CONTRACTORS are moving in today to begin setting out the greens of a new golf course - the first to be created in Teesdale for more than 100 years.

The tough nine-hole course is being formed on pasture land around Headlam Hall Hotel, near Gainford, with the help of a farm diversification grant.

John Robinson, the hotel's managing director and owner of the farmland, said that the 1,900 yard (1,737 metre) course, which is due to open next spring, will have several water hazards.

He is also setting up a driving range and practice ground as part of the venture, which has been planned with the help of a well-known golf professional, who is not being named at this stage.

An initial bid for a diversification grant was turned down, but a second has been approved.

The public will be able to pay for individual rounds, but there will also be special deals for players booking into the hotel for a night or for a weekend.

Mr Robinson is a keen member of the Blackwell Golf Club in Darlington, and has a handicap of 21.

But he admits his wife, Anne, is a much better player with her 14 handicap.

"She has been hitting a lot of balls on the land so that the layout of the course can be decided," he said.

"It is undulating land amid really pleasant scenery, so it is ideal for golf.

"Although the hole average will be par three there will be four par four holes and the whole thing will be testing for the average golfer."

Mr Robinson, whose daughter and two sons are also directors of the business, said: "It has been a really difficult time for farming in this area, so we were anxious to put some of the land to another use. I feel there is a need for a nine hole golf course in the region, and that the driving range will help to make it attractive to players from Teesdale, Weardale and Darlington."

Ted Mason, a member of Barnard Castle Golf Club, said: "Some of our members may well be attracted to the new course to use the driving range as we don't have one."