Founded in 1887, when club
members first played golf on the Coatham Links, Cleveland Golf Club is the
oldest golf club affiliated to the Yorkshire Union of Golf Clubs. It’s also the
only links course in England’s largest golfing county.
The club’s original 9-hole course was quickly doubled in size by 1890, before Old Tom Morris arrived a few years later to suggest improvements. By the turn of the century the layout measured 5,210 yards in length, playing to a bogey of 86.
During The Great War, a large gun was positioned on the course, four holes were closed and all club competitions suspended. When the World War II came along, part of the course was used as a rifle range, curtailing activity out on the links.
Down the years, prominent architects have made course modifications, including Harry Colt. In the late 1990s, the opening and closing holes were earmarked for a housing development that never materialised. Donald Steel was called in to replace these two holes, along with the par three 13th, and he fashioned three new holes (the 14th to 16th) on land furthest from the clubhouse.
Cleveland lies just outside Redcar, close to where the River Tees empties into the North Sea, where enormous industrial structures blight the landscape immediately to the west of the course – although these are gradually being demolished.
In his book A Round of Golf on the LNER, Bernard Darwin had this to say: “the course of the Cleveland Golf Club at Redcar is as fine a piece of natural golfing country as you can imagine… at the end of the course looms a vast steel works, its tall chimneys pouring out their smoke.”
The author continues: “Look away… at the sea and the sandhills and the bents and the ground that undulates so gently and perfectly; you will feel grateful for such a piece of ground and forget about the steel works.”
Today, the course measure 6,921 yards from the back tees, playing to a par of 72. Somewhat unusually, the front nine holes are configured as three par threes, three par fours and three par fives and the outward half begins and ends with a short hole.Hole 10 starts a strong sequence of par fours, culminating with the 431-yard 14th (“Gare”), which has the fairway doglegging left to the green. The round then finishes with a birdieable par five (“Majuba”), provided you can avoid the bunker to the front right of the home green.
Cleveland is a no-nonsense, down to earth links with a clubhouse (and members) to match. It’s a wee bit out of the way but well worth going the extra mile to play. I thought Seaton Carew had an industrial backdrop but that’s nothing compared to the old steel plant that sits immediately to the west of the layout.
If it’s views you’re looking for, forget it – even the strand that runs alongside the layout is out of sight. Concentrate on the job in hand and you’ll do just fine, without worrying what’s going on elsewhere. There’s a big berm currently being built along the left side of the front nine and that will obviously help to screen the outside world from play.
The terrain is pretty flat but what little movement there is has been used to good effect and a couple of artificial dunes frame a few of the early holes from neighbouring fairways. The green contouring was largely unremarkable, with putting surfaces laid out in a lie of the land fashion, but that allowed the running approach to be played on every hole.
The three newer holes at 14 to 16 are a cut above the others on a very strong back nine, with the right doglegged 14th (rated stroke index 1) easily the best on the card, though the closing par five 18th is a cracking way to finish the round as the tumbles between a couple of dune ridges towards the home green.
Take a look at the club’s website to see what they charge for a visitor green fee – if that’s not the best value you’ve ever seen for all-year-round links golf then please tell me where you can get a better deal.
I use to work here, and I am currently a member here. I am very proud to see that Cleveland Golf Club is starting to get the recognition the course deserves. 12 Months of the year golf course, greens are as good in the depth of winter as they are in summer. Some very challenging holes, Par 3's particularly. Very much a second shot golf course, with flat greens if you have a good day with the putter you can have a good score. But you must be a good ball striker to achieve a good score at CGC. Best quote I've heard about Cleveland is this, " The Best Course You've Never Played "
I played this in June as part of a 3-day golf tour. We got really lucky with the weather, the morning stopped just prior to tee off. Good weather always makes it more enjoyable. This is a good solid links course and brilliant value for money. It's a traditional out and back. The sight of the old gas works is very marked on the outward nine (similar to Dunbar). some people may have a problem with this, personally it's a land mark and I think added to the character of the place.
There are some good holes (18th particularly challenging) and some average ones (like most courses). It's a good test for most golfers - real low cappers may find it a bit trouble-free. The course was in good nick, the locals extremely friendly and the grub in the clubhouse was very good. It's not good enough to warrant a long drive to play (say > 80m) but ideal if you are in the area or planning a tour to the North East. Traditional golf for "old scholl" golfers not really for the slick corporate types in their rented white Beemers.
My first visit to Yorkshire's only true links course turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. Blighted for so many years by the neighbouring industry, particularly the huge steelworks which looms large at the far end of the course, this fine old links has quite possibly failed to receive the recognition it deserves. Following closure, many of the imposing structures are to be dismantled but for those who can ignore what currently lies beyond the boundary fence Cleveland offers an enthralling round of golf. At 6,900 from the back tees the course could rightly be described as a beast, although it didn't seem to unduly concern Alex Fitzpatrick, younger brother of Matt, when he shot a 62 last year to break the course record en route to winning the Yorkshire Amateur Championship. As tough as it can play, particularly in the wind, the course is flat and easy to walk and a fun layout for anyone to play. A degree of strategy is required to find the best angles of approach to some rather interesting greens which have plenty of humps, hollows and pot bunkers in close proximity. The four par-3's are particularly good but there is more than enough variety amongst the longer holes to keep you fully engaged. New bunkers have been added this winter and I for one wouldn't be surprised to see Cleveland continue to rise up the rankings. A 4 ball rating at present that could well be heading towards a 5. Brian W
A superb links which is playable all year round and always in good condition. The greens in summer are firm and very fast running but even in winter are still very very good. Not a bad hole on the course and will only get better as the club intend to add some more fairway bunkers. Well worth a visit.
Cleveland is one of a small handful of true links golf courses on the North-East coast of England; the only one in Yorkshire and the oldest too.
It is an excellent rugged links with a consistent feel to all 18 holes, many of which have superb strategic values, and a course I would strongly recommend you play.
Cleveland makes a statement early on with its first hole, an excellent par three played from an elevated tee along a fearsome looking ridge to an exposed green, where missing left or right will almost certainly lead to a bogey or worse. You have a glorious view of this green from the welcoming clubhouse and I've witnessed players take everything from a two to a ten at this intimidating opener.
The next three holes continue in the same direction, away from the clubhouse and towards the imposing steelworks at the far end of the links, where you will find plenty of room to the right at each hole.
The set of short holes at Cleveland are very strong. The first can be a daunting start but you will also require fine shots to find the putting surfaces at the sixth, ninth and 15th when playing for the middle of the green is a sensible option. Depending upon the hole location chasing flags is often not a wise decision.
Depending upon which way the wind is blowing it is usually the outward nine where you must make your score and the second, fourth and eighth with the wind at your back present good birdie opportunities. However, like all links courses the beauty is that the wind rarely remains in the same direction for the full 18 holes and this helps makes Cleveland a true and enjoyable test of golf.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.