Constructed on a 240-acre site next to multi-national engineering and construction company JCB’s main manufacturing site in Staffordshire, the 18-hole layout at JCB Golf & Country Club was designed by Robin Hiseman of European Golf Design.
It’s laid out on a landscape of heavy clay so, apart from shifting more than half a million tonnes of soil during the build, the East Midland construction company JC Balls & Sons installed an extensive drainage system to ensure playing surfaces play firm and fast.
The design brief was to fashion a layout to test elite golfers – similar to the TPC Deere Run course in Illinois which hosts the annual John Deere Classic event on the PGA Tour – as the Rochester course is intended to hold a similar professional tournament that will bring the JCB brand to a wider audience.
Of course, customers and suppliers who visit the company’s site will also be able to play the course, along with employees and invited guests at weekends, but general green fee paying golfers won’t be among the six to ten thousand players expected to tee it up here annually.
Measuring 7,308 yards from the tips, the layout can be scaled down via five sets of tees to play as short as 5,073 yards so there’s absolutely no need for any golfer to walk off the 18th green feeling battered and bruised by their playing experience on this tough track.
Holes are routed in two returning nines around the ruins of Woodseat Hall, transitioning through parkland and woodland areas across a rolling property, with a number of lakes and streams – including Alders Brook and the old Uttoxeter Canal – to be negotiated along the way.
Highlight holes include the par four 1st (with water on the left affecting both the tee shot and the approach to the green), the severely doglegged 3rd (which swoops left and down to a green perched next to the canal) and the par three 9th, played sharply downhill to a green located in what was once an arboretum.
On the inward half, the green of the downhill par four 12th sits above a meandering stream, with the putting surface protected from the flowing waters by a lovely dry stone wall, then the par three 17th plunges spectacularly downhill to an island green on South Lake before the closing hole rises up and left to the horseshoe-shaped home green.
The bunkering on the 18th is quite exceptional, especially the large centreline hazards which split the fairway, and the fabulous three-tiered green on this hole is one of the most interesting putting surfaces on a layout that isn’t exactly short of fascinating green contours.