Cleveland's 'Big Three': Classics by Donald Ross and Stanley Thompson you can play

By Jason DeeganJune 24, 2013, 10:27 pm

WILLOUGHBY HILLS, Ohio – Cleveland rocks when it comes to classic public golf.

Only the Sandhills of North Carolina offers more pristine public courses designed by Donald Ross than Cleveland. The Manakiki Golf Course in Willoughby Hills and the Hawthorne Valley Golf Club in Solon are both former private courses preserved today as Ross museums of golden age architecture. The Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Brecksville, America’s best public Stanley Thompson design, affords architecture aficionados a great trio of classic courses to play in greater Cleveland. The Cleveland Metroparks own and operate both Manakiki and Sleepy Hollow.

Tom Kochensparger, the manager/club professional at Manakiki, pointed to his 18th hole as a quintessential Ross closing hole, a par-4 that climbs to an elevated green in the shadow of a magnificent clubhouse. “Donald Ross, what a following he has,” Kochensparger said.

Hawthorne Valley Country Club

A struggling country club got a second chance when Hawthorne Valley opened to the public in 2010. The 6,533-yard par-70 course, established in 1926, has survived the passage of time in remarkable shape. Golfweek ranked Hawthorne Valley fourth among the state’s top public courses for 2013.

“It is this great old course that’s been preserved,” said Shaker Heights resident George Shapiro, sitting at the bar before a recent round. “You can see how it fits into the contours of the land.”

Much of the original Ross routing is still intact, except for a few new tees, new fairway bunkers and ponds on holes 11 and 15 added over the years. Assistant Golf Professional Robert Jersan said the many doglegs make the course play longer.

“A lot of people come here just because it’s a Donald Ross course in good condition,” he said. “It's challenging. I can’t think of another course anywhere with greens this small. You've got to have a solid short game because everybody misses greens out here.”

Manakiki Golf Course

Manikiki Golf Course

The name ‘Manakiki’ is believed to be a Native American word for 'maple forest.' The 6,641-yard Manakiki Golf Course, dating to 1928, used to be a private club before opening for public play as part of the Cleveland Metroparks in 1961.

In 1990, a master plan was developed to renovate the golf course and restore much of its original Ross character. The plan included installing water and irrigation systems, building a pond on the third hole and restoring a pond at no. 15.

Manakiki’s up-and-down terrain and awkward lies terrorize good players during qualifiers and tournaments. “For a short course, it beats people up and eats them alive when it’s firm and fast,” Kochensparger said.

Sleepy Hollow Golf Course

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow Golf Course gracefully follows the rolling hills of the scenic Cuyahoga River Valley, originally opening as a country club in 1925 on land leased from the Cleveland Metroparks before turning public in 1963.

Thompson, a Canadian highly regarded for his work at Banff Springs and Jasper Park in the Canadian Rockies, cofounded the American Society of Golf Course Architects. He once had an office in Cleveland, according to Kochensparger.

The 6,723-yard par-71 Sleepy Hollow remains the best of the 27 U.S. courses he’s credited with designing. Its greens are fantastic and the forested land still looks as it did when the layout opened without a house or road in sight. Golfweek ranks Sleepy Hollow no. 2 among the state’s top public courses and no. 15 among the country’s top municipal courses in 2013.

“It’s got a nice combination of forced carries over valleys, but golfers can still bounce the ball in to the greens,” said John Fiander, Sleepy Hollow’s head golf professional. “The tees are close to the greens. That’s classic design.”

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.