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Cleveland Golf Club

What does Cleveland have in common with these Open courses?

With a growing membership and a burgeoning reputation, Cleveland could have planted their feet and rode out the pandemic. But, as secretary Frank Spenceley reveals, the club is turning to some of golf’s greatest architects to push them forward
 

Royal St George’s, Turnberry, Royal Portrush – and now Cleveland. Good company, right? That’s how officials at the Yorkshire club feel about the crowd they’re keeping these days.

But what do each of those prestigious clubs have in common with the Redcar links? They’ve all called in esteemed course architects Mackenzie & Ebert to cast their inspirational eye over their course.

Cleveland secretary Frank Spenceley says the firm, who can also count Royal Liverpool, Carnoustie and Royal Troon among their clients, will visit in the next couple of months.

In doing so, they’ll produce a full course masterplan and could put their mark on a 133-year-old layout that has already benefited from the talents of Old Tom Morris, Harry Colt and, latterly, Donald Steel.

“They are coming to produce a report,” explained Spenceley. “If we can get Mackenzie & Ebert on our footprint then the amount of people who may visit will increase – because they do the Open courses and improve them.

“At first, we spoke about bunkers and they will come and carry out a full course appraisal.”

Spenceley added the emphasis would be on making the course’s sand traps fairer for all players – with many of the hazards on the layout comprising of the small bunkers for which links courses are famous – and looking at making some of the manufactured dunes that shield parts of the course more natural.

“We are looking at the sand in them as well as making them fairer. Most of our bunkers are pot bunkers, but we need to know whether the lip should be straight or cambered towards to give you a chance to get the ball out.”

Cleveland Golf Club

The club, which has seen a huge influx of members and visitors in recent years following the closure of the nearby steelworks, is keen to build on that success despite the obvious challenges of a global pandemic.

“Without a shadow of a doubt,” said Spenceley. “The thought of them coming here and giving us ideas to work on (is great). We’re going to use that – a 10-year plan – as our plan to move forward.

“We are at £35 green fees and we are getting lots of people coming from the south. They are starting to demolish the (steel) works. They are going to start coming down and that will only improve Cleveland Golf Club.

“The outlook won’t be as bad and, if we can improve the course as well, the sky is the limit. It will move us up to the next level. When I started, we were never getting anyone coming to play from the south.  It was all from the north. People from the north count their cash. People from Leeds and York are paying £40 and £50 for a game of golf.”

Spenceley emphasised, though, that the club, which hosts the popular Cleveland Salver each year that attracts the cream of the north of England’s amateur scene, would only look to make changes that improve the course for all members and guests – regardless of their ability.

“It (Mackenzie & Ebert visit) gives us something to look forward to,” he said. “As a Category 1 golfer, I want to see that. But we’ve got to make it playable for everyone. We are a members’ club.  We’ve got to put things in that are fair for everyone. We want to try and keep everyone happy but try and improve the course. That’s the big thing. Improvements.” 

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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