The following edited extracts are from the 20th revision of The Dr. Alister MacKenzie Chronology 1870 – 1934 by the MacKenzie Research Group:
In late August/early September 1913 MacKenzie visited the proposed site of a new course that was being considered by the Corporate Property Committee of the Scarborough Town Council.
MacKenzie recommended to a meeting of this committee ‘that the land at Wheatcroft, which is on the South Cliff beyond Holbeck Gardens, should be purchased, but the subject was adjourned for further consideration.’
This site appears the same as the one on which the Scarborough South Cliff course was constructed shortly after WW1. The Committee later voted to proceed with the proposal by 10 votes to 9.
In January 1921 MacKenzie was appointed a director of Scarborough South Cliff Golf Club Ltd. and later became a member of the Club Committee.
On 16 May 1920 MacKenzie attended the official opening of the new course and the exhibition matches (morning and afternoon) between Havers, Hallam, Day and Rhodes, and spoke at the luncheon which was held at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Scarborough between the matches.
According to the Scarborough Mercury and Yorkshire Post, ‘Dr. Mackenzie predicted that the course would be a great success. Some of the views of the course, he said, were the most beautiful of any course in the kingdom. He knew of no club more likely to be a success than the Scarborough Golf Club. Mr. Harris, the contractor, also responded.’
In the modern era, cliff erosion towards the 9th and 10th holes caused the course to be modified during the 1980s with the creation of new 16th and 17th holes. At the start of the new millennium, work on the new Scarborough to Filey Road led to changes to the 3rd hole and new holes at the 11th and 12th.
Played this course May this year. The pro shop and the man running it was fantastic. He couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly.
Practice facilities weren’t great. Badly maintained chipping green, a couple of nets and a ridiculously tough putting green which didn’t seem to match up with the greens we played. The course had some great scenery but the bunkers looked like they hadn’t been raked for days and needed trimming around. The rough between holes 4 and 11 was unbelievable. Basically you lost it as soon as it went in due to the length. Couple of balls lost in the short rough along side the fairways. Mixture of holes which would have made this course a lot better if it was maintained better.
South Cliff is a nice course and one of very contrasting holes. Firstly in the main I thought the course was good, it had an interesting layout and certainly from the holes by the sea some fantastic views.
Teeing off on the first hole you are playing a short par 4 with a lake half way down with a fountain in, which I was not a fan of, and holes 2 and 3 are not anything to write home about either. You do then have to cross over a main road and walk through some houses but on doing this you are presented with the sea holes.
The first of the sea holes is a tricky little par 4, which really requires you to have played the hole before to work out what you need to do. On completing this you are presented with the 5th hole, which has a fantastic tee shot and great views. The remaining holes on this part of the course are all good with the 7th being a really good par 3 across a valley.
Once you cross back over the course becomes more treelined. The 11th is a bit of a love it or leave hole in my mind, it plays downhill off the tee and then back up hill for the approach. Not a bad hole just not my favourite, but 12 is a good par 4 which really needs to be played long with a draw to have a chance or you are in trouble. 13 and 14 are nice but the course finishes really well. 15 is a great driving hole and as we stood on the tee working out how much of the corner we should take, my playing partner noted that if it was 10 degrees hotter you might think you are in Spain. 16 is a tough par 5 asking for distance and placement and 17 is another strong par 3 playing uphill and almost blind over the edge of trees to the green. 18 is a nice finishing hole that plays to the club house where the 19th sits on the 1st floor with a big balcony where you can enjoy a post round drink and watch people tee off on 1 and play down 18 at the same time.
Overall the course certainly fits slap bang into the 3.5 ball ranking for me.
Scarborough South Cliff is one of several clifftop courses along the East Coast of Yorkshire. There are two, arguably three, distinct sections to the course. Holes 1-3 are played on the West side of the busy Filey Road and are positively parkland in nature. A small pond interferes with your tee-shot at the first, whilst out-of-bounds is in close proximity at the second and third. Each of the trio has good green complexes which can be tricky to find and hold.
After a good trek through a residential area you then have holes 5-10 on the seaward side of the road and these are more open but still play over the same meadow type of grass. These more exposed holes feature spots of gorse and I can imagine will be as delightful on a nice sunny day as they are brutal on a fierce day with an easterly blowing off the North Sea.
We return to the inland holes (did I mention it’s quite a walk?) and play the 11th and 12th which have a slightly different feel to the other holes on this side of the road. They were built in 2002 to accommodate the new main road, which slices the course in two, and have a much more modern, almost American, feel to them. Frankly, they are not good holes. The steep incline in front of the 10th (which admittedly has a nice drive) is way too severe for a 450-yard par-four played uphill whilst the bunkering down the 11th is at best awkward.
Thankfully, this is a momentary blip as we play some enjoyable golf over the closing stretch through a tree-lined valley with some sloping fairways. The highlight is the superb par-three 17th where the green sits nicely in the hillside and is framed beautifully by mature trees. It’s possible to fire directly at the pin or alternatively you can feed it in from the left – the one thing you mustn’t do is miss it right!
There are some fine moments at South Cliff with a handful of excellent, raised green complexes with interesting putting surfaces. All-in-all Scarborough South Cliff provides an interesting concoction of golf and offers an extremely warm welcome to visiting golfers.
Ed is the founder of Golf Empire – click the link to read his full review.