TIM WELLOCK, affectionately remembered on the Echo’s sports pages, is the new seniors captain at Barnard Castle Golf Club. Come up and see us, he suggests.

Himself a former fast bowler with Darlington, Tim covered Durham County cricket home and away from 1992 until last year – “the writer the players read,” said the promotional stuff and well it might have done.

Though embedded, as they say of war correspondents, Tim told it as it was.

In the winter he covered rugby and golf. That he is no longer writing is partly because of challenging times facing the inky trade and partly, he admits, because of a certain reluctance to engage with social media.

So now he walks miles, on and off the golf course, sups less ale than he did when on the county cricket circuit, is anxious to promote the pleasures of golf and of Barney’s 118-acre glories – 14,000 steps he reckons and these days strides them more easily after a successful hip replacement.

His handicap had risen from eight to 16. Now it’s back to 12. “Hip jobs are wonderful,” Tim supposes. “If they do the other one I might get back to eight.”

The clubhouse, he adds by way of visitor incentive, offers the North-East’s finest scones.


It’s the morning of Black Friday, the pro’s shop offering sable deals, the Rev Peter Lind-Jackson – retired Vicar of Barnard Castle – off for a quick nine holes.

“It’s a delightful place,” he says.

The day will also offer opportunity to meet club president – and mole catcher – Sid Lowes, and former England footballer Dave Thomas, still playing off nine despite being registered blind.

Hannah, his golden labrador guide dog, doesn’t do the rounds with him. “I don’t think it would go down too well with Guide Dogs,” he says, “if she got hit on the head with a golf ball.”

First, though, some history.


The last time the column was at Barnard Castle Golf Club was in April 2007, the launch over afternoon tea – scones, no doubt – of retired bank manager Malcolm McCallum’s wonderfully anecdotal club history.

“The man could put flesh on a five iron,” we noted, approvingly.

It had been formed in 1897 as Teesdale Golf Club, began across the river at Startforth, had teed off on the present course to the north of the town exactly 100 years previously.

Back then it was nine holes, extended to 14 in 1934 and to 18 four years later. Women were allowed to play from m1907 but not to vote until 1949.

Golf had initially been a six-days-a-week exercise. When finally in 1920 it was proposed to play n the Sabbath, 16 local clerics wrote to the Teesdale Mercury “earnestly deprecating” the sacrilege.

“We cannot see where a line can be drawn between the opening of public golf links and the playing of cup-tie football matches, the holding of race meetings and the opening of music halls on Sundays,” they added.

Lord Barnard, owner of the course and of much else in those parts, had expressed no objection so long as no manual labour was involved.

These days the club’s greatest concern is falling numbers. When Tim Wellock joined 30 years ago there were more than 600 members and a two-year waiting list.

Now there are 386 members, including juniors, and a veritable welcoming committee for newcomers. It’s a problem common to many golf clubs, concerns not helped by a recent substantial rent rise.

So what’s so special about Barney?


“The course and the scenery,” says Tim. “Down the far end you could be miles from anywhere. You can see deer, hares and amazing views over Teesdale. It’s quite distracting really.

“Golf is always going to be a personal challenge, but there’s a great camaraderie around this club.”

“The course is immaculate,” says outgoing captain Phil Hartley. “We only have three full-time ground staff and it’s not as long or as hilly as some but you have to cross becks 15 times. It’s still pretty challenging.”

“The people,” says Stuart Everall, club secretary and former Darlington wicket-keeper. “There’s still a perception that golf’s a bit elitist but, honestly, you’d never find a friendlier club.”

Sid Lowes, a farmer, took over as president from Lord Barnard, who died in 2016, the new lord anxious to shed some of his father’s many honorary appointments. “They’ll see a lot more of me than they did of Lord Barnard,” says Sid.

He reckons to trap around 50 moles a year, though not – as with the mowdy men of old – to hang them from a barbed wire fence by way of warning to their brethren.

“The secret’s not to get them where they work but on their motorways on their way to work, that way they’re not expecting you,” says Sid, who also does other jobs around the course.

“It’s just so well kept, immaculate,” he says. “I don’t get to play as much golf as I’d like, but I never tire of it here.”


In a seniors competition recently, Tim faced 63-year-old Phil Owers, the former Darlington goalkeeper, also greatly familiar around the Northern League, who plays out of Bishop Auckland. “He was the most competitive person I’ve ever met, concentration incredible, never gave an inch,” Tim reports. “In the end we finished all-square. I was very thankful just for that.”


Now 68 and back in Teesdale, Dave Thomas was a West Auckland lad. His grandfather – forever Ticer – was in the village team which won the first World Cup in 1909.

A winger who frequently played without shin pads, he chiefly served Burnley, Everton and QPR, won eight England caps and later had a spell with Middlesbrough.

None of his many medicals included an eyesight test. Had they done so, they might have picked up the glaucoma which now has completely obliterated his peripheral vision.

“It’s like a horse wearing blinkers, bloody frustrating,” he says. “If you’d told me even five years that I’d be the first former professional footballer to have a guide dog, I just wouldn’t have believed it.”

With the help of a ghost writer – the chap who does commentary for the blind and visually impaired at Watford FC – he’s now working on an autobiography, aimed at next year’s Christmas market. Any profits will go to Guide Dogs, the charity for which he’s already raised more than £70,000.

“Hannah’s my life, I’d really be lost without her. She’s twice been on the pitch at QPR and didn’t bat an eyelid. She’s absolutely lovely.”

That golf clubs no longer have queues at the clubhouse door, he reckons, is partly because so many wives now work. “If you don’t see each other all week, you can hardly spend half the weekend playing golf.”

He’d just finished a game, others still heading out before Black Friday became truly crepuscular.

It had been a greatly pleasant couple of hours among lovely people, the only downside not occurring until back home. I never did get one of those scones.