MIDDLESBROUGH’S reputation as one of the premier clubs in the North East was assured more than 70 years ago when they asked James Braid to design their new course at Brass Castle Lane.
Five-times Open champion Braid produced a string of impressive lay-outs and Middlesbrough is among them, but that hasn’t stopped the club, which was founded in 1908 at Saltersgill Farm, pursuing a consistent programme or renovation and improvement which continues today.
Braid fully exploited the natural ravines and undulating land at Brass Castle. The course was officially opened in April 1939 with new holes built in the woodland in 1990 to give us the course we have today.
It’s a testament to the quality of the course that it has produced a British Amateur Champion (Martin Thompson), two Walker Cup players (Martin Thompson and Michael Skelton), and Brabazon Trophy winner (Jonathon Lupton), but under the guidance of John Talbot, who arrived as their course manager in 2005 after a spell at Beamish, Middlesbrough embarked on a project which is ongoing with Howard Swan Golf Designs, who have a reputation for adapting Braid courses to the modern world while remaining true to the original designer’s intents and plans.
Talbot, who has a string of qualifications and is rated one of the top greenkeepers in the country, has overseen the improvements which include 10 new fairway bunkers, three of them at the second and 18th and four on the ninth, plus new back tees at the fourth, 14th and 18th, greens being brought up to USGA specification, while two new ponds and a stream are planned at the 11th.
The quality and organisation of the work hasn’t caused any problems with play on the course. This is due in no small part to Talbot and manager/secretary Ian Jackson, who arrived at the club in February.
Although a native of the North East, he hails from County Durham, he has been in golf management for more than 20 years at Bearwood Lakes, The London Club, Highgate and Tiverton.