Inverness Club
Ohio, United States of America

Tenth hole, 395/350 yards; Tee to green, the first and tenth holes occupy the same compelling terrain. Both tee balls are over the same valley to the same plateau but then the two holes suddenly become quite different by virtue of the green placements. At 2,500 square feet, the tenth’s putting surface is the smallest on the course but with enough movement to elicit a 3 putt at the absolute worst time. See the 1993 PGA playoff for details. Not only were aesthetics greatly enhanced when Hills streamlined the first and tenth tees into one huge complex but the tenth seamlessly picked up 25 yards of additional length.

While the expansive first green on the right is placed high on the far bank, Ross slotted the tiny tenth green at the base on the left.

Minuscule, just hit the middle of the green and you won’t have a long birdie putt!


Twelfth hole, 170/135 yards;
 How an architect builds a one shotter across flat land is telling. Master architects who successfully did so include George Thomas at the fifteenth at Los Angles County Club, Seth Raynor with the eighth at Camargo and Ross here. The necklace of five bunkers that hangs around the sides and front of this green obscures the putting surface from the tee. That’s worrisome because a long spine divides the green into left and right portions and life is much better if your tee ball rests on the same section as the day’s hole. It’s the only surviving Ross par three and reeks with character.  Juxtaposed as it is to the unfortunate third only magnifies that ignominy.

The great twelfth makes you yearn for more Ross one shotters at Inverness.


Thirteenth hole, 515/485 yards;
Hugely underrated, this 1/2 par hole is laid over scintillating topography. Maybe it doesn’t get the love it deserves because it often plays as the easiest hole relative to par during stroke play events. Such dismissive logic has never applied to the thirteenth at Augusta National, so …. why should it here?! The green rivals the seventeenth for the most brutal back to front slope on the course. Consider the stylishness and exemplarity of the four green complexes that start the inward nine and how the approach shots vary: a downhill pitch to the island tenth green, the open eleventh that is glued to the ground, the cleverly bunkered twelfth and the pushed-up thirteenth green with its wicked slopes.

Shadows mask how convoluted the landforms are in the hitting area. Getting a good strike from such an awkward lie (and potentially reaching the green in two) is the hallmark of talent.

The golfer’s lot in life greatly improves if his approach scales in two the embankment 50 yards shy of the thirteenth green.

As seen from the left side, golfers can be easily ‘de-greened’ if their first putt is a little frisky from above the hole. Interestingly, A. W. Tillinghast built this green for the 1931 US Open. It is a rare but great example of how hosting a major event actually improved a Ross design.


Fourteenth hole, 485/410 yards;
Inside the clubhouse, the walls are replete with photographs of golfing greats and tournament lore. Those fortunate to play here become keenly aware of Inverness’s place in history and a hole like this that feels like a step back in time should be savored. Vive la différence, this lay of the land hole is the type no longer seen on modern venues, complete with an intermediate size green that is open across the front and at grade with the fairway. Links golf, anyone?

Antiquated features include this gnarly, 'carry me or else' 30 foot embankment off the tee. No problem for the dapper Ted Ray though!

Antiquated features include this gnarly, ‘carry me or else’ 30 foot embankment off the tee. No problem for the dapper Ted Ray though!

This unique 75 yard long horseshoe bunker separates the fourteenth and fifteenth fairways. Its slender nature produces nasty lies, difficult stances and muttering golfers, who are reminded that bunkers are indeed hazardous.

 

Fifteenth hole, 470/415 yards; Straight drivers of the golf ball tend to enjoy a bigger advantage at Inverness than at most courses because wayward drives leave onerous recoveries over hill, dale and trench. Streams and or depressions are found 20 to 80 yards short of numerous greens including the first, fourth, fifth, seventh, tenth, fifteenth and seventeenth. Little wonder that Greg Norman threatened here in 1986 and 1993 and that the final scoreboard at the 1979 US Open included some of the game’s straightest drivers and best tacticians: Hale Irwin, Jerry Pate, Gary Player, Larry Nelson, Bill Rodgers, Tom Weiskopf, and David Graham.

The approach to the fifteenth is one of the most attractive on the course and is best enjoyed from the fairway.


Sixteenth hole, 410/395;
The nature of Inverness’s mostly rectangular property is that its north/south axis is approximately twice as long as the east/west limb. As such, a slew of parallel playing corridors constitute the bulk of the routing.  Yet, this is obscured by the ever-changing manner in which Ross utilized the river valleys. Here the challenge is direct: the golfer needs to get away two rifle straight shots. Like putting where no good golfer likes to be told that a putt is ‘dead straight’, one prefers ‘cutting it off that tree’ or ‘drawing off this bunker.’ They don’t exist at sixteen and that contributes to making this one of the harder fairways to hit consistently. Unless the golfer gets a clean strike on the ball as afforded from the tight fairways, he is unlikely to gain/maintain satisfactory control on his approach into this sloping green.

Note the clean entrance, the reclaimed back wings and Ross’s exquisite contours. Pity modern architects don’t build such greens.


Seventeenth hole, 475/385 yards;
How holes evolve is intensely interesting. A 1931 aerial that hangs inside the professional shop shows this hole being more linear in nature. Today it bends around a handsome, steep-faced bunker that chews into the left fairway.  Squeezing a tee ball between it and the far right bunker is one of the most demanding – and satisfying – tee shots on the course. Dick Wilson apparently added the island and enlarged the left greenside bunker, creating a 50 yard long monstrous yet striking hazard. In their own way, the last two holes remind the author of the finishing two at The Old Course at St. Andrews. At both courses, the penultimate hole is the longer/harder of the two and plays to a vicious green that seems ill-conceived to receive a lengthy shot. Surprisingly, the seventeenth green is under 3,500 square feet, making it the third smallest target at Inverness.

The seventeenth fairway pivots left around this handsome, built-up bunker.

Considering its fierce slopes, a prudent leave is often just short of the seventeenth green. Long or right can leave the golfer inconsolable.

It can’t be overstated: Inverness occupies gorgeous property that has been enhanced for more than a century.


Eighteenth hole, 360/300 yards;
The Home hole is memorable for a host of reasons that include it being the only hole to play in a valley as opposed to across one.  A range of options exists off the tee, depending on what kind of club you are most comfortable with hitting to the green. If the hole is left, the golfer tries to stay right off the tee and vice versa when the hole is right. Head Golf Professional Derek Brody considers the most difficult hole location to be back right. Miss it right, and you are in the trough, a wonderfully unique steep walled depression. Placed beneath the clubhouse windows and porch, this feature makes for great theater. The ever-hopeful golfer conjures up (generally only in his own mind though!) some kind of a miraculous recovery while the members look on with all-knowing pity. The front left bunker from which Bob Tway holed his miracle shot may be more famous but the green’s tilt and trough are the star features. This sub-400 yard closer and standout Ross green complex create a perfect conclusion to a singular experience.

One of the game’s best closing holes, as seen from the tee.

This zoomed view shows the playing angles. For right hole location, Brody prefers to position his tee ball near the far left bunker.

This view from behind hints at the green’s severe cant. Any approach that just misses right finds the cruel two foot trench that has broken so many fine men.

Though the Club has altered the course over the decades, one tenet that hasn’t budged is the club’s insistence that golf be a walking sport. As well as anyone in America, Inverness supports the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship Program. They have upwards of 225 locals at the ready June through August enabling a one caddie to one bag ratio.

History at Inverness is entwined with that of American golf and the ascendency of the golf professional. Golf professionals were first invited into the clubhouse here and gifted the club its iconic grandfather clock in 1921. The inscription captures the essence of the people and the Club:

God measures men by what they are
Not what they in wealth possess
That vibrant message chimes afar
The Voice of Inverness.

The actions of the current membership indicate that Inverness continues to embrace major championship golf and is able to strike a balance between tradition and the modern game. Adjectives like ‘tree-lined’, ‘narrow’, and ‘testing’ belong in decades past. Today’s golfer is looking for something more exhilarating. He wants to be tested mentally as well as physically; he needs options to mull over and playing angles to consider. Recent events at Inverness have had the first and tenth tees reversed so that creative challenges are brought to bear on those two holes. In addition, a popular spot for the eighteenth tee is near the 300 yard mark where it promotes a blend of heroic and tragic results. Inverness is once again on the move, and for all the right reasons.

In 1920 S.P. Jermain proclaimed: ‘Inverness has today many acres of most beautiful, deep and velvety turf, a delight to the eye and a joy to tread. Truly can it be emphasized that it was “a golf course—predestined.” Its pioneers deeply realized that here could be built a truly great course and withal one of much natural beauty, for indeed the maximum happiness in golf requires both.’ The current custodians in Toledo have insured that these words resonate loud and clear.

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The author gratefully acknowledges the use of the Club’s and member Dave Ukrop’s photographs.

The End