My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences

I'm kind of biased in giving a review of Inverness, but it's a course I really enjoy, and a classic American parkland design.  The club has a very laid back feel and a great amount of history backing it up.  It hasn't had a PGA Tour level tournament since 1993, which means many of today's pros have never played it.  It would be a great amount of fun to see how today's bombers would stack up to this golf course.  Hopefully, some day that day will come.

#17, Par 4, 438 Yards. 

A really cool dogleg left.  The high-faced bunker on the left is death, but avoiding it leaves a downhill shot into a green with bunkers everywhere.  I especially like the view back up the hill toward the fairway when standing on the green.

#18, Par 4, 329 Yards

My favorite hole on the course, by far.  You can hit pretty much anything off the tee here, but keep in mind that precision into the green is a must, so make sure what you leave yourself off the tee is a club you're very comfortable with.  I'm a driver man off the tee and like to leave myself with as short an approach shot as possible.  I usually come in with either an LW or SW into this green.  Off the tee, bunkers await on the left and right, but a drive on the right often banks off the hill and back into the fairway, as long as you're not TOO far right, which will stay up on the hill and make for a ugly approach.  The green is what makes this hole so devilish.  A birdie is very possible, as is a double or triple, or worse!  The green slopes HARD from right to left, and one of the most unique features of the green is the "Valley of Sin," a slope cut into the edge of the green at an extremely sharp angle.  Missing off this right edge presents an extremely difficult....darn near impossible up-and-down.  So, if you can hit this green, you can score.  Missing it can be a nightmare.  

#14, Par 4, 446 Yards

Straight away.  This leads off Murderer's Row of four straight tough par 4's, only to be followed by the devilish 18th.  14 is long, but the green is receptive to a long approach.  It's good-sized and conducive to a run-up shot.  Down the left side off the tee is a horseshoe bunker that flanks the left sides of #14 and then #15.  Avoid it!  For a long hole, it's tough, but very fair.

#15, Par 4, 436 Yards

A speed slot off the fairway awaits, but it's not easy to hit.  The approach is downhill.  Avoiding the bunkers on the right off the tee is important.  More often than not, it's about a 6 iron into the green for me.

#16, Par 4, 399 Yards

Another fairly straight one.  Hitting the fairway is a big deal, as the rough seems to be extra thick on this one.  A large green 

#12, Par 3, 149 Yards

The last par 3 at Inverness, this is a classic Donald Ross one-shotter.  Surrounded by bunkers, this one is all carry over a see of rough and then sand.  This is one of only three par 3's and two par 5's at Inverness to go along with 13 par 4's!  Most cookie-cutter courses these days have only ten par 4's, so this is a fairly unique routing.

#13, Par 5, 498 Yards

After finishing the last par 3, it's not on to the last par 5 on the course.  This one is reachable in two with two long shots.  It's straight away.  The second shot must carry a valley and the Burn to get up to the top level and potentially onto the green.  A layup isn't a bad play either though.  Take advantage of a scoring opportunity here, because there aren't many left.

#11, Par 4, 369 Yards

Straight away.  The drive is not terribly challenging, though the club is adding bunkers down the right side this year, so I'll have to get back to you on that statement.  I would usually say that a drive in the right rough isn't that bad, but that might change!

#10, Par 4, 345 Yards

#10 starts a four hole stretch where you need to make up some ground at Inverness.  These are four playable holes before a nasty stretch of four par 4's, and then the famous 18th.  #10 is a fairway wood off the tee for most and runs roughly parallel to the 1st.  You can hit your drive further to the right than it looks, but make sure to avoid the fairway bunkers.  From there its a downhill wedge, over the Inverness Burn to a postage stamp of a green surrounded by a natural amphitheater.  One of my favorite holes on the course.  Just fun!

#9, Par 4, 418 Yards

More than any other hole, the choice of tees is critical to success on the 9th.  There's a 50 yard difference between the Tips (Blacks), the Golds, and the Silvers.  It goes 361 yards, then 418, and then 468.  Choose wisely!  The hole is a dogleg right with two fairway bunkers down the right side.  The small green is well guarded by bunkers with the entrance drive and OB long.

#8, Par 5, 537 yards

The current 8th hole is the last of the Fazio holes, and replaced what used to be 6-8.  The current 8th is a hard dogleg right.  During the 1979 US Open, this hole became famous when Lon Hinkle, among others, chose to drive the ball well left of the intended target area and down the 17th hole, which acted as a shortcut to cut the dogleg, taking about 80 yards off the length of the hole.  Not pleased with this strategy, the tournament committee and USGA planted a Blue Hills spruce tree overnight between the first and second round.  This tree is now known as the Hinkle Tree and still stands proudly.  From the Golds and back, this should be a 3 shot hole.  The green is tiny and is divided into the right and left halves by a ridge in the middle of the green.  Being on the wrong side of the ridge presents a tough two putt, and is all the more reason that this is a three shot hole.

#6, Par 3, 195 Yards.

No tricks here.  Just a long par 3 to one of the trickiest greens on the course.  It's not very undulating, but subtle breaks make this one very tough to read.  A par is a very good score.

#5, Par 4, 398 Yards

#5 and #6 are the second and third of the four Fazio holes.  Five is a nightmare for a slicer (like me).  A driver with a fade has a very small landing area and cannot go too far right since a creek runs the length of the right side and all the way to the green.  Many people will choose a 3 wood here, but it can leave a long approach to a tough green with the creek guarding the front right side.  The green slopes left to right, so an approach to the middle will funnel to a right pin.  If you can hit a draw, this hole isn't too bad.  If you can't, hold on for dear life!

#4, Par 4, 439 Yards

The first of four pretty nasty holes.  Four is a smooth dogleg left to another green that must cross a valley (and a creek).  The drive can be farther left than you can see off the tee, but too far left falls down a hill and leaves a sidehill approach.  The fairway is relatively wide, and hitting it leaves a long iron approach to a green with a major false front.  The whole green runs from front right to back left.  Bring enough club to carry the false front.  Long is usually not a bad miss.

#3, Par 3, 177 Yards

This is the first of the "new" Fazio holes and often draws criticism as not really fitting with the rest of the course.  A flat hole with a pond on the right.  The green runs from left to right into the water, and a pin on the right side isn't to be attacked.  Also avoid the bunker on the left, lest you are left with a nasty bunker shot to a green that runs away from you with the water on the far side of the green.  Just air for the left side of the green or the middle, take a par, and move on.

#2, Par 4, 375 Yards

#2 can be attacked, it you hit it in the fairway.  Driver may or may not be the play here to avoid the fairway bunkers.  A driver will probably leave a wedge shot into the green, which is partly blind from the fairway due to mounded bunkers that block the view.  The good thing about the greens at Inverness is that if you hit them, you likely have a relatively short putt left.

#1, Par 4, 389 Yards

The 1st tee, along with the 10th present one of the more memorable scenes at Inverness.  The tees are close together, joined by closely-mown fairway, which runs all the way down a valley.  The holes go in the shape of a V, with bunkers dividing them down the center.  Between the two tees is a putting green that can be used as a last minute warm-up before hitting the course.  A really cool view.  So, the drive is to a relatively tight landing area.  The reddish tree off in the distance is a good line.  The practice range is on the right, and is actually in bounds for member play, but playing a ball out of it requires you first to find the ball amid a sea of range balls, and then to dodge incoming missiles, so it's not recommended.  After avoiding the range and collection of deep faced bunkers to the left, the approach is a short iron which carries another valley to a green that sits just barely on the top plateau.  Leaving the approach short will make for a tough up-and-down 

It's a bit awkward writing a review of Inverness, because this is currently my home course.  I was lucky enough to become a member of this club in 2013, so I know the course well.  However, in 2014, I will need to re-learn certain portions of the course, as a large renovation project is current underway.  The project is calling for the restoration to different philosophies of Donald Ross's original design, including:

  • Rectangular cornering of many of the green complexes 
  • Grass faced bunkers that were more common in Ross designs
  • Fairways shaved all the way to the entry points of many of the fairway bunkers so that balls off line cannot end up short of the bunkers in rough

A few bunkers are being added.  The 1st and 10th holes are being lengthened, and the greens, fairways, and tees are being re-grassed, to eliminate some un-welcome strains of grass and diseases.  All-in-all, my first trip around Inverness in 2014 is going to be like un-wrapping a Christmas present!

A bit about the club itself.  Inverness was founded in 1903 on farmland several miles west of downtown Toledo, Ohio.  Today, the club has a much more urban location and feel than many of its colleagues on the Top 100.  There is no tree-lined entrance or guard gate at Inverness--just a relatively short brick wall that separates Dorr Street from one of the most historic clubs in the Midwest.  

The club was "put on the map" for the first time in 1920, when it hosted its first US Open, won by Ted Ray, who took home a prize of $500 with a 72-hole score of 295.  The 1920 Open was notable for a couple reasons.  First, this was the first US Open played by both Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.  In addition, it was the final US played by Harry Vardon.  However, the most famous historical moment of this tournament came when the club invited all contestants, pro or amateur, into the clubhouse.  While this sounds normal, it was unheard of at the time for professional golfers to have access to a clubhouse.  As a "thank you" to the club's hospitality, the players took up a collection, and purchased a cathedral clock, which still stands today in the main lobby of the club, keeping accurate time.  On the clock, is inscribed:

God measures men by what they are

Not what they in wealth possess

That vibrant message chimes afar

The voice of Inverness

This was the first of four US Opens to be held at Inverness, along with two PGA Championships, two US Senior Opens, one US Amateur Championship, and two NCAA Championships.

Three of the most famous names in Inverness history include:

  • Byron Nelson -- Mr. Nelson served as the club's Head Professional from 1940-1944, and considered Inverness his "home course" many decades later.
  • S.P. Jermain -- The founding member and first club President, Mr. Jermain is credited as the person who first conceived the idea of the Ryder Cup.  
  • Frank Stanahan -- The Stranahan family has been instrumental at Inverness, but Frank is best known as being the world's best amateur golfer in the 1940's and early 1950's.

Now to the golf course.  Inverness is a classic design, and makes use of two large valleys that the designers used strategically to have impact on a number of holes.  The Inverness Burn also winds its way through a number of holes on the course.  I said "designers" earlier, because a number of different people have had their hands on the golf course.  The original design was actually a nine-hole course designed by Bernard Nichols.  Donald Ross came in to create the full 18-hole routing between 1917 and 1918, in advance of the National Open.  Prior to the 1931 US Open, A.W. Tillinghast was hired to modify the course.  Dick Wilson had his chance to tweak Inverness in the mid-1950's, but it was Tom Fazio who made the most drastic changes to Inverness by actually changing the routing.  Fazio eliminated four holes prior to the 1979 US Open, and replaced them with four holes that would spread out the course to make more room for spectators.  This work was completed in 1976.  Finally, Arthur Hills has put the finishing touches on the course that you see today.  What remains is 7,255 yards of challenge from the tips, playing to a rating and slope of 75.6 / 142.  The biggest challenge comes from the small greens that make up Inverness....really small!  The postage stamp greens demand precision off the tee, as approach shots from the dense rough are tough to put on the putting surfaces.  The course has an extensive caddy program, and walking is strongly encouraged.  While there are a lot of ups-and-downs when walking Inverness, it's a very walkable course, and fun test indeed.

Readers who might be willing to help me with one of the Top 100....I'd be more than happy to reciprocate with a trip around Inverness when you're in town!

I'll quote the Gold Tees below, because they're the set that I play most often from the Golds, Inverness plays to 6,790 yards (73.2 / 137).  The Silvers are commonly played as well, which are 6,457 yards, and there is a scorecard for Combo tees between Golds and Silvers as well.

Inverness Club

‚ÄčToledo, Ohio

Checked off the Bucket List August 2, 2012

Golf Magazine:

#83, Top 100 Courses in the World (2013)

#43, Top 100 Courses in the U.S.(2013)   

Golf Digest:

#69, America's 100 Greatest Courses (2015-2016)

#5, Best in the State of Ohio(2013-2014)