Course Rater Confidential: Breaking down Ohio’s best private and public courses
JOHN AND JEANNINE HENEBRY
GOLF’s Top 100 course panelists are among the most respected and well-traveled course evaluators in the game. They’re also keen to share their opinions. In this GOLF.com series, we’ll unlock their unvarnished views on all questions course-related. The goal is not only to entertain you but also to give you a better understanding of how to understand and appreciate golf course architecture. You can see GOLF’s latest Top 100 Courses in the World ranking here, and meet all of our Top 100 panelists here.
For the second time in two weeks, the PGA Tour is at the same course, Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village. You know what that means: we are talking about golf in the Buckeye state. Camargo Club is currently the highest-rated Ohio course on GOLF Magazine’s list of Top 100 Courses in the World. Agree? If so, why? If not, please tell us which Ohio course belongs above it.
Tyler Rae, panelist since 2019; has played 98 of the World Top 100: Camargo Club is the best in Ohio by a landslide because there are no weak holes. The property is rugged and natural but still maintains that old-world, Roaring ’20s feel. A throwback and a wonderful walk. The neighborhood surroundings are gorgeous and antiquated as well.
Michael Pelliccione, panelist since 2020; has played 60 of the World Top 100: Ohio has a lot of great golf courses but Camargo Club is without a doubt the best in the state. It is one of Seth Raynor’s finest designs built on an incredible piece of property, which is rather rugged with rolling terrains that suit Raynor’s style. It’s not uncommon to hear the best set of par-3s in the country can be found here. Little has changed at Camargo throughout the years, which gives it that old school vibe the second you step foot on the property. One other course worth mentioning is The Golf Club in New Albany. The Golf Club was from Pete Dye’s early works and some would argue his best. A modern golf course that has a minimalist feel to it (with an outstanding locker room that’s perfect for a post-round drink).
Thomas Brown, panelist since 2015; has played 95 of the World Top 100: Muirfield Village is certainly a better golf course to conduct a stroke-play championship or Ryder Cup. The dedication Jack Nicklaus and his family have made to the Columbus area over the years deserves its own special recognition. However, Pete Dye was said to have Camargo in his top five in the world. Tom Doak’s Renaissance Golf Design started work on the property in 2000, reversing some of the bunker styling made by Robert von Hagge in the 1980s and taking the design back to Raynor’s intent. Camargo’s variety of holes and memorability is the best in the region. One final note of praise is for Camargo’s superintendent Doug Norwell and his team. The firmness of turf and discernible transitions from the rough into native grass areas is well done.
Tim Gallant, panelist since 2019; has played 62 of the World Top 100: I’ve got to agree with my fellow panelists. In my mind, what makes Camargo so good is that it takes some of the standard Raynor holes that we know, and combines them with the unique features of the site to create holes that feel original. That said, I think the work that Inverness and Andrew Green have done in Toledo is absolutely fantastic. If I were on the USGA committee, I would vote to bring a U.S. Open to the course.
What’s the best public course in Ohio?
Rae: Manakiki Golf Course just outside of Cleveland; run by the Cleveland Metro Parks division. If you haven’t seen it, you should. The land is incredibly rolling and would be top 10 in the state if funding weren’t an issue.
Pelliccione: Fowler’s Mill Golf Course in Chesterland, located just 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland. This early Pete Dye design is often considered the best public golf course in the state. Outstanding piece of property that offers a great layout with a bunch of fun golf holes. Hard to top a Pete Dye design that’s open to the public, so be sure to check out Fowler’s Mill.
Brown: Mill Creek in Ostrander is the childhood home course of Champion Golfer of the Year Ben Curtis. Ben’s father, Bob Curtis, is still the superintendent cutting the greens at Mill Creek.
Gallant: I certainly need to see more public golf courses in Ohio, but why not list a publicly accessible facility to stop at while you play these wonderful courses? I’m talking about the famous Pine Club. Great steaks, cash only. A throwback that can be found a stone’s throw from Moraine Country Club!
What’s your favorite Ohio sleeper golf course, and why?
Rae: Hyde Park Country Club. Simply a divine routing with a very underrated set of Ross greens that have fun internal contours. The property and land are spectacular. No one talks about Hyde Park. No one!
Pelliccione: Kirtland Country Club in Willoughby is one of the best golf courses that people outside the state likely haven’t heard of. This C.H. Alison design tells a tale of two nines. The front nine is a relatively flat piece of property while the back is far more dramatic. The course itself is beautiful, with varied terrain that includes a winding stream and elevated tee boxes throughout. Pace of play is important here so be sure to play fast!
Brown: Ridiculous answer but Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Inverness has a long history with the USGA and PGA. Donald Ross’ work at Inverness in 1916 is regarded as the most significant period in the Inverness design. Over the last few years, Inverness took a chance on golf architect Andrew Green with a major restoration back to Ross. Two weeks from now, the LPGA will visit Inverness for the first time, giving us a first look at Green’s restoration work on television.
What’s the Ohio course you have not seen but are most interested in playing?
Rae: Elyria Country Club. I’ve heard it is an untouched 1920s William Flynn in an idyllic river valley setting.
Pelliccione: Moraine Country Club in Dayton has been on my bucket list for years now. Moraine is almost unrecognizable today after the incredible restoration/renovation work done by Keith Foster and his staff.
Brown: Cincinnati’s Kenwood Country Club (Kendale Course). Jason Straka from Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design has been spending a lot of time at Kenwood renovating the Kendale Course. The Bill Diddel design has an interesting history with the USGA and Western Open dating back to the 1930s. I have been following the construction and grow-in conditions on social media over the past year. Through my computer screen from afar, it looks like a high-potential project.
Gallant: Kirtland, Canterbury and Brookside are all high on my list of places I’d love to see next time I’m in Ohio. I believe Scioto has officially hired Green to do a renovation/restoration, so I would love to see the course once he’s finished.