Close House could rival Slaley Hall as the North-East’s top golf course after planners gave a £7.5m scheme to build a new course and clubhouse the go-ahead.
The project is set to transform Close House into a lay-out capable of attracting a top tournament and work should be completed on the course and clubhouse at Heddon on the Wall in Northumberland by 2011.
There is already an hotel on site with a club course, owned by Sage co-founder Graham Wylie, North-East entrepreneur and property developer.
Work will start immediately on the course and club house which will have panoramic views over the Tyne Valley, a 60-seat restaurant and conference facilities, a golf academy and driving range headed up by former England star Jonathan Lupton.
New Zealand golf architect, Scott Macpherson of Scott Macpherson Golf Design has been hired to design what will be known as the Colt course, after famous golf course architect Harry Colt.
Alan Graham, a director of Close House, said, “We are very excited by the new developments. This is part of a 10-year plan to make Close House one of the finest places in the North East.
“This will be a championship standard golf course. It will be of a much higher standard than the existing course which will attract a competition at some time in the future, if we can get the right tournament.”
The championship course at Slaley Hall is only a few miles away but those behind the Close House development are full of confidence. “Slaley is an excellent resort, but its season is short because of the weather,” says a spokesman. “We are closer to Newcastle, with excellent communications, and there is room for us both.”
Wylie has been steadily buying up around 200 acres of land from farmers to the north and west of the existing golf course to provide space to create the lay-out and he has already made massive investment, thought to be around £14m, since he acquired Close House from Newcastle University in the summer of 2004.
The magnificent 18th-Century buildings were bought by Whitley Bay-born Wylie in 2004 and the mansion was re-opened in March 2005 as Close House Country Club.
A former Newcastle University student himself, Wylie said, “All of my businesses investments are here in the North East. I retired from my job at Sage in 2003 and invested everything back into the North East.
“I live here and it is what I know. I have always thought it is best to keep investment in the region. I purchased Close House from the university a few years ago as more of a donation to say thank you for my education than anything else.
Close House Hotel & Golf Course www.closehouse.co.uk
Scott Macpherson www.scottmacphersongolfdesign.com