Have you heard of Cleveland Golf Club? If you haven’t you need to sort out a trip to Yorkshire’s oldest course quick smart
If Cleveland was in the North West, or found in a pleasant piece of Scottish coastline, I reckon it would be a fixture of top 100 lists.
Get over the industrial background and what lies in front of you is a links experience that rarely fails to keep you interested.
So if you’ve never heard of Cleveland Golf Club, get ready to be enlightened…
What can we expect from Cleveland Golf Club?
Consistent excellence. There’s no Postage Stamp or Sea hole on this classic links, which has been crafted by Old Tom Morris, Harry Colt and, more recently, Donald Steel, but if you like your layouts to be minimalist and strategic you’re going to love it here.
The former steel works, which closed four years ago, provides an eerie but alluring backdrop to many of Cleveland’s better holes.
You hit straight at the blast furnace on a couple of par 3s and walk into its shadow as you play the second par 5 (which from the winter card is the 3rd).
Its impact – and that of some neighbouring warehouses – has been lessened down the years by the construction of some imposing dune like mounds and they’ve blended with the natural seascape.
Cleveland is honest in it tells you exactly what it wants. The path to good scoring is laid bare but taking it is more difficult than it looks.
The bunkering is sparing but brutal and the greens aren’t full of weird shapes and contours. That said, you’ll often get caught out by a subtle break you didn’t realise was there.
When the wind blows, watch out. A strong crosswind makes everything much more difficult.
What were your favourite holes?
The second par 3, which usually plays as the 6th, is a tough shot to a green that slopes a little right to left and quickly runs out of room off the back.
That’s a lovely hole but the 14th, Gare, is fabulous – not least for its difficulty off the tee. With out of bounds lurking right, it demands you shape a draw to get ideal fairway position.
Overcook that, though, and some heavy fescue awaits. It’s a proper golf shot and exhilarating when you pull it off. Even when you get round the corner, you’re faced with a narrow entrance to a green that slopes towards trouble. It’s no surprise it’s Cleveland’s hardest rated hole.
Tell us about your best bit…
I also love the closing hole, with its extreme fairway mounding to counter both off the tee and if you make this par 5 a three-shotter.
The blind approach to the green favours local knowledge and the bunker lurking off the right side of the putting surface gathers anything slightly offline.
This time, I hit a slinging draw with a hybrid from 190 yards to 12 feet and then drained the birdie putt.
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) November 22, 2019
Will you do anything different next time?
I’ve spent too much time trying to launch it off the tee, rather than paying heed to some appropriately placed fairway bunkering. If you land in a trap it’s basically a penalty shot.
There are actually 19 holes at Cleveland. The usual opener, a tough par 3 with out of bounds on the left and a sharp bank on the right, is a terrifying start to a medal round but is given a rest during the colder months.
So you play a ‘spare hole’ and what becomes the 12th. At 149 yards, with a tiny green that’s guarded by deep traps on all sides and with a bank full of fescue at the rear, it is no substitute.
Finally, where is it?
Cleveland Golf Club is found on Redcar beach, a short walk from the town centre and the delights of a seaside town. Pop onto the A19, turn right for Redcar, and follow all the way to the sea. You can’t miss it.
For more, visit their website.
Have you played Cleveland Golf Club? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me.