God measures men by what they are
Not by what they in wealth possess
This vibrant message chimes afar
The voice of Inverness
The above inscription resides on a grandfather clock presented by a group of golf professionals to Inverness Club at the 1931 U.S. Open. The incredible show of generosity resulted from something that happened at Inverness eleven years prior during the 1920 U.S. Open and forever changed the game of golf.
From the time golf began in the U.S. through 1920 professional golfers had been looked upon unfavorably . . . to be frank, they were not considered gentlemen. Because of this second class social status golf professionals had not been allowed inside the clubhouses at the golf clubs where they worked, visited or played in tournaments. In this day and age of superstar golfers like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy its pretty hard to fathom that anyone would look down their noses at them, but things were clearly different at the turn of the 20th century. So, at the 1920 U.S. Open Inverness Club decided to open its clubhouse to both the amateurs AND professionals that were competing in the championship. This was a groundbreaking act by Inverness and other clubs followed in suit which began the process of golf professionals receiving the same amount of respect as their amateur counterparts. The grandfather clock was a thank you gift to the club for breaking down that barrier from Walter Hagen and the other top professionals of the day.
After a great evening of food and drink at Corey’s house in Bloomfield Hills we set off for Inverness the next morning which is just about a 90 minute drive. Corey had friends at the club and was able to arrange an afternoon round for us at the Donald Ross layout that opened for play in 1919. In addition to its storied past with regards to professional golfers Inverness Club has a rich tournament history that includes four U.S. Opens, one U.S. Amateur, two U.S. Senior Opens and two P.G.A. Championships. With nine major championships it’s hard not to argue that the club holds a significant spot in American golf.
When we pulled into the club we self parked in the parking lot, carried our clubs over to the bag rack and found our way into the clubhouse to change shoes. I loved the lack of pomp and circumstance which gave the club a very great laid back and welcoming vibe. As we hit a few balls on the practice tee I noticed several members laughing and joking with each other and their wives which is something that I feel like I rarely see and added to the down home and unpretentious atmosphere. When it was our turn on the tee the caddiemaster gave us a wave and away we went. Note that the yardages below are from the Gold tees which are 6,790 yards and play to a par of 71.
Hole 1 – 389 yards – Par 4
The opening hole here is basically a shared fairway with the 10th hole that is divided by the huge bunker complex seen below on the left. A drive down the middle or right side will be much more favorable than something that goes left and finds the bunkers.
After the bunkers the fairway falls off and then rises back up to the hill to where the green is.
Hole 2 – 375 yards – Par 4
The fairway on this hole is pinched in by the two bunkers on either side. I elected to avoid the bunkers by hitting my tee shot WAY to the right.
Here is a look at the green from the middle of the fairway and short of the two bunkers.
And here is a little closer look.
Hole 3 – 177 yards – Par 3
Slicers beware on this hole. I had to hit a 5 iron to reach the green and with the lake on the right side I suspect that a great many penalty strokes have been doled out here.
Below is a little closer look at the hole.
Hole 4 – 439 yards – Par 4
I really liked this long par four despite the fact that I made double here. A long drive will reach the hill and potentially leave a downhill lie for the approach shot where the player who lays back will have a flat lie and a longer approach shot to a green with a significant false front.
Below is a view of the approach into the green.
Here is a little closer look at the false front.
And here is an even closer look at that false front. It is a very uphill chip for approach shots that come up short.
Hole 5 – 398 yards – Par 4
I also really liked this hole as I like trying to hit a draw off the tee. A cut will certainly work here but a draw is a better option for players who have that shot.
Below is a look at the approach into the green.
Hole 6 – 195 yards – Par 4
This one shot hole is lengthy, but there is no real penalty for being short with a nice area of fairway length grass in front.
Hole 7 – 453 yards – Par 4
Here was have another very good long par 4. The boldest line is to try to carry the creek on the right side where as the much safer play is to hit the left side of the fairway and deal with a long, uphill and slightly blind approach shot.
Below is a look to the green from the middle of the fairway.
Approach shots that come up short will have a significantly uphill pitch to reach the putting surface.
Hole 8 – 537 yards – Par 5
The first of only two par 5s on the course requires a well placed drive to have the best angle into the green for the second shot. The hole doglegs to the left so something down the left side will leave the shortest distance to the green, but if the drive does not carry far enough it can be blocked out by trees or find the bunker.
Here is a look into the green from the middle of the fairway where the hole starts to turn left.
Players who think they can reach this green in two had better be able to fly it on as the bunkers surrounding the front only allow a very narrow area for rolling onto the putting surface.
Below is a view of the green from the 9th tee.
Hole 9 – 418 yards – Par 4
Another stout par 4 closes out the first nine holes. This one moves to the right so a drive that favors the left of the fairway is the best approach from the tee.
And here is a view of the approach shot into the green. Its tough to make out the flag but it is just under the middle tree.
The green on this hole was an interesting one and unfortunately the photo below doesn’t really do it justice. The ball located at the back makes for a tricky putt to that hole location!
Hole 10 – 345 yards – Par 4
Starting off the second nine hole we come back to the teebox that we used for the 1st hole but tee off from the left side. Again, it is wise to avoid the bunkers, this time favoring the left side of the fairway.
I didn’t take my own advice and ended up hitting my drive to the right. Luckily I found grass and had a short iron into the green.
Here is a look at the 10th green taken from the 11th tee.
Hole 11 – 369 yards – Par 4
This shortish par 4 is best played with a drive down the middle, but longer hitters need to beware of the bunkers on either side that pinch the to a pretty narrow gap.
Here is a look at the approach. Note how narrow the fairway gets around those bunkers.
Hole 12 – 149 yards – Par 3
Playing to a par of 71 the course only has two par 5s, three par 3s and all the rest par 4s. This is the final of the par 3s. It’s a short shot, but the green is smallish and the bunkers surrounding it make for a tough par if you don’t hit the putting surface.
Hole 13 – 498 yards – Par 5
Here we have the second and last par 5. This one will be reachable in two for many players. The fairway runs downhill so a big drive is possible if the ball catches the hill and runs a little extra.
Below is a view from the middle of the fairway. Layup shots need to be sure to carry the creek that runs across the fairway at the bottom of the hill. The area of fairway grass on the opposite side of the creek is an excellent place to lay up to.
Hole 14 – 446 yards – Par 4
Here we begin a stretch of four long and tough par 4s. At 446 yards the best advice here is to hit it as far as possible.
Below is a look at the approach into the green. Note the lack of bunkers fronting the green which means that there is a chance for balls that come up short to still find their way onto the green.
Hole 15 – 436 yards – Par 4
I really liked this hole which is another long par 4. Drives that reach the hill and pick up some roll with help to shorten the approach into the green.
Here is a look at the approach shot into the green.
Hole 16 – 399 yards – Par 4
With this hole we get a break from the 400+ yard par 4s . . . by 1 yard. With trees on both sides of the fairway a drive down the middle will be a great start here.
Although it’s not in the landing area of the drive for most players, below is another example of how the fairway has been pinched to a very narrow width by bunkers.
Hole 17 – 438 yards – Par 4
Another excellent long par 4 closes out the series of four very tough holes. This one favors a draw off the tee and big hitters will carry the bunker on the left to have the shortest approach shot to the green.
Here we have a view of the approach shot from the right side of the hole. Even though it appears to play downhill I still hit the actual yardage for my approach shot.
Hole 18 – 329 yards – Par 4
The closing hole is what I would truly call a short par 4. Not drivable, the best play here is to leave the driver in the bag and hit a utility club about 200 yards and leave a wedge into the green. The mass of bunkers in front of the green should be enough of a warning to anyone not to get too carried away with their tee shot.
Here is a view of the approach into the green from about 100 yards out. Bob Tway won the 1986 P.G.A. Championship here with a remarkable hole out from the front bunker for birdie that yet again crushed Greg Norman in the final round of a major. I wish I had taken a picture of the green as it has a wicked slope that makes hitting the green far from an automatic two putt. It really makes Tway’s shot all the more amazing when you see the green in person.
After we finished our game we went into the clubhouse for a drink and to look around. We had a good time looking at all the old photos from the Inverness Invitational which was a fourball tournament started in 1935 that featured sixteen top professionals of the day competing in two-man teams in a round robin rotation. Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and numerous other well known pros from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s were all there. Fred took particular pleasure in finding numerous photos of Lawson Little. In 1950 when the U.S. Open was held at Merion Lawson Little fired his caddie before the championship started and Fred’s father, who was 16 at the time, was the lucky kid who got picked to carry his bag. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut, but it was a once in a lifetime chance for a teenage caddie and Fred enjoyed seeing so many photos of the guy he grew up hearing stories about.
After we finished our drinks in the grill room we headed back out to the car to load up and make our way back to Michigan. Our day at Inverness really couldn’t have been any more enjoyable. The course is laid out over diverse terrain that makes for a good variety of holes that keep things interesting from start to finish. Over the years there has been some work done to the course by a number of noteable golf course architects. In the early 1920s A.W. Tillinghast made a few changes followed by George and Tom Fazio in 1978 and finally Arthur Hills in 1999. While it would be difficult to pick out which features were changed or added by each architect the astute eye can fairly easily identify the design elements that were not part of Donald Ross’ original design. In my opinion the changes came off very well and the course has acclimated well to the modern game as evidenced by the fact that the U.S. Senior Open was held there as recently as 2011. I found Inverness to be a fun, down to earth club with a great golf course that is a whole lot of fun to play. Count that as yet another great spot for Ohio golf.