes are also perfect places to take in the stunning panoramic views of the Northumberland countryside.
Down in the valley below lies the Filly, which we played on the second day of our stay. It is mercifully flat compared with the hilly Colt, and offered a much more relaxed and forgiving experience on a perfectly clear day.
The experience complements the Colt well, with far more scoring opportunities for weekend warriors like us. The course can still challenge players though, especially if you end up in the big fairway bunkers, and there is plenty of character in holes such as the sixth and the eighth, which both require accurate approach shots over water to find the green. The views aren’t quite so spectacular but the holes heading back up to the restaurant and Close House are still very pleasant.
The site also offers a nine-hole pitch and putt course, as well as PGA teaching centre with excellent facilities and a smart driving range fitted with Trackman technology in the bays. Players can also get their short game warmed up on two immaculate putting greens, before cleaning up in a nice locker room with complimentary towelsâ¯after the round.
The golf, then, is more than taken care of; the venue is clearly designed with the emphasis on providing excellent options for players looking for a memorable golfing weekend. They have managed that in spades.
Our only reservation would be the suitability of the venue for non-golf enthusiasts. The rooms are superb, and the restaurant is a very pleasant place to spend the evening. Every facility the venue offers is of an excellent standard, but some guests may wish there was a gym or spa facility.
We would rather focus on what the venue has to offer and, for golfers looking to book a short break and play one of the best courses England has to offer in stunning surroundings, Close House is a standout option worthy of anyone’s attention.
Dinner, bed and breakfast for two people and a round of golf on each golf course for both guests is priced at £560 per room in the summer season (April 1 – October 31). In the winter season (November 1 – March 31), bed and breakfast rates are £149 per room, which does not include golf.
For guests just looking to play golf, the Colt course is £200 per person in the summer and £100 in the winter. The Filly course is £100 per person in the summer and £50 in the winter.
Close House, Heddon on the Wall, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE15 0HT; closehouse.com