It is an excellent rugged links with a consistent feel to all 18 holes, many of which have superb strategic values, and a course I would strongly recommend you play.
Cleveland makes a statement early on with its first hole, an excellent par three played from an elevated tee along a fearsome looking ridge to an exposed green, where missing left or right will almost certainly lead to a bogey or worse. You have a glorious view of this green from the welcoming clubhouse and I've witnessed players take everything from a two to a ten at this intimidating opener.
The next three holes continue in the same direction, away from the clubhouse and towards the imposing steelworks at the far end of the links, where you will find plenty of room to the right at each hole. However, there is a clear benefit to being on the left-hand-side at each in order to have the best angle into the green. And this is where Cleveland comes into its own - it is a very strategic course.
The third is perhaps the best example of this when you must drive close to the out-of-bounds, tight to the left side of the fairway, for the optimum approach into the angled green. Go safe and right off the tee and not only do you have to play over a greenside bunker but you will also be pitching onto a downslope, and the narrowest part of the green.
There are several other holes where being on the correct side of the fairway is beneficial to have the best chance of hitting the relatively small greens.
The set of short holes at Cleveland are very strong. The first can be a daunting start but you will also require fine shots to find the putting surfaces at the sixth, ninth and 15th when playing for the middle of the green is a sensible option. Depending upon the hole location chasing flags is often not a wise decision.
Arguably the best hole on the course is the 14th, a demanding par four, which boasts a superb second shot to a well-guarded green that has many slopes and is difficult to find with what will likely be a long iron. The finishing hole is also a fine par five that returns to more undulating ground close to the clubhouse and has probably the longest green on the course.
The 18th also runs in the opposite direction to the other par fives, all to be found on the front nine. Depending upon which way the wind is blowing it is usually the outward nine where you must make your score and the second, fourth and eighth with the wind at your back present good birdie opportunities. However, like all links courses the beauty is that the wind rarely remains in the same direction for the full 18 holes and this helps makes Cleveland a true and enjoyable test of golf.
The game of golf has the ability to take you on amazing journeys to the most wondrous places where you meet such interesting people.
It was an impulsive, crazy… and some would say utterly ridiculous… decision that took me to The Machrie in the Spring of 2018.