Sadly, I have not seen any of the other courses at Filey, Bridlington (two), Whitby, Flamborough Head and another towards the North end of Scarborough. I’m therefore not in a position to compare and contrast but “South Cliff” must surely hold its own amongst its neighbours.
There are two, arguably three, distinct sections to the course which plays 6,393 yards, to a par of 72 and was founded in 1903.
Holes 1-3 are played on the West side of the busy Filey Road and are positively parkland in nature. A small pond interferes with your tee-shot at the first, whilst out-of-bounds is in close proximity at the second and third. Each of the trio has good green complexes which can be tricky to find and hold.
After a good trek through a residential area you then have holes 5-10 on the seaward side of the road and these are more open but still play over the same meadow type of grass. These more exposed holes feature spots of gorse and I can imagine will be as delightful on a nice sunny day as they are brutal on a fierce day with an easterly blowing off the North Sea. I was fortunate enough to enjoy a clear sky with a spectacular view of the South Bay and Town in full view.
We return to the inland holes (did I mention it’s quite a walk!) and play the 11th and 12th which have a slightly different feel to the other holes on this side of the road. They were built in 2002 to accommodate the new main road, which slices the course in two, and have a much more modern, almost American, feel to them. Frankly, they are not good holes. The steep incline in front of the 10th (which admittedly has a nice drive) is way too severe for a 450-yard par-four played uphill whilst the bunkering down the 11th is at best awkward.
Thankfully, this is a momentary blip as we play some enjoyable golf over the closing stretch through a tree-lined valley with some sloping fairways. The highlight is the superb par-three 17th where the green sits nicely in the hillside and is framed beautifully by mature trees. It’s possible to fire directly at the pin or alternatively you can feed it in from the left – the one thing you mustn’t do is miss it right!
There are some fine moments at South Cliff with a handful of excellent, raised green complexes with interesting putting surfaces. Much of the present day course can be attributed to Dr. Alister MacKenzie, when he was called in after World War I to revamp a neglected layout, and there are several clear signs of his handiwork. The 17th isn’t actually his work though as holes 16 and 17 were added in the 1980s when coastal erosion resulted in the loss of two holes.
There are half a dozen or so good birdie chances (mainly the par fives) but also some real tough holes too; step forward the 6th, 10th and 11th.
All-in-all Scarborough South Cliff provides an interesting concoction of golf and offers an extremely warm welcome to visiting golfers.
There is something about Elie that puts you under a spell. It is a truly magical links that, after just one round, has won a place in my heart and mind forever.
There’s very little that hasn’t been written about the golfing mecca that is St. Andrews.