My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences
The Golf Bucket List
#5, Par 4, 430 Yards
For my money, the fifth is one of the better holes on the course, and forces a decision from the tee. Longer hitters will likely need to lay up short of a creek that runs across the fairway with maybe a long iron or fairway wood. I'm not long, so I just hit driver and all was well. The landing area is downhill from the tee, so that needs to be taken into account as well. The approach goes back up a slight hill to a green that allows a run-up shot if desired. Ideally, this is a fade off the tee and a draw into the green for the right handed player.
#4, Par 3, 180 Yards
The first par three at Scioto looks relatively tame from the tee and has a very nice look with bunkers cut into the elevated perch that the green lays on. However, beware, especially of a front pin location. This green has a severe false front and anything that falls off that edge, or doesn't get all the way to the green surface will roll back, and to the right, which leaves a very awkward and difficult up-and-down. A shot to the middle of the green is all you should try for, no matter where the hole is.
#14, Par 3, 192 Yards
This is the longest of the par threes at Scioto. Missing the green to the right runs the risk of stumbling down the hill. A fade is the best play. Again, not the most jaw-dropping of holes--especially since the other three are pretty good looking.
As we walked over from the putting green to the first tee, there were rumbles of thunder in the area. It didn't look good, but there was a slim chance the storm might barely miss us, so we decided to give it a shot and see what happened. As we talked about tees, there was some discussion about picking the set of tees all the way back. We had played the tips at Camargo the day before, so we were feeling a little burly. However, at 6,970 yards and a par 71 from the Black tees, we thought that was just a bit much--especially with the pending weather on the way. So, we picked the Blue Tees, which play to 6,513 yards and have a rating and slope of 72.5 and 137. The Black tees are rated at 74.7 and 140. Four other teeing grounds are available in front of where we played, with the most forward tees measuring 5,073 yards. I'll quote the Blue Tees below:
#16, Par 4, 393 Yards
With three holes to play, this one looks pretty tame from the tee and seems to continue on underwhelming land. However, after the tee shot, you'll see the creek coming back into play. It much be carried on the second shot. The green is an upside-down triangle, with bunkers protecting the front point. A run-up shot is plausible, but it had better be precise to avoid them.
#7, Par 4, 352 Yards
With only a very slight bend to the left, the seventh hole is one of the easiest holes on the side as long as you avoid the bunkers that straddle and pinch the fairway in the landing area. Four bunkers surround the "corners" of the green and will catch any bad approach, but most will be coming in with a wedge, so this is definitely a scoring opportunity.
There are several clubs in America who can proudly say they are where legends learned and honed their game. Immediately coming to mind are Latrobe CC for Arnold Palmer and East Lake (Atlanta Athletic Club at the time) for Bobby Jones. Scioto Country Club, is definitely among these, where one of the game's greatest ever grew up and learned his craft--Jack Nicklaus. While the connection to Jack Nicklaus is notable, Scioto's story started well before he was even born.
Founded in 1916, Scioto Country Club occupies a great piece of land just to the west of The Ohio State University and a touch to the northwest of downtown Columbus. The club was founded to be a prominent social pillar of the community of Upper Arlington. After Donald Ross laid out a spectacular 18-hole routing, it didn't take long for Scioto to stake its claim as one of America's best courses. In fact, it had only been around for a decade when the first US Open was played on the property in 1926, won by none other than Bobby Jones! While it didn't get the global attention that it does today, Scioto hosted a Ryder Cup in 1931, won the the American side, which was captained by Walter Hagen. The final professional championship (excluding senior professionals) took place in 1950, when Chandler Harper won the PGA Championship. Beyond those, the club hosted a US Amateur in 1968 and US Senior Opens in 1986 and 2016.
Beyond the national tournaments that were held, it was probably the club's own tournaments that were just as notable as Jack Nicklaus grew up, under the tutelage of the club's longtime head professional, Jack Grout. Jack first picked up a golf club at the age of seven, and started hanging around Scioto to learn golf beginning at age ten. As he grew up, Jack would earn a collection of championships, both local and around the State of Ohio, with the demanding championship course at Scioto partly responsible for requiring him to build a game that would be able to achieve success anywhere.
Jack's influence at Scioto goes beyond his playing career. After Dick Wilson was brought in to renovate the course in the early 1960's, the club hired its most famous native son to work on a renovation in 2008 to update the course, along with Michael Hurdzan. For better or worse, the course is to be tweaked again in 2021 under the guidance of Andrew Green, who recently completed Ross restoration work at Inverness and Oak Hill, and has been engaged to work on Interlachen in the future as well. The original routing looked a little something like this:
A wonderful clubhouse with loads of history--almost a Jack Nicklaus museum in spots.
#11, Par 4, 343 Yards
The 11th hole runs roughly parallel to the 7th and is very similar. They're both roughly the same distance and play roughly straight-away to pinched fairways. Both are wedges into the green. This green is a bit tougher and better better protected, but it's still just a wedge. Take advantage of this part of this corner of the property.
#3, Par 4, 372 Yards
Making another turn to the left, the first three holes at Scioto explore the outer edges of the property. After this hole, you'll turn to some of the internal portion of the plot. The third is pretty straight-forward and a bit of a breather after the tough second. A Nicklaus-trademark fade would be the ideal play, which should leave a wedge into a well-sloped green.
Like with many old-time clubs, a men's grill area is attached to the locker room. This one is really large and a great place to hang. Apparently, former Ohio State football coach comes in essentially every day to hold court in a corner table. As a Michigan grad, I was sorry I missed out on seeing him. Notice the club logo on the carpet below--I pretty cool detail that I'm not sure I had seen anywhere else before.
#10, Par 4, 396 Yards
With the opening nine occupying the eastern half of the property, the second nine occupies the western portion and is laid out in two horseshoe shapes that go around the practice range, first in a counter clockwise direction on the outside, and then back clockwise on the inside. For my money, this is over less interesting land and the lesser of the two nines. However, the 10th is on plenty interesting land and doesn't fall under that description at all. From the tee, it has an appearance of a dogleg, but is actually completely straight. After clearing the hill, the approach is down the hill and over the creek. This is a a good hole.
#9, Par 3, 145 Yards
Playing back to the clubhouse, the one-shot ninth gives you a chance to get a refreshment at the turn! The green is well defended by four bunkers. As you may notice, it had gotten a little dark and just started raining. Just as we were about to hit our shots the horn blew for a second time and the sky opened up. We were lucky that we were close to the clubhouse and literally ran as fast as we could up the hill and back to the grill room. This delay would be longer as we waited for the sensor to give the all clear. Most folks on the course called it a day--we did not! Our host was patient enough to wait it out with us and we had some drinks while we waited for it to be safe to play. After we headed back out, we grabbed carts for the rest of the round as one of our caddies had another obligation and couldn't wait out the delay. The intensity had worn off (after some beers) and on the back nine our main priority was just getting the rest of the round in.
After the storm--a little brighter and clearer
After getting our shoes on, we headed over to the range to loosen up on the same grounds where Nicklaus learned his game. It was a hot and sticky July day, and this would be the beginning of a bit of a long day--more on that later.
After loosening up the long game, it was time to hit some putts. The main putting green is right in front of the clubhouse, immediately adjacent to the first tee, and has a huge American flag right in the middle. It's a super cool place to get your short game in gear.
Note some of the center-line bunkers in the middle of fairways on the routing map above. These are not in the current course. It will be interesting to see whether Andrew Green brings some or all of them back.
When I had the opportunity to play Scioto, I was thrilled to step foot on the grounds that had all this history. Approaching a club is always like opening presents on Christmas--there is so much anticipation and you just can't wait to see what you're getting. At Scioto, I have to admit, my first impression was one of shock and surprise. Being such a classic club, I was expecting to see a fairly small and classy looking property. Classy? Yes. Small? Absolutely not. The drive up the hill toward into the club has a feel of entering something of a campus rather than a country club. The way the grounds are laid out there are There are several buildings that you'll pass before you even sniff that there's a golf course here--and there is activity at all of them. To get to the back drop, continue as far back as you can, and park toward the back right corner; by the practice range. From there, you can leave your clubs for your caddie and head inside to change shoes in the awesome locker room.
#13, Par 4, 419 Yards
I found the three-hole loop on the western end of the driving range to be the most bland and ordinary portion of the course. This hole is all right in front of you. No tricks--just fairly long with bunkers on either side of the fairway and surrounding the green. Not a bad hole or anything--just not much unique to this one. The original map had a large bunker in the middle of the fairway that looks like it would have had to be carried on the approach. Restoring something like that would bring some interest back here
#12, Par 5, 503 Yards
After hitting a wedge into #11, you now face the longest hole on the course (from the Blue Tees) and the final par five. It's about 290 yards to carry the bunkers, so most will just hit it out to the right of them. From there, the hole bends around to the left, and a bunker on the outside of the hole around the landing area for a layup. A draw into the hole is ideal if you're going for it in two.
#17, Par 3, 159 Yards
Here is another example of where the course has lost its way a bit from it's original Ross form. If you go back and look at the routing map I posted above, the green originally laid with the creek behind it. It appears at some point in the club's renovation history, the green way picked up and moved to the other side of the creek, and the creek was enlarged to become a small pond. The shape and bunkering around the green is also quite different. I'm not saying this is a bad hole--I'm just saying it doesn't really fit with Ross's original intent, nor does it fit with the rest of the holes that he DID build. It's just an instance of where a thoughtful restoration could make things more consistent throughout, and perhaps what Andrew Green will be doing.
#18, Par 4, 424 Yards
While this is not ranked as the hardest hole on the side, by handicap, I'd argue that it is just that. With the gorgeous American flag right behind the green, it's a memorable finishing hole that will make a strong finish something to brag about in the grill room. A long fade that lands softly into the right-to-left tilt of the fairway is ideal. From there, it's a mid-iron into another green with bunkers on either side.
#1, Par 4, 400 Yards
Teeing off right in front of the clubhouse, the first swing of the day heads almost due South with a three-bunker cluster pinching the fairway on the left. Most greens at Scioto are flanked on either side by bunkers with run-up options of varying widths on many of the holes. In the case of the first, the room to run up a shot is quite wide. After we hit our opening tee ball, we headed out to find our balls in the fairway. However, right when we got to our second shots the horns blew. We would be forced to walk back to the clubhouse and take a rain delay right away. The good thing was this gave us a chance to experience the grill room for a little while, take a tour around the clubhouse, and do some shopping in the pro shop. The PGA Tour was playing just a few miles away at Muirfield Village the same time we were at Scioto. With live coverage on TV in the clubhouse, it was very frustrating that there was quite a long period of time where the tour guys were allowed to play, while we sat waiting for the lightning sensor to give the "all clear." Eventually, we were allowed back onto the course and headed back out to find our balls, finish the hole, and move on.
#6, Par 4, 488 Yards
Turning back the opposite direction, the sixth hole is the first par five on the course and bends pretty hard to the left. A right-to-left shot off the tee ideal to match the shape of the hole and get to the plateau to position for a second shot. Cutting the corner over the trees would only be the play for the pros and the longest of the long. The back tee is nearly back all the way to the first fairway and makes the hole 556 yards and requires a 220 yard shot just to get to the beginning of the fairway, which would be blocked on the second shot. I was glad we didn't play from there! After a good drive, getting home in two is definitely possible, and favors a left-to-right approach. Or, you can certainly always lay up, but take the fairway bunker on the left into account when plotting your strategy, as it pinches the landing area.
Playing Scioto was an experience that exceeded my expectations. I've heard many critics say the course lost of its Ross after Nicklaus and other architects came in and put their own fingerprints on the course. There is probably some truth to that, but the original Ross routing is largely in tact and could be improved with some thoughtful thoughts to restore some of his strategic intent. The experience is truly special and this is a club that I'd be thrilled to have the privilege to enjoy every day. With other prominent clubs in the area, Columbus is a tremendous golf town, and Scioto is certainly one of the best experiences in town. Thank you to MS for extending a welcoming hand and making this such a special day--even more for sticking around through two rain delays so we could finish up!
#2, Par 4, 434 Yards
Once the sun came back out and the storm cleared, it didn't take long for the summer heat to come back. Similar to courses like Oak Hill and Inverness, Ross weaved his routing around and over a creek that crosses the property and comes into play in many different ways. Looking at an aerial map, it looks like the creek doesn't really exist outside the grounds of the club, so maybe it was covered up as residential communities were built around the course? I can't imagine Ross created it. However, I digress. The tee ball on the second hole is the first time you'll carry the creek, but it will only come into play on a terribly mis-hit shot. The drive needs to carry up to the top of a hill, right a deep bunker on the right side that must be avoided. From there, it's a mid-iron into a green surrounded on either side by bunkers. I really liked the look of this hole from the tee--being able to see the meandering creek without trees obstructing it was cool. Also as you walk the fairway on the second, you'll see some great houses that border the club.
#15, Par 4, 389 Yards
Another hole that perhaps added to the reasoning that Jack Nicklaus learned to hit a fade. It's definitely the preferred ball flight off of this tee. From the fairway, the hole bends to the right, over flat land and into a green with three bunkers surrounding.
#8, Par 5, 494 Yards
The eighth at Scioto is the best hole on the course in my opinion, and probably the most recognizable hole on the course. The pros play this one as a long par four, which wouldn't be much fun. But, as a par five, it's plenty fun, and presents a chance to make all kinds of different scores. Shorter hitters can air right at the bunkers which appear through the fairway in the distance. Longer players should air left of those, and over the knoll, or draw the ball off of them. From there, the player needs to decide whether to take on a heroic shot into the green with water all down the left and protecting the left portion of the green. Bailing out to the right is challenged by a bunker to the right of the front edge of the green. Even a layup is no picnic since water goes all down the left. My buddy hit a great approach shot which went over the back left of the green and somehow stayed dry before holing out his pitch for eagle. It was quite a sight to see! If you scroll back up to the original map, the pond on the left was originally just the creek. At some point, this was expanded into a wider and more intimidating feature.