Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Scioto Country Club

Scioto (pronounced like Toyota, "sigh-OH-tuh"), Country Club is ranked in the top 100 in the world for several reasons: It is a Donald Ross design built in 1916; It has hosted five U.S.G.A. championships; It is the course that Jack Nicklaus played golf on as a young man and Bobby Jones won his first U.S. Open at Scioto. Scioto (ranked #71 in the world) was founded in 1916. One of the co-founders was Samuel P. Bush, great-grandfather of our current "decider", although I will try not to let this fact negatively influence my impression of the course.

Jones won the U.S. Open in 1926 at Scioto only fifteen days after he won the British Open at Lytham & St. Annes. Remember that this is before the era of jet airplanes, when golfers crossed the Atlantic by boat. At both Lytham and Scioto, Jones came from behind to win. At Scioto he gained the lead on the 17th hole in a final day of 36 hole play.

The Buckeye State has an abundant amount of good golf courses. Columbus alone has three world ranked courses - Muirfield Village, The Golf Club and Scioto. The state has two other courses in the world's top 100 - Inverness in Toledo and Camargo in Cincinnati. It also has three other highly-regarded courses - Firestone, Canterbury and Double Eagle.

Second green at Scioto

Like its Donald Ross designed neighbor, Inverness, Scioto has small greens. During my round I putted or chipped a lot off the collar of the greens, as did everyone in my foursome. Even if you hit the green, often times the ball bounces off or ends up on the fringe or in the rough. This is in part because they are small greens and in part because the edges are slightly crowned - not like an overturned bowl or a traditional Pinehurst #2 green, a lot more subtle. The net effect of the green designs is that the ball rolls off a lot. The approach shot to most greens is a narrow fairway area, taking away any possibility of a bump and run shot. The elevated greens are so well bunkered that the correct shot to hit into each green is a high shot that spins or lands softly. The picture above of the second green is typical of most greens on the course.

Bunker on the 2nd fairway

Scioto has been modified from its original 1916 design. All that really remains of the original Donald Ross design is his routing. The greens were redone by Dick Wilson in 1963. Although they are not Ross's originals, I found them to be challenging and interesting. As a classic Ross routing, Scioto represents the archetypal tree-lined, American-style target golf course. It is one of the most perfectly manicured and conditioned courses I have ever played.

3rd green

My favorite hole on the course was the par five eighth. Like Peachtree in Atlanta, Scioto has a creek that meanders through the rolling hills and provides an effective hazard on many holes, including the eighth. The eighth is a dog-leg through the rolling terrain that plays over water to a slightly elevated, well-bunkered green.
Approach to the 8th green

Although the course doesn't really have any similarities to a links course, the stone walls that ring a couple of holes on the back nine brought back memories of the stone walls at Muirfield and North Berwick. Below is the stone wall along the 12th fairway.

Stone wall on 12th hole

The majority of the golf courses in the world's top 100 are all about golf. Take, for example Shinnecock, Pine Valley, The National Golf Links, Chicago Golf, San Francisco Golf, Muirfield, Cruden Bay, Dornoch, Royal County Down, Royal Portrush, etc. They are not country clubs, but are focused on golf only. Scioto is the quintessential Country Club, offering a full array of activities. It has a swimming pool for families, tennis courts, an exercise room and is setup to accommodate both men and ladies. It has a series of patios, a grill room, restaurants, and even a barber shop that is still in use. You can see that Scioto is located in a nice neighborhood of Columbus by the stone houses, seen in the pictures, surrounding many of the holes, although the course doesn't have a feel of being hemmed in by houses. Jack grew up in the neighborhood behind the course.

16th green

We took caddies at Scioto, as I always do if caddies are available. I was surprised to see most members riding in carts, especially well-fed ones. One gentleman riding up and down the fairways had an unseemly resemblance to Rush Limbaugh. My advice to you porkers is lose the carts; you might actually avoid that future operation to have your stomach stapled if you get some exercise. Hello people, golf is a walking game!

Part of the Scioto clubhouse is dedicated to the history of the championships played there and to its famous prodigy, Jack Nicklaus, and his teacher, Jack Grout. Visiting Scioto is a required part of a golfer's education to see the course where a pudgy kid from Columbus developed into one of the greatest golfers of all time. It is a rewarding experience to stand on the expansive driving range and imagine all the balls Jack used to hit.

I look forward to returning to Ohio in the not-to-distant future to complete my golfing education.


Anonymous said...

Great commentary. As a Columbus native and resident, I enjoyed your keen observations. As a Columbus golfer, I have lived among the Legend of Scioto my whole life. Even driving past is a bit intimidating. The course winds through some the exclusive sections of Marble Cliff / Upper Arlington and its "old money" homes. And the stone wall that separates one of the par-4's from Lane Avenue seems symbolically a whole lot taller than its actual stature. You look over and try to see who is playing, wondering if they are Someone. More imporantly, you think that you and a buddy or three should be fit into that open slot you always see on one or two of the fairways that are just sitting there quietly with no players. You also know that ain't gonna happen. Ever.

I had the pleasure of playing it once as a young man and was in a cart with the head pro, Walker Innman. (And why weren't we walking, with caddies? I have no idea...) I belive he was 77 at the time and retired soon afterwards. He was quite obviously less than thrilled with the prospect of hosting three semi-hackers who had donated to a charity auction for the priviledge of playing. His lack of effort to acknowledge what a special day it was for us or to help us feel comfortable was disappointing, but honestly fit my expectations. I could have easily been at Bushwood being told "Well, I'll guarantee YOU'LL never be a member here!" I do love the great courses but it sure is nice to be able to relax and enjoy the experience. I am generally happier at a place where, as you say, it is all about the golf...

Regardless, I had huge respect for the course and its history and it was an honor to play there. Sounds like you felt the same. I would leap at the chance to go again.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful observations of Scioto. I had the opportunity to play there in a recent jaunt of Columbus' best and could not have been more pleased with the redesign of a Ross classic. Before speaking of the joy of the playing experience, I must comment on the professionalism and authenticity of Bill Stines, Scioto's Head Golf Professional. He and his staff could not have been warmer to our visit. There was a genuine sense that we were truly welcome. Donald Ross, as the starter, was also a nice touch; especially with his affable persona.

The golf course is challenging, yet fair. The green surrounds are rolling with many shots that will test your short game merits.

One of the nicest features of the grounds is to look out over the golf course while playing to see the rolling fairways and gentle movement of the terrain. There is certainly a special feeling playing a club with the tradition and heritage of Scioto.

It was also easy to discover why Mr. Nicklaus ball flight is left to right. Many of the holes were left to right doglegs, and as a left-handed drawer of the ball, they fit my eye well.

Congratulations to the Scioto membership for maintaining such a true piece of golf in America and the foresight to hire such a quality Golf Professional.

David said...

As a golf member at Scioto -- and yes, thrice blessed to be one -- I have some thoughts on the two prior posters and their views of our longest-tenured head pro, Walker Inman, and our current Director of Golf, Bill Stines.

** I regret that the one fellow felt he was treated less than graciously by Walker, but if it's any consolation, many members over the years experienced the same. Walker was southern in his upbringing and unfailingly polite, but he did not suffer hacks lightly. A favorite story -- perhaps apocryphal, but I hope not -- has him standing on the tee of the par 3 ninth, with the pin in the most difficult back right position; asked by one of the members he was out with for the yardage to the pin, Walker stared him down and said: "There are three members who need the yardage to that flag...and you're not one of them."
Having said this, he was very forthcoming to a new member who kept peppering him with questions about his storied playing past and the golf greats he encountered (and often beat)...and all his stories were worth the listen.

** Bill Stines is, indeed, professional with a capital "P": knowledgeable, the consummate gentleman, and genuinely friendly to all, with an unwavering determination to make sure things are "done right" at Scioto. He is also very well known and respected in the club pro ranks. Calling Scotland for a tee time at the new course at Machrihanish a year or so ago, I ended up chatting with its professional. When he found out I was at Scioto, he asked that I remember him to Bill, "one of the best in our game." And any member traveling for golf to the Carolinas, soon learns that Bill's name will open countless doors.