HOWAY THE LADS!

It’s official, footballer Gazza and Brown Ale are no longer the greatest cultural contributions Newcastle has made to the world. In the past four years, “The Toon” has transformed itself into one of the UK’s best short breaks.

Newcastle’s Quayside, once a cast-off to industry, is now its cultural heartbeat, packed with happening bars, clubs and restaurants. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art have formed one of the coolest contemporary urban landscapes in Britain.

Geordie land has always enjoyed a reputation as an unrivalled party city, but with the new Sage Gateshead music venue – resembling an Armadillo in a silver spacesuit on the Tyne’s South bank – there’s even more to see and do. Add to that a number of top golf courses, and there are few better places for the Total Golfer to spend a weekend.

The city boasts a European Tour venue at De Vere Slaley Hall and easy access to great value links on the Northumberland coast and terrific parkland layouts like Matfen and Ramside Hall.

The Hunting course at De Vere Slaley Hall carries the ostentatious title of the ‘Augusta of the North’ and until 2002, hosted the Great North Open on the European Tour. Slaley’s second 18-hole course is the Priestman and measures 6280 yards. Alleys of towering pine trees and water hazards provide most of the courses’ backbone, especially at the Hunting’s signature par-four ninth hole.

At 453-yards, you have to find a fairway that looks like a hospital corridor to a man under anesthetic – before clearing a burn and hitting a wood steeply uphill to a heavily bunkered green.

A 15-mile drive from Newcastle city centre is another burly parkland at Matfen Hall. A stonking stately home dominates this 6596 yard course. There is an excellent mix of long par fours and the picturesque River Pont frequently comes into play, most dramatically at the signature par-three 17th hole.

If you tire of hitting two woods to all the par fours, head east to the Embleton coast and the stunning James Braid links at Dunstanburgh Castle, seven miles from Alnwick off the A1M. The castle sits atop a cliff overlooking the entire course and the views are some of Northumberland’s best. You get closest to it at the 105-yard par-three 13th, where you negotiate a disused rock quarry, the cliff edge, beach and out of bounds right.

Keen football fans should head to Ramside Hall – 20 mins South on the A1M – as Alan Shearer and his Newcastle teammates like a round after training. A recent 27-hole development, to compliment the existing hotel, the layout is an American style with large greens and water hazards. The 206-yard par-three 15th, named “Aad Sneaky,” is the best hole at Ramside, over water to a tiny undulating green. Make a par and you head home happy.

PLAY

De Vere Slaley Hall

Hunting and Priestman courses.

Tel: 01434 673350

Web: www.devereonline.co.uk/hotel-slaley/golf.htm

Cost: £ 35 – 70

Matfen Hall Golf Club

Tel:01661 886400

Web: www.matfenhall.com

Cost: £35 – 40

Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club

Tel :01665 576 562

Web: www.dunstanburgh.com

Cost: £20 – 29

Ramside Hall Golf Club

Tel: 0191 386 9514

Web: www.ramsidehall.co.uk

Cost: £ 35 – 42