Trip Dispatch: Public golf in Jack's neighborhood

By Brandon TuckerAugust 19, 2013, 2:38 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For golfers, it pays to be well-connected in Columbus. 

Famed architect Alister Mackenzie's Scarlet Course at Ohio State University Golf Club, which was restored by Buckeye alum Jack Nicklaus in 2006, checks in on Golf Digest's Top 25 in the State. But Muirfield Village, The Golf Club (New Albany) and Scioto all crowd the very top of the state list.

The home town of Nicklaus should produce a legendary course roster, right? Private club-wise, it's probably the best metropolis in the Midwest. Daily fee offerings, on the other hand, are a little more scattered. But with a little driving, the destination stacks up; that's especially true if you have a home club with good reciprocal access -- or maybe an uncle in Columbus who owes you a big favor. 

OSU Scarlet

The Scarlet Course at OSU Golf Club: A Mackenzie classic in Columbus. 

On the public side, because there is currently such an oversupply of courses, green fees in the area tend to be an absolute steal. In fact, three courses I played during my trip are publicly on the selling block: Longaberger, Riviera and Table Rock. Perhaps Urban Meyer has a hankering to buy his own area course (or maybe he's content with his membership and house at Muirfield Village...)

Top 100 public golf at Longaberger

50 miles east of Columbus is the area's best public course, Longaberger Golf Club. The drive is well worth it, because Longaberger simply has too many elements no course closer to the city can offer. With 645 acres, the property is expansive (enough for a second 18 holes that was routed and shaped by Tom Weiskopf in 2000 but never seeded). The existing course, designed by Arthur Hills, is a marvelous canvas for golf: a perfect amount of gentle roll in the ground to go with plenty of unique natural features throughout the round. 

Low lying holes play through forest and alongside meadows, while others play on exposed high ground with long views. The 4th tee box has the best vantage point of the lot, overlooking a fairway and pond well below with long, green hills on the horizon as far as the eye can see. The 8th hole, however is one of Hills' coolest: a long, par 4 with a sweeping, split fairway that kicks balls sharply right-to-left down towards a peninsula green:

Longaberger 8th hole

Ohio has no shortage of extravagant golf facilities and Longaberger's is among the most lavish: a 25-acre practice area as well as an 80,000-square-foot clubhouse. Built at the top of a hill at the behest of Longaberger Company founder Dave Longaberger, it's complete with large locker rooms, a bar and restaurant. VIPs can dine in a private board room normally reserved for Longaberger execs, or the main dining area offers its own delicious fare and far-reaching evening views. If you want to play a few rounds here, you can stay in the nearby town of Newark, which has a little town square plus a new, sleek hotel, the Metropolitan, that offers stay-and-play packages with Longaberger and other east side courses. 

Former exclusive clubs open their doors around Columbus 


Across the street from Muirfield Village is semi-private Riviera Golf Club in Dublin. 

The Columbus suburb of Dublin is well-known for Jack's masterpiece at Muirfield Village. But across the street is a private-turned semi-private club, Riviera, that golfers attending the Presidents Cup or The Memorial Tournament can make an easy diversion for a round of their own. A traditional parkland course built in 1970 with scattered trees lining fairways and plenty of small ponds and streams, it's a pleasant and walkable course, particularly considering it's in private-worthy shape.

Whether Riviera is still around in 2014 remains to be seen. The club's owner, the American Italian Golf Association, is currently mulling a sale to a real estate developer.

New Albany, a northeast suburb of Columbus, is known on the golf radar for the proudly-named The Golf Club, one of Pete Dye's early layouts. Nearby, Winding Hollow (formerly a private club named Tartan East) has new ownership, a new name and fantastic course conditions. Area golfers have certainly come to discover the now-public Winding Hollow; it's presently in's Top 100-rated courses nationally. Another design by Hills, it's a narrow, shot-makers course with doglegs and well-guarded greens. The risk-reward par-5 18th feels like a hole made for a PGA Tour finish with a tough tee shot followed by a decision to go at a green guarded by water right and traps left: 

Winding Hollow

Winding Hollow's reachable, par-5 18th hole is a fantastic finisher. 

Nearby, New Albany Links offers a course that's wider and more forgiving than narrow and shady Winding Hollow. It was designed by local architect Barry Serafin, who worked under Nicklaus and the team of Michael Hurdzan-Dana Fry.

Rural, laid-back golf around Columbus

Eagle Sticks

In Zanesville, Hurdzan-Fry's dramatic Eaglesticks Golf Club is worth the drive from Columbus. 

To a city dweller like myself, there's something all too charming about driving a two-lane highway outside of a city to the land of red barns and rows of corn. That's easy to do in central Ohio. 

If you're staying east of Columbus towards Longaberger, add a round at Eaglesticks in Zanesville. Set on rolling acreage that was formerly a horse ranch, the rural charm is complete with covered bridges, bubbling streams and forest.

A couple other courses in the countryside are Table Rock (which seems to have more bird houses than tee boxes throughout the loop) and Buck Ridge. Both exude the rural vibe, are fun to play and are really easy on the wallet.

View more tee times in Columbus on

Getty Images

McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

Getty Images

McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.