Feature Review Rockliffe Hall Golf and Hotel
About Rockliffe Hall
Rockliffe Hall is situated in Count Durham, not far north the beautiful city of York, it is 10 minutes from the A1 and the nearest train station is Darlington. The coure is forms part of a larger 5* hotel and Spa complex with the Middlesborough Football team training ground also on the grounds.
The course is built on a 375 acre site set below the Rockcliffe Hall Hotel. The golf course was opened in 2009 and was designed by Hawtree, the world-renowned course architects. It measures an amzaing, 7879 yards from the gold tee, but don't let that put you off as there are 5 tee boxes in which to play from and they are positioned to suit all standards.
My Rockliffe Experience
I arrived the night before my game at Rockliffe to experience the hotel and spa facilities. The hotel is first class. A real taste of luxury with beautifully appointed rooms, stunning facilities and a several restaurants to choose from. The service from the staff is among the best i have received anywhere in the world, with nothing seemingly ever a problem or too much trouble. In the evening my partner and I enjoyed a meal in the double AA Rosette winning Orangery restaurant, which, much like the hotel was first class.
It was in the Orangery that I also enjoyed a lazy breakfast the following morning. The Orangery, based in the 'Old' Hall overlooks the golf course allowing you to glimpse holes that snake away down the gentle hill on which Rockliffe Hall sits atop of. It was a great place to contemplate the challenge that lay ahead, however if you are not staying in the hotel you can enjoy a great welcome and breakfast in the purpose built clubhouse which nestles on the back of the 18th green. The clubhouse is single storey, moderndesign, however it sits sympathetically within it's surroundings. I love clubhouses that just look like they were meant to be there and despite a modern look Rockliffe have managed to pull that off. A big plus in my book.
The Front Nine
Following a coffee which my playing partner and fellow Golfshaker, Christian we headed to the first tee to be met by a very friendly starter. A few words of advice and a reminder on pace of play and we were off. You may not be surprised to hear that we elected not to play for the Gold Tee, but the more generous Yellow Tee measuring 6441 yards. You could also opt for the challenging Black Tee or a White Tee or shorter than the Yellow Tee, the Red Tee.
As you stand on the first, you can see the course is a modern design, with mounding and around the greens and along the fairways to help frame holes and large expanses of bunkers, that is not to say Rockliffe has no trees, in fact there are over 25,000 new and mature trees on the course.
The first is downhill par 4 with a larger wooded area awaiting any tee shots pulled left. Right is the safer option, but will leave you a carry over a lake situated short and right of the green. The green is guarded with an impressive complex of bunkers meaning an accurate approach is important. Par is a great score to start.
As you stand on the 2nd tee, the theme of the day becomes evident. A par 3 with water again in play for a poor tee, the green is heavily guarded by a large bunkers. What also strikes you is the difference in distance from the various tees. Playing from the yellow tees we were face with a shot of 13 yards, play from the gold tees and you can expect a 200 yard shot.
The front nine continues in a similar vain to the first two holes, challenging, fair and demanding when approaching the greens. Now normally I would pick out a stand out hole on the front nine, but I am going to pick a pair. The Par 4 4th and Par 3 5th share a lake. As you are plying the Par 4, a dog leg left to right that sweeps around the lake you see the challenge of the 5th that awaits you. The 4th is very much a risk-reward tee shot that allows you take on more of carry if you are brave and set up an easier appraoch to difficult an narrow green.
The Par 3 5th is an island green with tees running in a semi-circle around the lake with the gold tee measuring 181 yards and the yellows 145 yards. The 5th is a great example of the though and time that has gone into the design. Due to the different angles created by tees around the lake you will have to take on addition bunkering from the back tees where as a from the forward tees you have clear shot to the green. Brilliant design in my book!
You end the nine with a par 4 that moves uphill to green framed by the impressive Rockliffe 'Old' Hall. It is demanding hole that ends with a difficult tiered green.
The Back Nine
The back nine begins with a fantastic Par 4. The hole dog legs right to left with water on play both through the dogleg and down the left hand side. As with many holes at Rockliffe you can take on a carry over water to be rewarded by a shorter second shot. If you are lucky enough to find the fairway you will face a second to green that is raised, anything leaked right will hit the bank and find a watery grave.
The stand out holes on the back nine are the Par 3 15th and stunning par 4 17th. The 15th is again dominated by a larger lake, which is not a big carry, but snakes up to the right hand edge of the green. Bail out left and you will find a deep bunker guarding the entire right side of the green. It is a long and challenging hole measuring a massive 242 yards from the gold tees and a more palatable 169 yards from the yellows. Par is a great score here.
Following the long par 5 16th is the 17th, a truly great hole, one that comes at a great point in the round. it is a card wrecker, but you have had 16 holes to get your game in shape! It gently doglegs from right to left and winds it's way around a stunning lake. The lake itself is bordered up the entire left side by bunkers with the fairway banking towards you. If you are brave with the tee shot and find the left half of the fairway you will be rewarded with an easire second with aline in in that avoids the deep bunkering on the right side of the green. Bail out right on the tee shot and bunkers await as does a difficult shot to green over the deep trap that lies in wait.
The 18th doglegs right to left around mature trees to a grenen that sits right in from of the clubhouse. It is a gentle finish compared to the 15th and 17th and gives you a great chance to finish your round with a closing birdie!
Rockliffe was a hugely enjoyable course to play and I was really impressed with the way it has been created. Hawtree deserve a huge amount of credit. The challenge is great, but fair no matter what tee you play from, often modern courses are too difficult in my opinion, even from the forward tees as owners look to architects for 'stand out or 'signature holes' while Rockliffe has these in abundance, Rockliffe certainly has the balance between, challenge, interest and fairness spot on.
The course was in wonderful condition despite it being early spring. It is clear that it has been built to the highest of standards with quick, true and undulating greens, larger and flat and expansive tee boxes.
European Tour professional, Graeme Storm is attached to Rockliffe Hall and he said "“Rockliffe can host a Ryder Cup in the future, I’ve no doubts about that. It is one of the finest courses in the UK". I can whole heartedly agree with him.
Rockliffe Hotel and Spa Review
Extract from Kim Lavin's review of the Rockliffe Hotel and Spa:
'There is a plethora of rooms to explore so there was never a problem of overcrowding. Truly an exquisite spa offering; with everything from a Roman Sauna, a Tropicarium (similar to a Sauna but with higher levels of moisture in the air), a Caldarium (Steam room infused with aromatic oils), an Igloo and a Tepidarium (a room with warm body shaped beds). As well as these offerings there was a large swimming pool, foot spas with hot and cold massaging bubbles and a Hydro Pool with body jets of such high intensity you need not book in for a massage! Within the spa area there are numerous lounging chairs with a selection of magazines and a bar serving drinks and snacks. Spa butlers are also available to take orders and serve drinks. Unlike other spas I have visited, as there is so much to explore, coupled with the comfortable seating areas, you can easily spend a whole day relaxing and cleansing; leaving feeling revived and refreshed.'
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