Moraine Country Club
Kettering, Ohio
United States of America

Fourteenth hole, 455 yards; Some difficult two shotters deflate (15 at Bethpage) while others inspire (13 at Prestwick). Happily, this beast falls within the second camp. The author didn’t think so in 1986 when it was an unending, unmerciful, uphill beating through trees. Now, the rambunctious land over which this hole is laid is apparent. While the hole makes no attempt (even half-hearted) to flatter the golfer, he delights in strolling about such convoluted landforms even when the golf goes a bit askew? What’s true about Moraine that wasn’t thirty years ago is what an inspiring and uplifting a place it is to be without golf clubs.

Up we go to the fairway and still higher to the green.

Up we go to the fairway and still higher to the green.

Assuming one avoids this steep lipped bunker right of the fairway, then perhaps by some divine miracle ...

Assuming one avoids this steep, lipped bunker right of the fairway,  by some divine miracle …

... the golfer can devise a means to hit this green from quite a ways back. No narrative required for those that come up short left.

… the golfer can devise a means to hit this green from quite a ways back. No narrative required for those that come up short left.

Fifteenth hole, 170 yards;  Yardage for the prior seven holes reads 638-473-449-439-243-610-454. Yikes! Mercifully, the challenge has shifted from a premium on length + accuracy to one of accuracy + accuracy! Give Foster the lion-share of the credit for how well this one shotter plays. Dick Wilson’s efforts here in the late 1950s weren’t entirely sympathetic to Campbell’s style and Foster made the hole more striking by evoking Campbell’s steep and deep bunker style and better incorporating the ledge on the right. Foster notes that it was ‘also important to establish the close connection and walk-off from 14 green to 15 tee reminiscent of the connections at 16 – 17 and 17 -18.‘ Some members nominate the two one shotters on the back nine as the holes most improved by the restoration process.

The last one shotter borders the club's property to the west, delineated by a sharp drop-off.

The final one shotter borders the club’s property to the west, delineated by a sharp drop-off.

A new tee higher left changes the perspective quite a bit and affords the golfer a look at the putting surface.

A new tee higher left changes the perspective quite a bit and affords the golfer a look at the putting surface.

Anything missed right of the White Oak is likely lost and thirty feet below the surface of the green.

Anything missed right of the White Oak is likely lost thirty feet below the surface of the green.

Sixteenth hole, 410 yards; Campbell apparently shared a belief with Ohio’s most famous architect, Pete Dye, and tried to make short holes play shorter and long holes play longer! At the seventh and here, Campbell cascades the golfer off the high end of the property with breathtakingly shortish two shotters. This one stair-steps down, dropping the golfer thirty feet into the landing area before descending another twenty feet to the green. Seven of Moraine’s sixty bunkers are found on this hole.

A tee ball at sixteen that splits the left and right fairway bunkers will leave the golfer with a nervy pitch to a tall green pad surrounded left right and behind by deep bunkers.

A tee ball at sixteen that splits the left and right fairway bunkers will leave the golfer with a nervy pitch to a tall green pad surrounded by deep bunkers.

The sixteenth green epitomizes the targets at Moraine: open in front, well defined and bunkered at the base.

It can’t be overemphasized that the bunkers at Moraine look bonny and function well (i.e. they drain efficiently) while meting out a suitable punishment for those that stray. A 60 degree wedge is an important implement for a day at Moraine.

Seventeenth hole, 470 yards; On this 1/2 par hole the elevated tee lends a false sense of comfort to the golfer who may actually think that he is – finally – in control. Once down in the hitting area, the table is turned by a diagonal ridge 200 yards short of the green that blocks the view. A golfer who launches his three wood at the green, does so with trepidation, knowing that one of the deepest greenside bunkers is front right.

The penultimate hole seems cheery and simple from the elevated tee where the golfer can readily discern that right center is the ideal position from which to approach the green in two.

It gets progressively more complicated in the fairway. A Scot thru and thru, and heavily influenced by Prestwick and Troon, Campbell had no compunction about incorporating the occasional blind shot. A tree on the horizon becomes an aiming point.

Can the golfer chase the long, blind approach through the gap, onto the green? A pull is better than a push as the left bunker is only half as deep as the right. Only here does Sipe amend his advice: being long is not so bad.

Eighteenth hole, 480 yards; A first timer expecting the course to stumble coming home finds this beauty. In many ways the pacing of finish – a short iron approach at sixteen, a birdiable three shotter and a stout par 4 reminds the author of another world top 50 course – Notts Golf Club in England. Both may not be widely seen but are superlative examples of how golf can be simultaneously inspiring and challenging. They leave countless better known courses for dead.

The morning frost highlights the fairway’s graceful contours.

A creek weaves forty yards in front of the tenth green but otherwise, there is no water on the course. Challenge stems from the land, deep bunkers and sloped putting surfaces. Lost balls aren’t an issue and recovery is always possible. It’s 7,270 yards from the back markers but none of the distance seems contrived as the green-to-tee walks are reasonable with some being no more than fifteen paces. The Blue tees knock off 500 yards from that gruesome set and the Whites twice that and are a siren for this Odyssey. Here’s the thing: the green complexes as restored and enhanced by Foster are so good that the course doesn’t need length. With it though, Moraine can fascinate both the tiger and high-handicapper alike.

Discretion carries the day at Moraine as exemplified by its low key clubhouse.

Discretion carries the day at Moraine as exemplified by its low key clubhouse.

Moraine is the best of both worlds and Alex Campbell deserves recognition for creating one of America’s finest courses. Campbell, speaking of golf later in life remarked, ‘I’ll not quit until they cover me over.’ Well, Keith Foster has uncovered Campbell’s masterpiece giving him a new voice that resonates loud and clear.

Let’s leave the last words to Foster, ‘Moraine is to me what a golf club should be. Great land, unexpected holes with a caring and gracious membership. Most importantly, there is a quiet boldness to Moraine that is seldom seen.’

The End