Old Tom Morris, Fred Hawtree, Donald Steel
Flat championship links in Yorkshire with high fescue content, firm, true greens
Redcar, South Teeside, Postcode TS10 5B
Frank Spenceley
01642 471798
Tim Jenkins
Green Keeper
Ian Pemberton
cleveland golf club, finest golf courses
cleveland golf club, finest golf courses
cleveland golf club, finest golf courses
cleveland golf club, finest golf courses
cleveland golf club, finest golf courses
Access Policy:
Visitors welcome
Dog Policy:
No dogs
Open Meetings:
Cleveland Salver - April.
Fees in 1960s
Fees today


Some might sniff their nose at this championship links course, it being pinched between the sometimes smelly Redcar steelworks and a coastline from which the sea is seldom seen. So, if you happen to be a golfer only interested in the views you may be in for a minor disappointment.

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Steelworks behind 15th green

Nevertheless the golf across this flat links land is superb. From the back tees the yardage is a very testing 6921, Par 72, SSS 74, and poses a true championship challenge.

The sandhills of Coatham since the 1880s have provided an ever-changing and intriguing challenge. The design of the course has evolved naturally with Tom Chisholm, the first local professional and old Tom Morris from St Andrews being involved in the early design before the land suffered much damage as a result of both the Great Wars. The clubhouse also sadly burned down and a major flood occurred in 1927.

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view from the 18th tee

I would like to think that a necessary Yorkshire frugality with money and a subsequent refrain from over-use of fertilisers, chemicals and water, to throw at the course has created over the years an approach that has allowed the finest grasses to flourish.

More recently major investments have been made to the course when, in the 1960s, Fred W. Hawtree (son of Fred G. and father of Martin G.) helped the Club make many design changes and Donald Steel (a member of FineGolf’s Advisory Panel)designed three new holes in among the dunes which opened in 2002. At the same time a new functional redbrick clubhouse also opened and the original first and eighteenth holes were given up.

What has not changed here is the quality of the greens that are renowned for their high fescue content and so give a firmness and true putting roll-out.

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marrum grass around 10th green

My excitement gathered as we progressed around the course not just at the presence of the classic ‘running game’ in the breeze but particularly with one’s putting stroke improving as one gains a feel for the subtle movements across the predominantly flat greens and the ability to bump-and-run the ball consistently over the aprons and surrounds.

Ian Pemberton, the course manager has rightly been praised by the agronomist Henry Bechelet for his team’s outstanding work. A 2011 article by Scott MacCallum in Greenkeeper International is well worth reading.

The rough here used to be fiendish but, having cleared out the bottom of it, speed of play has quickened with fewer lost balls.

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new dune behind third green

A deal has been done with a local contractor who has built an inland dune that adds definition to the right side of the third hole and a backdrop to the seventh green, much enhancing the overall attractiveness of a part of the course that previously lacked feature and character. Having said that the third hole is a particularly fine one with a hump-backed ridge running down the middle of the fairway and a green sloping away from you.

Many famous golfers including Bobby Locke, Max Faulkener, George Duncan and Alf Padgham have enjoyed the game here and the Cleveland Salver played in April has always attracted many young golfing stars, being won by Howard Clark, now a Sky TV commentator, in 1973.

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From behind the 13th green

I am sure it will not be long before The R&A award Cleveland with a Regional qualifier for The Open Championship.

The first hole of 160 yards to a pulpit green is not easy, often played under the gaze of a crowd of golfers, many of whom come to well-drained Cleveland when many inland courses around the area close due to flooding, as was the case when we visited.

This hole has a new elevated tee and it should be mentioned that on almost every hole the tees have been greatly improved and extended.

There are 3 holes of over 540 yards on the front nine and three short holes, the ninth of 198 yards being set among hummocks, that requires precision and it is the only hole played across the course rather than up and down.

The above might suggest that the ever-present wind is only played from two quarters but there are three strong dogleg holes on the back nine. These include the twelfth and Steel’s new fourteenth, with out of bounds unusually on the outside of the hole, which has a green with more movement in it than the older holes and is not easy to find in two shots.

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Clubhouse behind 18th green

The third of these back-nine doglegs is the seventeenth with bunkers on the corner giving a risk/reward challenge before we reach the very fine eighteenth, created from two earlier holes. This hole has rumple to carry for one’s second shot which, if executed correctly downwind, will give much satisfaction to hit a green nestling in a valley in front of the clubhouse.

The club is well known for its welcome to visitors but has seldom got onto the radar of golfers outside the North East. It has never gone in for the fashionable prettiness of the ‘target-style’ golf era and as the swing back to the ‘running game’ and the traditional values of golf gains momentum perhaps FineGolf can help to raise its profile.

It is unlikely to be on the American visitors’ circuit but coupled with Seaton Carew and Ganton, it adds tremendous value to a long weekend of top class, scintillating golf giving that FineGolf  ‘joy to be alive’ feeling.

Reviewed by Lorne Smith 2012


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