The Country Club
Pepper Pike, OH, USA
Tenth hole, 400/385 yards; The Country Club’s back nine doesn’t plunge through a river valley a la Kirtland Country Club but that is not to imply that its ground contours aren’t full of interest. The three to seven feet undulations found in this fairway are nothing short of ideal for good golf.
Eleventh hole, 185/160 yards; Be it the eleventh at Shinnecock Hills or the tenth at Rolling Green, Flynn had a knack for cutting bunkers into the landforms to make uphill par three holes still be fun to play. The harder hole locations are invariably toward the front as such holes feature greens with fierce back to front tilt. Can the golfer drop his tee ball just over the fronting bunkers and still enjoy an uphill putt?
Fourteenth hole, 215/165 yards; As seen at many of his best designs, Flynn was a true admirer of the playing characteristics of the Redan hole. Here is The Country Club’s version, which true to the rest of the layout is a more a lay-of-the-land version versus a heavily fortified (i.e. artificial) one.
Fifteenth hole, 455/415 yards; Among the Golden Age architects, Donald Ross was the most prolific at building eighteen hole courses and his name appears on over 400 courses. However, a significant gap in quality is evident between the courses Ross personally visited versus the courses that he routed from afar using a topography map. Though the courses that he never visited ended up with appealing routings that featured tees and greens occupying the high points, the courses themselves are more pleasant than memorable. Without attacking the landforms in every possible manner, opportunities were lost to create holes of distinction. Such is simply not true when discussing Flynn’s much smaller body of work. Given that he worked on only forty eighteen hole original designs (i.e. ninety percent less than Ross), Flynn’s best work always delivers several holes of outstanding character that seem fresh and unique to the particular site. This and the seventeenth are two such holes. Here at the fifteenth, Flynn has the golfer play his tee ball to a lower island of fairway before playing over three cross hazards and stepping up to the next tier where more fairway and the green itself is found. This thoroughly original hole helps The Country Club standout in the golfer’s mind from so many other parkland courses.
Seventeenth hole, 385/340 yards; In terms of using the slope of the ground, no architect has ever been clearly better than Flynn. Here is another example of the virtue of Flynn’s work ethic whereby he only worked on several commissions at a time, thus allowing him to slowly tease the best attributes from the property. If he was busy stamping out course after course, this hole would likely never have come into being as time was clearly required to find it and to figure out how to drape a fairway/hole over the heaving landforms along the edge of the property. Flynn historian Wayne Morrison, who has seen and studied more Flynn courses than anyone, considers this to be one of Flynn’s true standout holes. Morrison appreciates how the seventeenth ‘cannot be overpowered (think of how many Flynn hole designs are of this sort!) and how best to play the hole must be carefully considered as the canted offset fairway requires the golfer to gauge both line and distance in a way that leaves the best approach angle (with non-comittant visibility) into the demanding green complex.’
Eighteenth hole, 450/395 yards; There is no such thing as a great golf course that is constricted and tight and The Country Club is certainly far from that, especially thanks to all the good work that has occurred here of late. Indeed, The Country Club enjoys a sense of spaciousness rarely found and the golfer is encouraged to make bold, positive swings throughout the round. Thus, the sudden appearance of white stakes signifying out of bounds tight down the right jangles the golfer’s nerves, making the final tee ball one of the more frightening ones on the course.
Morrison perfectly summarizes the charm of Flynn’s work at The Country Club when he writes, ‘Its routing merits close attention as it demonstrates Flynn’s mastery in sequencing eighteen holes using natural features to create interest rather than forcing features on the landscape to provide interest. The resulting varied strategic implications from his use of natural features are evident, making The Country Club a wonderful example of the best of Flynn. Anyone wanting to study Flynn should make it a point of visiting here.’
Over the decades, The Country Club has been very kind to amateur golf and once again, it will take center stage when it hosts the 2012 United States Women’s Amateur. Everyone wins when a course of this magnitude is re-introduced to the public’s eye as it reminds one just how great the game can be. As spectators and players will find, the course will be presented in a manner that is every bit as good as at any point in its illustrious history.