The on-site 5-star hotel, spa, dining options, conferencing and other event facilities are second to none in the North East and probably much further afield than this. I'm sure any golfers who play for Middlesbrough Football Club (the training ground is adjacent to the course) will be regular visitors. In fact we said a quick hello to their current manager, Neil Warnock, after our round as he was pottering about the clubhouse veranda.
The course was designed by the Hawtree firm of world-renowned architects and must be one of the most challenging championship golf courses in the UK and Europe, especially when played from the full 7,879 yard golf tees. Yes, you read that correctly... seven thousand, eight hundred and seventy nine yards! I'm sure it won't be too long before another hundred or so yards are found to meet the 8,000 mark.
With that knowledge it will come as no surprise that it's a course that will test even the best professionals but thankfully us mere mortals can play it from anything upwards of 5,804 yards with the yellows (6,461) or whites (6,845) likely to be the most popular. Par is 72 regardless of where you play from with the 'course rating' ranging from 68.6 to an eye-watering 79.3!
My interest was peaked in visiting this course when Golf Monthly included it in their "Next 100" best golf courses in the UK and Ireland. It certainly sits within some fine company.
The course is just as you might expect from a new course built post-millennium (2009 to be exact) on a flat, heavy-soiled site. It has multiple tee boxes, big and bold bunkering throughout, large greens with plenty of breaks and slopes alongside some run-offs and swales.
Water features heavily on the course too but most of the time it flanks the holes with only the 4th and 5th requiring a direct carry over it. I suspect drainage will be a challenge for the greenkeepers year round but new pipes on the 1st, 17th and 18th should help.
There is a very consistent feel to the layout with only the 18th slightly out of character to the rest of the course as here we are asked to play a dog-leg, around some trees to a green sat in front of the impressive and luxurious clubhouse.
I would strongly expect it is a course that shines brightest in the summer months but the greens, which although had been micro-spiked, ran nicely in mid-October and the long, wispy (and at times not so wispy) rough defined the holes really well. I was actually very impressed with the putting surfaces and we enjoyed some tasty pins on our visit. There is a real professional tournament feel to the course.
You will find generous fairways but long driving is still required but as you stand on each tee you are met with numerous bunkers so accuracy is equally as important. A slight criticism would be that driver is basically the default club on every tee - apart from the last hole it rarely gives you a realistic option of hitting anything else.
There is lots of walking involved, not just because of the length of the holes but from green to tee too, so a buggy may be a wise idea but thankfully you won't be short of paths to drive it on!
Modern, championship-style golf courses are not always easy to fall in love and often come with a hefty green-fee but thankfully that is not the case at Rockliffe Hall. I felt to get reasonable value from a £55 outlay in October and this dips to £35 in the winter when I imagine the course will remain very playable.