Back in 2009 I made a visit to Columbus, Ohio to play The Golf Club and Double Eagle Club. When I was arranging that trip I had hoped to be able to work Scioto Country Club and Muirfield Village Golf Club into the itinerary, but came up completely flat for contacts at either of those clubs. 2010 came and went with nary a lead and then as 2011 was winding down I received an email from Ed, a member at Scioto, inviting me to come play with him there. I responded that I would love to and that I would get back to him once I started working on my 2012 schedule. At the beginning of this year I slated a return to Columbus for the fall and touched base with Ed to make sure that worked for him. It did and we penciled it into the calendar.
In mid-April my girlfriend informed me that she was going to take a trip with the girls and that she would be out of town May 11-13. Since I’m away from home so much during golf season I always try to make sure that if she is traveling that I make a trip at the same time so I hated the thought of wasting an opportunity for a golf trip. I shot an 11th hour email to Ed to see if he was available that weekend and as luck would have it, he was. We quickly pulled together a plan to play Scioto on May 11th.
The first thing I’d like to say about the club is how to pronounce its name. Scioto is a strange word for anyone who doesn’t live in Ohio and the proper pronunciation for it is “sigh-OH-toh”. I routinely butchered that pronunciation until I actually heard people say it.
The Scioto River runs through Columbus and as a result there are a great number of businesses and landmarks that use the name. Scioto Country Club is one of those landmarks. The club opened in 1916 and has been an important part of American golf since the very beginning. Donald Ross was hired to design the golf course and just ten years after opening the club became the focal point of American golf when the 1926 US Open was contested and won by the great Bobby Jones at the club.
In addition to the 1926 US Open Scioto CC also played host to the 1931 Ryder Cup, the 1950 PGA Championship, the 1968 US Amateur and the 1986 Senior US Open. In 2016 when the club celebrates its 100th anniversary they will host the US Senior Open again. Serendipitously, when I emailed Ed to see if the date change would work for his schedule he responded that he had spent the morning attending the club’s press conference to announce the 2016 US Senior Open and heard Jack Nicklaus speak about the golf course. In 2008 Jack and Dr. Michael Hurdzan collaborated on a renovation of the golf course that brought in a little updating while still keeping with the routing that Donald Ross created back in the early 20th century.
Speaking of Jack . . . One could say that playing host to five (soon to be six) significantly important golf tournaments is one way for a golf course to weave a special spot into the fabric of American golf, but being the boyhood club of the greatest professional player to ever swing a club, Jack Nicklaus, is how you etch it into stone. The Nicklaus family were members at Scioto Country Club and this is where young Jack Nicklaus worked with club professional Jack Grout to develop the golf game that he would use to win 18 majors between the years of 1962 and 1986. This record still stands today as the most majors won by a single player and at the time of this writing it appears that it may stand for long, long time.
Our tee time at Scioto was around 1PM, so Ed picked me up at my hotel early in the morning and we played a warm up round at another local course. I had hoped to play Ohio State University’s Scarlet Course but they had an event there and we were unable to get a tee time. After we finished the morning round we drove to Scioto, had a little lunch in the stag room, hit a few balls on the range and went to the first tee. Keith, another Scioto member would be joining us as well as another of Ed’s buddies. With virtually no debate among the group we decided to play from the white tees which weigh in at 6,517 yards and play to a par of 71.
The 1st hole is a par 4 that we played from 400 yards. As can be seen in the photo below a drive up the right side or a nice draw is the best play to avoid the fairway bunkers on the left side of the hole.
The approach into the 1st green gives players a good look at the type of bunkering that will be found throughout the course. The huge bunker on the left and the deep back bunker on the left can be especially penal for players that hit into them.
The course doesn’t waste much time before providing a real test as the 2nd hole is a 434 yard par 4 and the number 1 handicap hole. A good drive here will reach the top of the hill in the photo below.
The danger on the approach shot at the 2nd hole are the bunkers on either side of the green. The safe play is the middle of the green when the hole is cut is on the left or right side.
At the 3rd hole we have a 372 yard par 4. The photo below was taken from the tee box. The bunker on the left can be in play from the tee for longer hitters.
The photo below was taken from about 100 yards out from the 3rd green.
Below is a look at the green from over near the left bunker.
The 4th hole is the first par 3 and a testy one at that. From our tees it was a full 180 shot. Note the concession hut to the back left of the green. We’ll get to that shortly.
Tee shots that miss the green are going to require a fairly severe uphill pitch or bunker shot to find the putting surface as illustrated below.
Below is a closer look at the concession hut. In the 1931 Ryder Cup Gene Sarazen hit his tee shot into this hut during his singles match against Fred Robson. After moving some boxes his ball was eventually found resting on the concrete floor. Sarazen decided to play the ball as it lay and hit a shot through a window and onto the green. Sarazen, the man who hit the “shot heard around the world” at the 1935 Masters, later claimed it was the shot he hit here, at Scioto’s 4th hole, that was greatest golf shot of his career. No one remembers for sure if he made the putt, but he did end up winning the match 7 and 6.
The windows are gone today, but here is what the same shot would look like today.
The 5th hole is another stout par 4 that we played from 430 yards. As can be seen in the photo below there is a water hazard running across the fairway and it can be in play for really long hitters.
Below is a photo of the approach into the 5th green. Note the drainage pipes coming out of the stone wall. One of the things Ed told me was that the course is rarely wet, even after a big rain. This stone wall drainage ditch runs throughout the course and I suspect it plays a big roll in keeping the course playing firm.
At the 6th hole we have a dogleg left short par 5 that we played from 488 yards. A big drive here with a draw on it will definitely yield an opportunity to reach the green in two.
Below is a photo taken from the middle of the fairway. Players opting to lay up will need to avoid the fairway bunker on the left with their layup shot.
The 7th hole, pictured below from the tee, is a short 347 yard par 4. Long hitters playing driver from the tee will have to be aware of the fairway bunkers that will be in play. A 3 wood is probably a smart play here for the bombers.
Below is a view of the approach shot into the green.
And here is another angle of the green.
The 8th hole is considered by the membership to be the signature hole at Scioto Country Club. Here we have another par 5 that does not play terribly long at 494 yards. Note that during major championships this hole plays a long par 4. The fairway runs downhill a little bit and a player that can hit a draw can get a good roll and get in position to have a good angle at reaching the green in two. The photo below was taken from the tee.
If a perfect drive is not hit the best play is to lay up to the far side of the water in the photo below and have a short pitch into the green.
To reach the green players must again cross over the water hazard. Note all of the stone work around the water hazards in the photo below. I wondered how long ago the stonework had been done. As can be seen from the photos this stone work is all over the course and if I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess as to how much it would cost in 2012 dollars to have work of this scale done. Simply amazing.
The 9th hole, pictured below, is a short but vexing par 3. During the 1926 US Open Bobby Jones did not par this hole once en route to his victory. It reminded me of Bobby’s double bogey on the 10th hole at Merion in his final match of the 1930 US Amateur. In my imaginary match with Bobby Jones on holes he struggled with I am now 2 up!
The 10th hole is a great par 4 that we played from 396 yards. Drives favoring the left side of the fairway will provide the best angle into the green. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Below is a photo of the approach into the 10th green. It plays a little downhill which needs to be considered when selecting a club for the approach shot.
The 11th hole is another shortish par 4 of 352 yards. Long ball hitters playing driver will definitely need to consider the fairway bunkers in the photo below. Again, a 3 wood will likely provide sufficient yardage on this hole.
Below is a photo of the approach into the green. It will likely be a short or mid iron for most players, but accuracy is crucial as evidenced by the bunkers all around the green.
At the 12th hole we have a par 5 that plays 503 yards and is fairly uphill. A drive landing in the area where the players are standing in the photo below will give the best angle for the second shot.
Below is a look at the approach into the green. There are no bunkers in front of the putting surface so players who attempt to reach the green in two won’t be penalized for being short . . . as long as they keep it in the middle of the fairway.
The 13th hole, pictured below, is a long par 4 that we played from 419 yards. It does play a touch downhill so drives that find the fairway will get a little extra roll.
Below is a view of the approach shot into the green. Again, there are deep bunkers to create problems for players who miss the green.
Below we have the 14th hole which is a 192 yard par 3 from our tees. This hole runs straight up hill and played more like a 210 shot. Short and to the right doesn’t hurt too bad, but the bunker on the left is not a place you want to end up.
The 15th hole is a 389 yard par 4 dogleg to the right. A drive with a cut on it that bends around the trees is the ideal play here. The photo below was taken from the tee box.
Here we have a photo taken from the 16th tee box. This hole is a par 4 that we played from 393 yards. A really good drive will get out there where the players are in the fairway and leave a mid or long iron into the green.
Where the fairway disappears in the photo above it drops down and then back up to the green. The approach shot plays a little bit downhill, but not as much as it seems in the photo below. Also, what looks like a false front on the green is not near as much as it looks from the fairway.
The 17th hole is a pretty little par 3 of 159 yards. I found the best way to play this hole was to skull the tee shot, skip it through the water and land just short of the bunker furthest to the right. From there its just an up and down, right?
The 18th hole is another robust par 4 that played 424 yards from our tees. As can be seen from the photos below there are all kinds of fairway bunkers on the right that will cause trouble for drives that find that side of the hole.
Below is a look at the 18th green which is quite picturesque with the clubhouse and American flag in the background. Note the huge bunkers flanking either side of the green. Again, it’s advisable to steer clear of these for the best chance at making par.
After we finished up on the 18th green we grabbed a table on the patio for a few drinks. One of the things I found interesting about Scioto CC is that it appears to be a local hangout for the members. There were a number of large groups in the stag room and out on the patio that didn’t appear to have played golf but were just there relaxing and enjoying their club. I like to see that.
We had a great time at Scioto. The course was a great challenge, but was not overly penal and very playable. While there appears to be a lot of water on the course, its not really as much as it seems. There are water hazards crossing many of the fairways, but in actuality many of them are not really in play. There are a couple of bodies of water on the course that do require a good shot to carry, but overall our group didn’t lose many balls to the water. That said, the course is still plenty challenging and a great tournament course. It was fun to walk the fairways and think about a young Jack Nicklaus out there grinding away at his game and becoming the great champion that he is. Great history, great golf and one unbelievably fun day!