The Golf Club
Some coursesrepresent alandmark in the development of golf architecture. Theyare so different as to what is being built at the time that they influence the broad direction of golf course architecture. Such courses in the United States include Myopia Hunt and National Golf Links of America. Examples of such designs in more modern times would include Harbour Town and the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass .
However,Pete Dyebuilt a course before either of those two that is far less known and yet was the finest design built from the 1935 until Sand Hills. The course? The Golf Club, which opened outside of Columbus, Ohio in 1967. However, as opposed to Harbour Town or TPC, it was built for the enjoyment of its small membership and their guests only. Also, as part of its charter, The Golf Clubcould never host an outside tournament. Thus, little is known about this course.
This is a greatpity. IfThe Golf Club enjoyed a higher profile, its impact on the direction of architecture could (and should) have been immense.
Pete Dye broke with the norm at the time by promoting a variety of grasses, including bent in the fairways and fescues in the rough, to give the course an ‘Old English’ feel, as Dye describes it. Nearby Scioto and the subsequently Muirfield Village would beat theopposite extremes with their perfectly manicured green fairways and dense, forest green roughs. Nonetheless, the owner and founder Fred Jones was quite implicit that he wanted the course ‘to feel as if it’s been here forever as soon as its finished.’ Dye succeeded admirably on this point and hisfondness for experimenting with different grassesserved him well thereafter, especially at The Honors Course.
Even though the course falls so early in Dye’s career,his sense of angles is alreadywell evidenced. Several of the holes such as 2, 12, 13and 15 feature tee locations which dramatically affect the angle and the challenge off the tee. For instance, from the back markers on the 15th, the strong playermust carry a cross bunker to a blind fairway with hidden bunkers lurking long right. For the less accomplished player, Dye provided a tee without the forced carry and with a better view of the hole.
Many criticshave tried to stereotype Dye’s work as too difficult for the average golfer. This variety of tee positions highlights that the only people who truly believe such nonsense are the same ones who play his courses from the wrong markers.
Much of Pete Dye’s philosophy on what constitututes an ideal course is to be found at The Golf Club. In between what would become his favorite opening ploy of a medium length two shotter ala Whistling Straits, The Ocean Course at Kiawah, The Honors Course, Firethorn, Harbour Town, Crooked Stick, TPC Sawgrass, etc. and the dramatic home hole with a water hazard ala Whistling Straits, Firethorn, Harbour Town, Crooked Stick, TPC Sawgrass, Blackwolf Run (River), etc. are to be found the holes that, when taken together, comprise Dye’s finest golf course in the United States.
Holes to Note
3rd hole, 185 yards; One of Dye’s most original one shot holes, not because of the pond that fronts the green but because of the tiered bunkering that guards the left and rear portion of the green. Dye used pilings to create different levels within this fearsomebunker (or is it bunkers?) but he also gave the golfer a bail-out to the right of the green. Of course, as is later evidenced in Dye’s work such as the 4th hole at Blackwolf Run (River), Dye uses the green contours to make an up and down unlikely. The right to left slope of the green does little to encourage any shot from the right bail-out area to get close to the hole. Interestingly enough, the bunker on the 3rd hole draws so much fame to the course thatgolfers assume the bunkering in general to be both deep and penal. In fact, this is not the case, and many of the bunkers are no more than a few feet deep.
5th hole, 455 yards and 6th hole, 470 yards; Such an attractive pair of two shot holes is rarely found and they are made by Dye’s diverse use of Blacklick Creek. As opposed to the 5th were the creek borders a portion of the right hand side of the fairway and is back from the green, Blacklick Creek snakes its way down the left hand side of the 6th fairway in a similar manner to Rae’s Creek at the 13th at Augusta National and hugs the right hand side of the green.