If I were to start my own golf club today I would hope it came out looking exactly like The Golf Club in New Albany, OH. The Golf Club was founded in 1967 by Fred Jones with the simple goal of having a private club where he and his friends could play golf and enjoy themselves. Mr. Jones managed to piece together a 400 acre parcel of land and then took a chance on a virtually unknown architect by the name of Pete Dye to build his golf course. When the project was finished a world class golf club was left as a monument to their partnership.
Thanks to my fellow Top 100 golfer Larry Berle I’m playing The Golf Club today with his friend Bob. Bob is also a member at the Double Eagle Club in Galena and we played there together yesterday. Larry intended to join us for the weekend but ran into difficulties getting out of Minneapolis so Bob and I are playing as a two ball again today.
Columbus, OH is huge. I had no idea how large the metropolitan area here is. Just to make sure I really knew where I was going when it counted I did a dry run the day before to make sure I could find my way to the club and be on time the next morning. It ended up being a snap, and this morning I repeated my route and reached the club’s entrance right on time. Upon driving through the gates and down the main road towards the clubhouse I immediately got a feel for the expansive size of the property. Four Hundred acres is a huge amount of land for a golf club. Some of the early 20th century courses on the Top 100 list are laid out on less than 150 acres, so Pete Dye had plenty of land to work with when he routed this course.
I met Bob right outside the pro shop as he was on his way to the driving range. He directed me to the locker room so I could change shoes and gave me instructions on how to meet him at the range. I cut through the quaint little pro shop and over to the main clubhouse building where the dining and locker rooms are located. When I stepped through the door to the locker room I saw what might be my favorite locker room ever. There were tables and chairs in a bar area, leather couches for lounging, card tables, stacks of books and magazines on golf, exposed wooden beams, a huge fireplace and rows of nicely aged dark wooden lockers. The photo below didn’t turn out so great but the locker room is absolutely incredible.
There are lockers along the sides of the main room pictured above and the photo below is of the rear locker area towards the back.
After I changed my shoes I headed back outside to find my way over to the range. Once we were sufficiently warmed up we went to the putting green to wait our turn. The practice green here is unique in that it is a shared green with the 18th hole. This is something I’ve not ever seen before. As there are no tee times at The Golf Club so members just hang around on the putting green until its their turn to go off. The membership is VERY small at 150 so even at its busiest times there aren’t many golfers on the course. When we walked up there was just a four ball on the first tee and they waved us up to go in front of them which was great since there was only two of us.
We played from the white tees which were 6632 yards. The first hole pictured below is a 349 yard par 4 dogleg right. Be sure to click on the photos if you want to see a larger version. The smart player will avoid the bunker on the right. Its very much in play for a sliced shot and the grass in the middle of the bunker is very long and very penal . . . trust me on that. Bob made a nice putt for a Birdie here which got his round off to a great start.
The 2nd hole is a long par 4 at 444 yards with a blind tee shot. The photo below is not a very exciting one, but it is exactly what the player sees from the tee box. The fairway is right where the caddie in red is standing.
The 3rd hole pictured below is a fantastic par 3 that plays 185 yards. Shots that fall short will find the water and those that are long will get in the nasty bunkers behind the green.
Here is a closer in shot of the green.
Finally a shot of the 3rd hole bunkers taken from the 4th tee box. Note that Pete Dye was using his signature railroad ties even this early in his career.
The 4th hole is a 518 yard par 5. In the photo below you can see that the fairway throws everything to the right so the line is to play down the left hand side as close to the tree as possible.
The photo below is of the 4th green. I was in no position to go for the green in 2 after my drive so I laid up and this is where I hit my approach shot to the green from.
The 5th hole is a 400 yard par 4 with an interesting tee shot. As illustrated in the photo below you have to carry the bunker and thread the ball between the tree on the left and the woods on the right. It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult of a shot, but it was a bit of a knee knocker for me.
The approach shot for the 5th hole is pictured below. Its a bit of a narrow chute to get your ball in there and onto the green. There is also a nasty marsh area that must be carried to reach the green. I suspect that short hitters are forced to lay up here if they don’t think they can carry the marsh.
The picture below is of the carry that must be made in order to reach the green in two. Best not to be short here. I suspect that if a player lays up short of the marsh this is roughly where the 3rd shot will be hit from.
The 6th hole is a 425 yard par 4 dogleg left and is the number 1 handicap hole. The best line is to cut off as much as possible by driving the ball down the left side. Note the cool old railroad car covered bridge on the right side of the photo below.
The photo below is where I hit my approach shot from. It was roughly 180 yards to the flag. Still a long way after a really good drive. I’m pleased to say I hit it to about 3 feet and sunk the birdie putt.
The 7th hole is a 509 yard par 5. Unfortunately for me I hit my drive WAY right so getting there in 2 was not happening. My caddie gave me detailed instructions to hit a 9 iron up and over the trees through a narrow opening between two trees and back to the fairway which I did perfectly. Below is where I hit my 3rd shot from. Its slightly downhill to a fairly small green.
After I again followed the caddie’s instructions to the letter and hit my shot onto the green pin high I got a comment from him that I’ve never gotten from a caddie before. He said “Sir, you are very fun to watch.” Haha. I’ve gotten a LOT of comments from caddies, but never that one!
The 8th hole is another great par 3 that played just 135 yards from our tees. As can be seen in the photo below there is water around the green. As I also found out there is water long and to the left as well. My ball found a creek over there when I yanked a 9 iron over the green.
The 9th hole is another fairly long dogleg left par 4 at 409 yards. The photo below is of the green as you make the turn at the clubhouse.
As is often times the case, as the quality of my golf game goes down so do the number of photos that I take. Unfortunately that is the case with the second nine at The Golf Club. The photo below is of the green at the 183 yard par 3 11th hole. This is a fairly straight forward mid-length par 3.
The 13th hole pictured below is another par 4 dogleg left that plays at 352 yards from the white tees. You have to be careful on the drive here as you can hit it through the fairway which is exactly what I did. A good line is aiming right at the two trees in the middle of the photo below.
The 14th hole is a great par 5. It is LONG at 586 yards. Bob told me a great story about a friend of his that parred the hole hitting driver 5 times. First off the tee and then two more times from the fairway. That left him a little touch shot from just off the green which he used his driver for and then tapped in his par putt with the driver. Whatever it takes to get the par!! The photo below is of the tee shot. The well struck drive aimed at the birdhouse in the distance will carry the bunkers and be in the middle of the fairway.
Below is a photo of the 14th green. This hole just felt huge. At 586 yards it was long but the pure acreage of the hole felt just enormous.
The 16th hole is yet another great par 3 that plays 178 yards from the white tees. It is to a raised green so if you are short you will be chipping uphill and may not be able to see the flagstick.
The photo below is of the 16th green. If you look directly above the flagstick you will notice a rope hanging from the tree. This is a hangman’s noose which I supposed tells us exactly how difficult this hole can play.
The 18th hole is a 417 yard par 4 with a forced carry over water to the green. The photo below is taken from the end of the fairway.
There are a couple of interesting things I’d like to point out about The Golf Club. The first is a unique tradition in regards to the locker room. There are exactly 150 lockers and exactly 150 members. When a new member is accepted into the club he is assigned a locker in the rear of the locker room. As the member’s seniority increases he will move forward to a locker in the main room. Finally, when the member passes away the brass name badge from his locker is removed and mounted on the mantle above the fireplace in the locker room effectively making way for another member to move to a forward locker and a new member to be accepted and move into a rear locker. The members like to say that you start out at the rear and move towards the front but your final move is always to the fireplace. What a great tradition.
Another interesting point is that there has never been an outside event held at the golf course. Mr. Jones’ intention was for the club to be used by the members and he set the precedent of not having outside events that has held to this day. At one point the USGA was considering moving their headquarters to the The Golf Club’s property and the conversations came to an immediate halt when the USGA revealed that they would want to have the U.S. Open there. Not even for the USGA and the most prestigious event in American golf was the club willing to waver!
The Golf Club is what I would call a daily use club. A large number of members use these facilities as their primary club and the result is a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The membership is all male (though women may play as guests at designated times) and its not hard to believe that this is the kind of place where a member can show up on a Saturday morning and pick up a game with the guys. I suspect that Fred Jones would be proud to see his club continuing to be a place for friends to gather and enjoy themselves.
The Golf Club is great. This is not only a great golf course, but a great club and if I lived in the Columbus area I would delight in an opportunity to be a member here. In my opinion its exactly what a golf club should be. It was great to see Pete Dye’s early work before he carved out his niche as the architect who loves to torture golfers. His layout at The Golf Club is challenging but it is still a lot of fun to play. Definitely my favorite Pete Dye course that I’ve seen so far.