Kevin Murray, the well-known golf photographer, told me about Cleeve Hill and that an acquaintance of ours Nick Hovey, had taken the reins of the club and saved it from closure. I have to say that I had never heard of the course before or its amazing history and when I was invited to play the course by the well-known trick shot artist, Jeremy Dale, I jumped at the chance.
As I was looking for Jeremy, I walked to the 1st Tee and tried to figure out where the fairway was. It was only when I met up with Jeremy and our playing partners, I was told it was behind me!! I knew this was going to be an interesting day and I wasn’t disappointed.
Golf has been played on Cleeve Hill common from as early as 1891, and the course was originally laid down by Old Tom Morris, consisting of dramatic views and blind shots with huge elevation change.
All of the history and architecture make this a fascinating place to play golf. The local authorities (Tewksbury Borough Council) had deemed golf on the hill as not being financially viable in today’s climate, and with expensive renovations required to the clubhouse, it was due to close in March 2021. At £15 green fees in peak time, it is what makes golf special in the UK. Accessible to golfers of any standard both in terms of the set-up of the course and the financial cost, these clubs should be the lifeblood of golf in the UK.
Its unique routing is why Tom Doak gave the course a 7 out of 10 on his ‘Confidential Scale’. Fans of the Doak scale will know that a 7 is classified as ‘excellent and worthy of a long journey to play and experience’ and place it in high esteem among other more famous (and expensive) courses.
“The Save Cleeve Hill Golf Course group strived to see the magnificent golf course and its facilities saved for future generations. Nick Hovey and Sam Foyle (Cotswold Hub Co) were chosen by the council to run the course and they have hit the ground running by already starting the refurbishment of the clubhouse.
Jeremy had played the course a number of times and I was so glad he had, as I had really no clue where I was going or which direction to send the ball. The course I had played previously to Cleeve Hill a few days before was the West Course at Wentworth you really could not get two more different courses or financial setups.
Sheep wander the fairways, greens and tees and in fact, on one occasion one lamb was hit by a delicate chip to the 13th green, which has a magnificent view of Cheltenham, I am pleased to report he was not injured and ran off to find his Mum. Jeremy is also a left-hander and we took on two right-handers, Anthony Mocklow who has an interesting career in the golf industry and Jason Clemow a golf-loving osteopath.
Jeremy talked us through the design features and the right spots to hit our drives to set up the second shots which are all important when trying to find the shelf like greens. The views are magnificent, and we were blessed with a clear day. I would not like to be on the course in a storm I think even the sheep would find it hard to hang on.
There is a great view of the Cheltenham racecourse from the 14th tee I have always been told that the Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham is one of the best in the British sporting diary and I think a boy’s away day that starts with 18 holes at Cleeve Hill followed by a few pints of Guinness and celebrating backing a few winners could be on the cards in the next couple of years.
The game was competitive and thankfully for me, Jeremy was holing the putts on what are interesting greens and we managed to win 2&1 but we all agreed that this was a unique and very enjoyable experience and delighted that Cleeve Hill now has a future. I urge all golf lovers to try and visit. It is in National Club Golfers Top 100 so if you need to tick that box of playing all 100 go along and support Nick and the team.
You do have a feeling that Old Tom is watching over this place and he would not be out of place wearing his tweed and swinging his hickory clubs. I found this informative video of Cleeve Hill on youtube filmed by Cookie Jar Golf which shows the course on a lovely day just before it was due to close, I hope you enjoy it.
Until next time