Dean Bailey heads to the seaside and Yorkshire’s oldest club
Cleveland Golf Club has a special place in our region’s golfing history. The oldest club in Yorkshire, and the county’s only links course, the club was established in 1887 and the course has been moulded by three of golf’s greatest designers – Old Tom Morris, Harry S Colt and Donald Steel, who designed three new holes in 2000.
Cleveland remains a stern test today, maintaining its place among the finest courses in Yorkshire with a maximum length of 6,921 from the black tees, often stiff North Sea winds, penal pot bunkers and thick rough the primary defences.
The opening four holes play straight away from the clubhouse with out of bounds and thick rough to the left of each hole and include an opening par three of 168 yards with two deep bunkers – one at the front left corner and the other back right. There are also two par fives – the second measuring 541 yards and the fourth at 549 yards. The fourth is the tougher of the two with a generous fairway leading to a well-guarded green with two deep bunkers on the front edge. The par four third is 440 yards from the back tees with a daunting tee shot as out of bounds looms on the left side. Play as far left as you dare as bailing out to the right leaves a tough approach with a long iron over three deep bunkers.
The 427-yard par four fifth is the first hole to turn back to the clubhouse and is played to a semi-blind green with two pot bunkers guarding each side of the fairway around 140 yards from the green. The green is protected by two bunkers at its front edge and a hollow to the right side, which leaves a tough up and down should you find it.
The par three sixth measures around 160 yards depending on your tee box and is named Hollow. A large green should be relatively easy to find but beware a deep pot bunker on the right side, which disguises two more beyond it, while another bunker, some 5ft deep, waits on the left side. The green slopes right to left and can be tough to read, particularly when putting up the slope.
At the 386-yard seventh, play slightly left of the church spire in the distance to a generous fairway bordered by thick rough on both sides. Two bunkers guard the green but a short shot in can lead to a birdie here. The eighth gives you some room off the tee but those taking on the green in two must air toward the water hazard to the right of the fairway to leave an unhindered approach to the green with three bunkers on the left as you make your approach.
Reaching the furthest point from the clubhouse on the front nine, the ninth is the longest of the par threes at Cleveland, stretching to 198 yards from the black tee. The green is dominated by a huge bunker at the front right corner, which is some 8ft deep, though there is a generous green beyond it measuring 32 yards from front to back.
The back nine at Cleveland is a stunning example of links design with a mix of bunkering styles in the fairways and around the greens as well as tall dunes and tight run-off areas which combine for a spectacular sequence of holes.
At the 381-yard 10th you must avoid the pot bunker to the right side of the fairway around 130 yards from the green while there is thick rough on both sides. Just one bunker, at the front left corner, protects a bowl-like green.
The par four 11th and 12th holes, 432 and 419 yards from the black tees respectively, require accurate tee shots. The 11th features an undulating fairway which leads to a semi-blind green below the main part of the fairway. The right side gives the best approach to the green here as the left side of the putting surface features two bunkers. The 12th, named Dog-Leg, features a water hazard to the left side with three bunkers on the corner of the dog-leg – two shorter on the left side and one beyond on the right side. Big hitters can go over the bunkers and straighten the hole, giving a great look at the green.
The 13th measures 399 yards and you get a fantastic view of the golf course from this elevated tee. Avoid two bunkers to the left of the fairway and you’ll have a great view of a long green which is framed by mounding to the left, right and back sides. The 14th got our pick for signature hole (see fact file).
The par three 15th is another stunning hole played to a narrow green with no bunkers. Turning back toward the clubhouse for the final three holes, the 16th measures 347 yards and there are plenty of bunkers in view. Long hitters should go over the two bunkers on the left side to leave themselves a great birdie chance.
The toughest hole of the finishing stretch, the 17th is 394 yards from the back tee and a generous fairway is guarded by three bunkers on the left side around 150 yards form the green. At the green you’ll find a narrow entrance between two bunkers. There is more green beyond these bunkers than you think.
The last is another fantastic piece of links ground. A tangle of mounds and hollows is flanked by sand dunes and out of bounds to the left side at this 510-yard par five. The approach is semi-blind and severely downhill to one of the toughest greens on the course.
Green fees 10.30am-3.30pm £30
All day £40
Twilight from £17
Total distance Black tees – 6,921 yards
White tees – 6,704 yards
Yellow tees – 6,506 yards
Red tees – 5,545 yards
Features Driving range
Excellent pro shop
Large modern clubhouse overlooking the golf course
Caddy’s tip At 6,921 yards form the black tees you’ll need to hit a lot of drivers from the back tees so head to the driving range before you start. Should the wind blow, you’ll need plenty of creativity to get around the golf course too.
Signature hole The 14th is a fantastic links golf hole measuring 431 yards from the back tee (and 379 yards from the yellow tee). Framed by mounds and thick rough to the left and the sand dunes to the right, this subtle right to left dog-leg requires a long, accurate drive. The hole gets narrower as you approach the green, creating a corridor leading to a narrow, upturned green which runs off in each direction. A challenging hole within a stunning stretch of links land.