On 20th November 1908, eight interested parties met at the Grand Hotel in Middlesbrough to form The Middlesbrough Golf Club. Five weeks later, on Boxing Day, a 9-hole course was in play at Saltersgill Farm. Claude Weastell was appointed as club professional on a trial basis and he ended up remaining in post for 37 years. A Ladies Committee was established in 1910 then the course expanded to eighteen holes the following year.
John F. Moreton and Iain Cumming take up the story in this edited extract from their book James Braid and his Four Hundred Golf Courses: “James Braid visited Middlesbrough on 4th August 1937 to lay out a new course when the club’s new president, Preston Kitchen, made a condition of his acceptance of office the removal of the club to a site from the constraints of their existing lease.
The committee fortuitously came across land at Brass Castle which they considered ideal. After lengthy negotiations the land was purchased and Dr. Alister MacKenzie invited to submit a plan. This was considered too costly and Braid was called in. His plan was accepted and he recommended John Stutt’s firm to construct the course. Work began in November 1937, the official opening coming in 1939.
From comparison of the Braid map and the centenary map, it can be seen that Braid’s first six holes have disappeared, with some of the land exchanged with the local council for land where the present holes 6 to 8 are. Where 1 to 6 were, there are three holes, 12 to 14. The rest is substantially Braid: 1 to 5 being his 8 to 12, 9 to 11 being his 13 to 15 and 15 to 18 being his 16, 17, 18 and 7th; essentially two-thirds is still in existence.”
The current course configuration is largely due to significant modifications made by club member Stuart Hicks between 1984 and 1989 then new holes were routed through acquired woodland in 1990. Further developments took place in 1999 when ten of the greens were remodelled and course drainage installed.
A warm welcome in the pro shop matched the hot July weather. Teeing grounds were scruffy, perhaps because of the ongoing dry conditions. Fairways a little patchy too but greens were consistent, if a little slow. Course gets off to a slow start with holes a bit pedestrian and fairways divided by lines of small trees. However, things pick up at 5, where we were lucky to avoid running into a burn crossing the fairway before a pitch up hill to a nicely bunkered green. 6 - 8 were excellent holes and my favourite section of the course. 6 was a tree-lined, narrow dog leg right, 7 a good par 3 over a depression, and 8 needed careful club selection off the tee to avoid the cross ditch and allow a clear view up to the beautifully framed green. The back 9 also has some good holes, with the sweeping par 5 11th and strong par 4 12th standing out. The latter section of the course doesn't really maintain that momentum and some uphill blind shots over crests are a little tiresome. All in all, a decent course that's worth playing but probably not going too far out of your way for. My party certainly won't be returning after some appalling bad manners from members behind us who drove through us twice and hit on to a green while we were still putting. What a pity that the reckless and rude behaviour of some ignorant people can really colour your impression of a place. If the club doesn't want visitors on busy days then they shouldn't take the booking.