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 Rocester 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.
I want to pay so many compliments to JCB Golf & Country Club, that’s it’s hard to know where to start.
The first thing to say is that thought has gone into absolutely everything, from start to finish. The warm welcome we received on arrival, the bag towels with our names on them as a gift, the food and service in the relaxed bar, the driving range with ProV1s, the pro shop with reasonably priced stock, the JCB yellow buggies included in the round…and this is even before we talk about the superb course and the monumental effort in terms of build and design.
You can’t help but be taken aback by the fact that prior to 2018, there was relatively flat farmland in the Staffordshire countryside. What Robin Hiseman and his team have done is incredible. Half a million tonnes of earth shifted, extensive drainage put in to counter the fact it’s built on heavy clay and you honestly wouldn’t have a clue. It looks so natural and for a new course, relatively mature.
I’ve played plenty of Clubs where the facilities are stunning but it overshadows an average course and this is certainly not the case here. There isn’t a bad hole on the course and in fact you don’t have to wait long for the good ones either as the first is a stunning Par 4 with water in play off the tee and the approach. It sets the tone perfectly. The 17th island green will be the most pictured hole on the course and it’s a breathtaking long downhill Par 3 over water to an island green, but there are plenty of other superb holes. The Par 5 sweeping dog leg 3rd is a beautiful hole with the green playing alongside a hungry stream. The short downhill Par 3 9th in front of ruins of a stately home (soon to be the new clubhouse) is a stunner, the par 4 11th played over a brook into a narrow green and the Par 5 13th with the fairway halved by a lake with the green hidden behind, both great.
JCB built this course to compete with John Deere and their TPC Deere Run and what they have built is a stunning engineering and design feat that could easily host big events and has an extremely bright future. If you’re lucky enough to be invited, jump at the chance!
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I enjoyed a fabulous day out at the JCB on a baking June day and it’s safe to say that it in no way disappointed me from start to finish!
Ignoring the relaxing feel in the bar as we breakfasted, the shop full of excellent logo’d gear at really good prices, the range and practice facilities with everything you needed and more - let’s focus on the course!!
The great thing about this place is there is a variety of golf holes, some go through tree lined fairways, some are dotted with serious water, others have protection in the form of bunkers and banks - it’s like playing an amalgamation of all the best type of golf holes in the world!
I loved the first par 5 on the course which at about 611 off the blacks, was a great challenge! As was the par 5 that runs parallel to the road into the club which has water all the way up the right, and also infront of the green! 2 fantastic par 5s!
The signature hole is the one everyone is waiting for and it’s safe to say it did not disappoint. Sometimes you get to these holes and they don’t play quite as well as they look, for me the 18th at Wentworth didn’t quite float my boat…the lack of stands, and the fact the water is below the level of the ground making it quite tricky to see meaning it just didn’t play how it looks on tv, whereas this one is a classic! With water shimmering all around, and the only route to the green either air born, or by the solitary bridge, it is an absolute belter of a hole!
We decided to walk as opposed to buggy as it’s never quite as sociable, 5 hours and 15 mins, and 18k steps later I’m beginning to think we made the wrong choice!!!
This place is class, pure class. The designers have got it all right, and i understand there are further plans for buildings, club house etc so it’s only going to get better.
I’d like to play this in a few years time and I believe it may well achieve a perfect rating - but only time will tell!
WOW!! From the moment you arrive to the security gate, to the moment you exit the same gate several hours later, you realise that what Lord Bamford has created here is something special.
Let's start with the 1st class breakfast, which just tops Swinley Forest's excellent full English, the complimentary Pro V range balls to practice with and the complimentary water and electric trolley (I assume the GPS buggies are also complimentary, but we opted to walk), as well as the towel embossed with your name presented on arrival.
There were only 2 other people on the range (3 if we include Tommy Fleetwood who was working on his game in the corner) and throughout the day you got the impression there were probably only around 10 of you playing that day!
It's around a 5 minute walk to the 1st tee and despite 3 of us being single figure players, and 1 being a scratch pro, we'd opted to play off the 'yellow' tee's (those marked with little JCB models) as we felt the 6599 yards would be enough to give us a good challenge whilst allowing us to enjoy the course.
I won't go through each hole, but in my opinion there wasn't a weak one on the course. There are a couple of shortish Par 4's that you don't necessarily need driver on (I used it and paid the price on the short 12th) and a couple of holes that required some long iron's in to them.
You pass the halfway house twice and with homemade sausage rolls and pies on offer, and lager on tap, it ranks as one of the best halfway houses I've had the pleasure of frequenting.
The 17th & 18th are brutal finishing holes and IMO would be perfect for a Ryder Cup finish.
My score? I parred the 1st 4 holes, had a birdie look on 6, 7, 13 & 15 and still only ended up with 29 points!! If you left the fairway at any point, and found the whispy rough, you were looking at Bogey at best. It was tough, but very enjoyable.
We stopped for a couple of drinks afterwards and again, apart from the old boy practicing his bunker shots nearby, we seemed to be the only ones there. They kindly re-opened the shop for us so we could spend some £££, which highlighted the excellent service we received throughout the day.
I'm not sure where I place this in my own Top 10 as I really didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did, as my Top 10 is full of Heathland and Links type courses, and I'll ponder this over the next few days.
If you get the chance, it really is a must play, and I expect this to rise significantly in the rankings over the next few years.
I was very much looking forward to playing JCB given how hard it is to get on to, the positive comments from some of the initial reviews and its stated intention of trying to host a big tournament. I was lucky enough to play it on a beautiful April day in near perfect conditions (which my host informed me was a rarity!). We played in buggies, which is never my preferred option (except in very hot conditions), and was particularly challenging on the day we played as they were looking to protect the fairways so carts had to stay on the paths (the GPS tracker stopped the slightest transgression!) Hence a lot of walking across fairways with a few clubs in hand.
The course is very much what I would describe as a modern American-styled course. It was generally very open with big undulating greens and water coming in to play on about half of the holes. I am conscious that the course was not in peak condition in April, which is to be expected. The greens were very slow but my host informed me that they typically ran pretty fast in the summer, which given some of the slopes could undoubtedly lead to some terrifying putts. The rough was also not up which meant I got away with a few wayward drives that doubtless I wouldn’t have in the summer!
There are some outstanding holes. The 17th in particular is fantastic. We took a shot from the very back tees, which at 250 yards downhill into a breeze was a full driver for me. It’s an exhilarating shot to play, and great to see a well-hit shot heading towards the green. (For full disclosure we then went to the yellow tees for our proper shots and I managed to dump a 4-iron into the water!)
The 18th is a tremendous finishing hole - a long uphill dogleg left over water with the tee shot and to a well-protected green. Unfortunately for us they were in the final stages of improving drainage in the fairway so the tee was out of action and we had to play it as a 110 yard par 3. Other holes that stood out were the par 3 9th, a delightful shorter par 3 downhill with water short of the green and the par 4 11th which has some similarities to the famous 10th at the Belfry, albeit a bit longer so not driveable. The 1st was also a strong opener with a tee shot over water and a mid-iron uphill to a well-protected green.
The rest of the course is good and hard to fault. However my overall impression was of being underwhelmed, although it is hard for me to pin down why. I think it was the open nature, and lack of definition, of a number of the holes that I found unappealing. The topography of the course was similar to Hollinwell but the routing and tree-lined fairways at Hollinwell make it a superior experience in my view. I also probably have an inherent bias against “cart courses”, especially when there is no need to escape the oppressive Midlands summer heat!
It can be difficult for modern courses to match the character of older courses but there are a number that get close - for example Kingsbarns, Castle Stuart and Dumbarnie plus Renaissance and Archerfield to a lesser degree. I don’t think I have a bias against modern courses as I rate all of these very highly.
JCB may well host a big tournament, garnering the brand recognition for the company that the course was built for. The length off the back tees and how they can set the course up in the summer will almost certainly make it a good test for the pros. (I say this with some sadness as I’d prefer to see them using a ball that goes 20% shorter and taking on one of the classic British courses instead.) For a very low handicapper looking for a tournament test of golf then this may well rank very highly.
One final word on the rating - I look to rate courses relative to others in the country rather than the region as suggested. For example, Renaissance has at least 2 better courses within 5 miles whereas JCB might be the best within 50 miles. However, it would be inconsistent to rate JCB higher in my view
Does it make your own UK & IRE Top 100 Mike?
I’ve only played about half of the top 100, and mostly the top half so hard to say for sure. I think it probably will though.
JCB Golf & Country Club provides a thrilling golf experience that does not let up from the 1st tee to your final putt on the 18th green. It is undeniably a very difficult golf course but has the strange ability to always be a very enjoyable experience (as long as you play it on a dry day..)
Depending on the tees that you choose and how brave you are feeling, the first hole provides a striking introduction with a drive and approach shot both requiring carries over water to a well-guarded undulating green. Once you hole out and look back towards the tee, it is hard to think of a better opener in golf.
What follows is a game of strategy that constantly changes even as a member who plays the course regularly. Do you have a go or lay up at the short par 4 which is heavily bunkered and plays to a two-tier green? JCB is a golf course that requires you to be accurate at all times in order to avoid bogey or worse.
The challenge continues with demanding approach shots required at #3, #7 and #8.
Each hole has its own identity and whilst some can appear less exciting than others (#4 and #14) they feature some of the most challenging and expansive greens you are likely to find with two putts often being something to celebrate.
The most popular image of JCB is the #17 which provides one of the most exciting par 3’s over water you may play measuring 250 yards from the tips. Despite this it is probably not my favourite hole which is a toss up between #11, a gorgeous short par 4 with a brook guarding a narrow green with bunkers to the rear or #16 which requires an intimidating carry to take the corner off the dog leg to a raised green or to play it safe towards the fairway which leaves a 160 yard approach.
Once you have finished #17, the hard work is far from over as you take on #18 back over water with a dog leg from left to right that will likely leave a 200 yard+ approach to a well guarded green with bunkers to the front and nasty stuff to the rear. It plays as the hardest par 4 on the course in my opinion and a par is the preserve of golfers beyond my standard game.
The course is complemented by first class practice facilities and welcoming members of staff who operate in a modern clubhouse behind the range. Although this site is about the golf course, a special mention should be made for their signature sausage rolls which can be enjoyed following holes #7 and #10.
JCB Golf & Country Club has to be the best addition to the English golfing landscape in a very long time and it’s random location at a digger factory in an area not known for championship courses makes it even sweeter in my opinion. Play it if you can!
Very lucky to receive an invite to play this course only open for 2 years. The experience although subject to restrictions as a result of COVID was first class. Range facilities with tiers of Pro Vs for you to hit gave it an immediate feel of somewhere special. So many great holes with risk and reward opportunities and the need to hit strategic shots. Too many to single out but the 17th Par 3 at 266 yards to a island green has to be one of the most visually appealing albeit challenging holes I have ever played. The venue will undoubtedly hold tour events in the future and I can not wait to see how it stands up and matures.
I’ve seen a few photos of what this place looked like during construction so I know an awful lot had to be done to get it into the shape it’s now in. I can’t pay a higher tribute than to say you’d hardly know the hand of man had been involved in shaping many of the holes, such is the way they fit so comfortably onto the landscape.
I know the main water features had to be built, lots of soil was shifted and miles of drainage installed during a big budget construction period but the finished product largely looks as though it’s always been there, which is great credit to the design, the shaping and the quality of the build.
My favourite holes included the 1st, with its long carry over water, and the severely doglegged 3rd, swooping downhill to a long, thin green by the refurbished canal. The downhill par three 9th is another fabulous hole, with two ponds in front of a false-fronted green that’s surrounded by sand.
On the back nine, the buttressed wall of the green on the short par four 12th is a thing of beauty, allowing a little brook to meander round the side of the putting surface, then the fairway on the par four 16th crosses a little gully as it veers right to a green positioned next to an old castellated estate building.
The best is yet to come though, with the signature par three 17th plunging sharply downhill to an island green, followed by a tough uphill tee shot to the 18th fairway which then heads left and up to a wonderful three-tiered, horseshoe-shaped home green that’s wrapped round an enormous protecting bunker to the front of the putting surface.
There’s still some work to be done on various aspects of infrastructure on the property but once this has been attended to then this will be one of the best golf facilities in the country, and one that’s more than capable of hosting the sort of big tournament it’s been set up to hold.
I played here in a monsoon so the day was ruined I am afraid. However even in the horrible weather this course was clearly a gem and I would go as far as to say the best of its type in the UK, or certainly what I have played. Its immaculately designed and and offers lots of variety, long par 5's short par 5's great par 3's , there are a couple of holes that felt a little crowbarred in because of the general shape of the land, ie hilly , I cant remember the hole numbers but I think 12 is a reachable par 4 , risk reward, but honestly too much risk ! I think the drive on 8 is a bit compromised by an immovable copse of trees and I also think the drive on one hole (I think 18 is a bit strange hitting sideways into a double levelled landing area.(maybe less so if you play it again) I have a feeling that this is a truly magnificent course and I came off with a hint of a negative vibe as the weather was so shocking. I will look forward to playing it again if I get chance. Oh one other thing is we had strong wind against on the signature 17th and was landing short with drivers onto an island green, (my drive is 270 yards!)if the day would have been stroke play I would have carded a 12 !! I think that hole was spoiled by the tees being too far back, even wind with its too tough. Watch this space but I think this will hit top 10 in the Uk over time, certainly the best non links I have played in the UK. It only missed 6 balls due to a couple of average holes, but the rest are spectacular ! Well done JCB
One of the toughest and most intimidating opening holes in golf (especially from the Black tee tips) sets the scene at JCB Golf & Country Club. A 200-yard water carry will leave a long iron approach to a well-bunkered, offset green that’s also flanked on the left by the same lake encountered from the tee and cavernous bunkers. A par at the first will feel like an eagle for most golfers.
But even the bigger hitting mid-handicapper may have an eagle putt at the very next hole if the needle can be threaded through a plethora of bunkers. If the pin is back left at #2, likelihood is you’ll end up on the lower tier of a green that’s shaped in the image and likeness of a giant’s boot print.
A 610-yard boomerang left par five follows at #3 and it’s not the longest hole on the card. The approach on this genuine three-shotter must avoid a canal-like water hazard on the right to a skinny 43-yard long greensite that’s wedged between canal, bunker and trees.
It’s an absolute stellar start, which is then cleverly letdown at #4 by a rather innocuous (from the tee) and bunkerless par four where the fun starts at the cape-shaped green with its treacherous run offs – a Huntercombe template. Just when you thought you’d caught breath, you then land at a drop-dead gorgeous 200-yard downhill one-shotter.
Rarely do I describe five holes in any review, but at JCB virtually every hole is worthy of narration.
Why do par three island greens regularly appear on penultimate holes? Only Pete Dye knows the answer and even he would smile at JCB’s #17. Play it from the tips if you’re feeling lucky – 255 yards was long enough for me to lose a ball. 204 yards from the middle tees was no walk in the park, but stick with it, as it would be shame not to putt out on one of the most enchanting green complexes I’ve ever seen. Three distinct depressions on the dance floor and three bunkers, two guarding the back and one front right, are set directly into the lake itself where the water gently laps the sand. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
After putting out for a double on #17, step aboard the final tee that’s set on the same island and face a brutal uphill tee shot on this sweeping 462-yard par four.
JCB starts tough and finishes tough. In between there are holes that will give you a chance and holes that will simply make you laugh (and maybe cry). The Double Plateau green at #14 is pure theatre. The greens are occasionally (#4) a mix of Willie Park Jr. and Robin Hiseman. Frankly, I have not seen a better set of green complexes on any English course built after the Second World War. Period.
The ground is not ideal for golf, but even after torrential rain the course played reasonably firmly due to literally miles of drainage. However, my main criticism (apart from a longish walk between #13 and #14) is purely down to asphalt. The cart paths have been hidden from view wherever possible but they are a repugnant blot on what would otherwise be a near perfect landscape design.
Asphalt aside, JCB is a fabulous golf course that’s primed for the Top 100. Which Top 100? We’ll simply have to wait and see.