Time is running out to play a forgotten legend of golf – before the course closes for good
A golf course once described as among the very best in the Kingdom, laid out by the former winner of the British Open himself, is set to close for good.
Tom Morris, a man remembered not just as a formidable golfer but someone who designed and tended some of the UK’s very best golf courses, was said to be “enraptured” with the rugged 6,083-yard Gloucestershire marvel (par 69).
In the book Top 100 Golf Courses in Britain and Ireland, the legend of St Andrew’s who won the British Open by 13 shots (a record broken only by Tiger Woods in the modern era), is quoted as declaring “few golf courses in the kingdom were equal to Cleeve Common”.
But now the current tenant of the club, The Share Club Ltd, has served notice and the course will close at the end of March next year “due to financial unviability”.
A quick glance at the last filed accounts in Companies House show a shareholders deficit of more than £131,000.
Tewkesbury Borough Council, which owns the club house, said it had been looking at other options, but hopes are not high.
Soon to become one of golf's missing links
The council said it had “commissioned an independent expert opinion on the future of golf provision in this location. The report concluded that golf could not be financially sustainable at Cleeve Hill without significant investment and an ongoing subsidy from the council.”
In a statement the local authority said: “Given this conclusion, and the difficult financial position facing local government, the council’s Executive Committee reluctantly decided to end its licence to use Cleeve Hill Common for the laying out of a golf course from 31 March 2021.
“The land will return to the control of the Cleeve Common Trust, from 1 April 2021. This decision by the council has no effect on the current use of the remainder of the common, and that will remain open for the public’s continued enjoyment.
“The council, which owns the clubhouse, has been exploring alternative options for the club's site. In the short-term, there are no current plans to redevelop it, although the very poor condition of the building means that there is no other affordable option other than for it to be demolished.”
In the book Top 100 Courses in Britain and Ireland Cleeve Hill Golf Course is described as “a hidden gem in the heart of the Cotswolds, with fantastic views and a challenging course for all levels”.
For golfing historians who enjoyed the references to Old Tom Morris (who was in his prime in the late 1800s) and did not know it already, the great James Braid and Harry Vardon are said to have once played a match on the Cleeve Hill course in 1902 (Vardon coming out on top on this occasion).
In researching the provenance of the course just outside Cheltenham the authors enlisted the help of Melvyn Morrow Hunter, the great great grandson of Old Tom Morris, who is said to have provided a clipping from the Cheltenham Chronicle, dated July 11, 1891.
Apparently, this stated “the course was laid out by that veteran of St Andrews, Tom Morris, who was himself enraptured with it, declaring that few golf links in the kingdom were equal to those on Cleeve Common”.
One David Brown who designed the Painswick Course and taught the game to Queen Victoria, no less, as well as winning The Open at Musselburgh (Scotland), was employed to tend the greens at the Cleeve Common course.
So, in conclusion, if you are want to experience a piece of history, and play the game as perhaps you never have before and will ever again, the clock is ticking.