Between it being cold and working on other projects, I haven’t been able to get out to play new courses and, accordingly, take advantage of that play to create new blog content.
Regardless of whether I’m there or not, the courses themselves continue to make moves. Being located in Ohio, I tend to keep a more persistent finger on the pulse of courses around my home state. Therefore, this post will only serve to give a quick summary of course changes you can plan to see around Ohio during 2021. Hopefully my Ohio audience will find something to pique their interest…but perhaps the rest of you might consider coming over to the heartless of it all and see what’s been going on with our courses.
After all, a better state slogan than “the heart of it all” would be “our golf course collection is way deeper than you realize.”
I’m hardly omnipresent so if you’ve got a tip regarding your own Ohio club or a club in your vicinity, give me a shout. Happy to give you a shout with the update.
Here’s the plan for 2021:
Muirfield Village Golf Club
We’ll get the obvious one out of the way.
Jack Nicklaus has been in a constant state of flux with his baby at Muirfield Village over the years but — at least according to him — this will be the last round of evolution overseen by the Bear (the membership will believe that claim when they see it…it’s one of the most patient groups in golf).
The current round of updates, which notoriously began while The Memorial was still being played, will be more dramatic than usual. Some of the edits will be typical, including adding yardage off the tee on various holes, adding a few new bunkers (and renovating the rest). The photogenic No. 5 will play as a par four for the tournament but don’t count on that applying to regular joes.
The biggest bumps will come at the greens, all of which will be redone. According to a podcast conversation with Fred Couples, Nicklaus suggested that the opening hole’s green will be shifted to the left; that may imply other putting surfaces will be on the move as well. Sub-surface heating and cooling will be added as part of the project.
When will you be able to play it? Best case scenario: after the 2021 Memorial Invitational, as rounds will be limited (i.e. probably just Jack and few cadres) prior to the tournament. We plan on applying for a rater slot but, you know, we have doubts.
Scioto Country Club
Muirfield Village always gets the headlines by way of its PGA pertinence but perhaps the most exciting project in the city, and state, should go to the planned restoration of Scioto Country Club, a historic Donald Ross route where Nicklaus learned to play. Muirfield’s own 2019 refurbishment announcement during 2019 seemed triggered by the earlier announcement that Andrew Green would be performing an exhaustive restoration, along with necessary drainage and other infrastructure fixes. Green’s work at Inverness has been praised to the moon and back, and his Oak Hill restoration received similar celebration when it opened last year.
The chatter, of course, is whether Scioto is in the market for majors. We shall see.
The original schedule for work was from June 2021 until May 2022. I reached out to the club and it confirmed that this schedule remains in place. Green will begin work on three holes during mid-June, and the back nine will be closed fully on July 6.
The top of the leaderboard in Ohio is crowded, as you can find proponents for Camargo, The Golf Club as well as the aforementioned Muirfield Village and Inverness as the best course in Ohio. Green’s work at Scioto may get its name tossed in that ring.
Coldstream Country Club
Coldstream isn’t a name I expect to be as recognizable to my foreign (read: non-Ohio) readers and, in fact, its Cincinnati location make it alien to even some northern Ohioans. On top of that, Dick Wilson isn’t a name as sexy as Donald Ross amid the modern “woke” age. Nonetheless, this may be the most eye-opening reveal in Ohio during 2021.
Wilson’s bad reputation among modern golf course architecture enthusiasts has been his commitment to the penal lifestyle…significant bunkering with skinny fairways to boot. Those looking at Coldstream via Google Maps might assume the same would apply here.
Keith Foster apparently saw things differently, introducing a plan to remove trees and expand fairways, which in turn would allow him to work more liberally with Wilson’s sizable bunkers.
This is an exciting project in my book both A) because I’m a native Cincinnatian and I like to try keeping up with the Columbus/Cleveland Joneses and B) because it opens questions on whether Wilson was as much the architectural villain we’ve made him out to be, or if other Wilson routes deserve a second look. Between Coldstream and NCR South, Ohio could have two telling case studies toward the latter.
The course will reopen Memorial Day.
Brookside Golf and Country Club
One of the more overlooked golf courses in Ohio is Brookside Golf and Country Club on the northside of Columbus. Part of this is because it shares a name with a renowned Donald Ross route near Canton, and the other is because its tree density has made it borderline invisible from the airspace above (this is a slight exaggeration…but just slight).
The club contracted Brian Silva to do a rather dramatic renovation, involving tree removal, bunker reconstruction, and green expansions. The latter is especially exciting, as few suggest the highlight at Brookside is anything outside of its greens. The course was designed by Charlie Lorms, who was the original professional at the Ross-designed Columbus Country Club. Accordingly, he carried Ross’s style to Brookside.
The most eye-catching change will be the new No. 11, a par three being inserted between the current nos. 10 and 11. Silva took the Redan as an inspiration, with a large slope prior to the green allowing shorter hitters to run one up on the 180-yard hole. A creek runs along the inside of the green, offering a unique twist on the Redan’s usual hazard.
The current No. 16 — a short, uphill par three — will be maintained as an “extra” hole, but not part of the 18-hole championship route.
…or, as it shall be known moving forward, “Firestone Fazio.” Most focus on the Robert Trent Jones routes on the North and South sides of Firestone Country Club and, in a rarity, a Tom Fazio course is both the shortest and most-overlooked course on the property. None of that will change…but maybe some more work from Fazio Golf Design will at least help outsiders realize this 18 even exists.
The group will remove 18 bunkers (about 25% of the current total) and do a Billy Bunker renovation of the others. We doubt this will knock too many teeth out of the course, however, as Fazio doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’d agree to tack his name on the ugly step kid at a 54-hole property.
That said, I still prefer the directional theme of “Firestone West.”
Kenwood Country Club
I had been aware that both of Kenwood’s 18-hole courses, the Kendale had undergone significant restoration under the eye of Jason Straka over the past few years, and had in fact opened for preview play. An update this morning states that the courses will officially open during June, following one last growing season.
Kenwood’s courses have often dodged the spotlight, on account of being from the pen of William Diddel. Interestingly, the property was identified for the club by Donald Ross, who eventually turned to Diddel for the design. Who knows? It may need a critical reconsideration (or simply a first consideration) however; a few years back, my host at Brookline had high praise for both Kenwood routes.
Lakewood Country Club
Looking forward to updates on a potential long-term plan for this, the only original design in Ohio from my beloved A.W. Tillinghast. For the time being, I know they’ve got an ongoing tree-removal plan, which is nothing to dismiss.
The Pepper Pike Club
Ian Andrew reports that a little work remains on the renovation at The Pepper Pike Club, including a few forward tee boxes to add, tree removals, and grass work. Don’t expect Pepper Pike to get any more public (word: It ain’t) but Andrew’s construction of forward tees is a sign of opening up in another positive way…the club now has female players.
The Sharon Club
This isn’t an architecture update but, if you’re somebody who believes that good golf course architecture begins with the architect and ends with the superintendent, then this one is worth noting. The Sharon Club, near Akron, will have a new superintendent on staff during the 2021 season.
This is notable because Frank Dobie, the outgoing super, retired after spending 56 years in the position. He’s been at the George Cobb-designed club since its founding in 1964. An engineer by nature, Dobie developed a double-row, automatic irrigation system and his own sub-air system…before the concept of a sub-air system was patented elsewhere.
Needless to say…the next guy has big shoes to fill.
PROJECTS THAT REMAIN MURKY, BUT SOMETHING IS DEFINITELY HAPPENING:
Denison Golf Club
As we reported toward the end of last year, Gil Hanse had been on the ground at Denison Golf Club and was creating a master plan for restorative and renovative work, perhaps even some redesign occurring back along the current holes Nos. 15-17, which are not Ross originals (it was these holes that made for the basis of a fairly entertaining blog post).
General manager Todd Bishop told me at the time that the final product may be presented as soon as the end of February. You can bet that I’ll be following up soon to see what he can share.
Regardless, there’s a decent chance the money will be there to make Hanse’s vision happen. The key name is Frederick Waddell, a name near the top in the development of the Pro V1 ball for Titleist (and a Denison alum).
Meadowood Golf Course
The Meadowood is a 27-hole municipal offering in the Rocky River area outside of Cleveland, which is looking at a range of options for an overhaul including but not limited to: an indoor/outdoor practice facility, a putting course, and an “indoor nine-hole par 3 course” (that sounds like it may be a typo on behalf of the community paper). Seems the project is in the hands of local golf figurehead Jimmy Hanlin, who also operates the public Little Mountain Country Club on the other side of town.
Most exciting, however, is the prospect of a reversible nine-hole course that will serve as the centerpiece at the property.
Plans are expected by late spring or early summer.
Canterbury Country Club
We’re still probing for more going-ons here. What we know is that Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns have been brought on as “consulting architects.” We’ll let you know as we know, but the well-ranked club has been fairly quiet about this one.
Congress Lake Country Club
Congress Lake, another Donald Ross entry in Ohio, received a partial restoration last year thanks to Ron Forse, who reviewed historic aerials and documents to identify bunkers that had been lost, adjusted or added since Ross left the property. Forse overhauled what was left, creating hazards more in line with the original vision. One factor cited in this report was numerous sand hazards could simply be run through, prior to Forse’s work.
I had heard rumors that Forse still had boots on the ground; the club confirmed that his associate Jim Nagle would be in town to do a “tree management evaluation” during March, with plans to review further short-term and long-term goals for Congress Lake later in the year. No further changes coming immediately, but eyes on the horizon.
Projects Announced…and Looking for Updates
Shaker Run Golf Course
Shaker Run Golf Club had, as of 2018, announced a “three to five year” rollout of changes from original architect Arthur Hills, as the course wasn’t eager to close the course for an extended period of time. There seems to be a commitment to bettering the course in terms of bunker work and green expansion, however the immediate need for Hills’s input came with regards to routing around a new condominium complex built within the Lakeside nine.
That said, haven’t heard any updates recently but a source reported to me last year that Hills has not been in good health. We’ll have to see what happens moving forward.
Community Golf Course
Dayton has not gotten any positive attention from the golfing community, as it shut all but one of its municipal properties. The remaining, aptly-named “Community Golf Course” announced last year that it was seeking an architect to lead a bunker renovation project. Doesn’t seem like they’re trying to reestablish Community’s 36 holes in any sort of groundbreaking way…but I suppose it’s nice they’re trying to do something for small-time golf in the city. No architect named yet, and calls to the Department of Recreation have thus far gone unreturned.
That’s what we Ohioans have to look forward to during 2021. Again, if you’ve got a hot tip, send it to me and we’ll get it on the list.