Master greenkeeper takes new course at Slaley Hall

Greenkeeper Neil Smith has become Slaley Hall’s latest appointment after being named as the new course manager at the award-winning golf resort.

Smith, 44, will bring a wealth of experience to his new role having previously spent 14 years on the greenkeeping staff at The Belfry Hotel & Resort, and the last six years as golf courses and estates manager at Oulton Hall near Leeds.

Slaley Hall head of golf, Jonny Mould, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Neil to the team; he brings invaluable experience with him gained from his time at The Belfry and our group’s Oulton Hall. Neil will be responsible for anything and everything that happens on a 36-hole golf course from drainage and bunker construction to grass maintenance.”

Smith, who will lead a team of nine greenkeepers at Slaley Hall, said: “I’m thrilled to join Slaley Hall as its new course manager and am looking forward to working closely with Jonny and the team as we put our ambitious plans to work. We have two stunning championship courses with unrivalled views to maintain – I’m very excited for the changes and challenge ahead.”

Managed by RBH, the UK’s leading independent hotel management company, Slaley Hall was voted ‘best golf hotel/resort in the north of England’ for the fourth successive year in the 2018 Today’s Golfer Travel Awards.

It is set in 1,000 acres of Northumberland moorland and forest. It is a magnificent four-star hotel in an elegant Edwardian mansion, with two challenging championship courses – the Hunting and the Priestman – which have played host to no fewer than 18 European Tour and European Senior Tour events.

The 7,000-yard, par-72 Hunting, designed by Dave Thomas, has lush sweeping fairways, streams, lakes, towering trees and banks of rhododendrons – but, aesthetics aside, it will catch out the unwary. Well-placed bunkers and tricky greens make this USGA standard course a real challenge. The quality of Slaley Hall’s elder layout is illustrated by the fact the course is often dubbed ‘The Augusta of the North’.

It recently swapped over front and back nines so members and visitors get to play the course in the same order as the professionals during championships. The former 10th hole now provides the start of the round which means the potentially card-wrecking ninth hole is now the last, in order to provide golfers with a more enjoyable and smoother start.

The Priestman course was designed by Neil Coles and opened in 1999. Beautifully maintained, the course has matured magnificently. It sits on the west side of the estate, with panoramic views of the Tyne Valley and some daunting water features, and wind can be a factor on a course which hosts regularly European seniors’ events.

As the largest golf resort operator in the UK, RBH manages nine championship and tournament golf courses across the UK, hosting events from the European Tour, European Seniors Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA.