Played by NCG: Cleveland
Reason for a Cleveland Golf Club review
Mainly shame. I am from Yorkshire. I love links golf. Cleveland has the only links course in Yorkshire. I had never previously been. Riddle me that.
Where is Cleveland Golf Club?
Cleveland Golf Club is in Yorkshire – but only just. You have to go as far as north and east as is possible without leaving the county. You’ll find yourself in Redcar and Cleveland is to the north of the town on the banks of the Teesside Estuary.
What to expect
Almost 7,000 yards of genuine links. And a venerable one too – Cleveland Golf Club dates back 130 years to 1887.
I thought, wrongly it turns out, that Cleveland would be one of those courses that has some genuine links holes and then some that are just near linksland. Not so.
Like Seaton Carew, just a few miles away as the crow flies but a much longer drive around the estuary, Cleveland involves a backdrop of industry. In this case, a steel works that closed two years ago. Plus the first four holes are flanked by warehouses and scrapyards.
In places, the club have accepted payment for landfill and used it to create dune-like hills and block out undesirable views.
The steel works, which may be pulled down before too much longer, actually provide quite an atmospheric backdrop. Back in the day, they used to belch smoke over the links, which didn’t exactly enhance Cleveland’s reputation.
If the first five holes were better than I was expecting, Cleveland really gets going from the 6th onwards. This isn’t a course where one hole stands out though, rather it’s consistently excellent. Honest links hole after honest links hole.
Bunkering is minimal and the greens are mainly flat. But always with enough in them to keep you wondering.
The design owes at least something to Harry Colt, while Donald Steel created three new holes in 2000 when the club’s lease on the land nearest the town expired and they lost their existing 1st and 18th.
While it is a shame those holes were lost – especially as nothing has been done since with the land they stood on, and you can still see where the holes ran – Steel made good use of some excellent land near the sea.
It isn’t really that kind of course but if pushed I would say the long 8th exemplifies what the Cleveland is all about. It’s a dead-straight par 5 with the bunkering kept to a minimum but just enough to ensure that you never get a free pass. It has the signature steelworks as a backdrop, it’s largely flat and it’s entirely honest. If ever there were a course that is clear about what it’s asking you to do, it’s Cleveland.
My best bit
I was walking towards the 2nd green when it became apparent to me that Cleveland was the real deal as a golf course. I say best bit, it was also my worst bit. It confirmed that I ought to have come here for the first time about 25 years earlier.
What to look for
If you want a destination for all-year-round golf in this part of the world then your search is over. On the day of our visit it rained non-stop all day. Enjoying a restorative cup of tea afterwards on the first floor of the busy clubhouse, we couldn’t see a single puddle up the 1st or 18th.
When I go back…
I’ll warm up before running on to the 1st tee. It’s a par 3, you see, and that means you can’t really afford a stiff clunk to open up your round. It’s a very quick five from one of those at Cleveland.
For more information, visit the Cleveland Golf Club website.