Sadomasochistic golfers will enjoy tight, twisty Black Diamond
MILLERSBURG, Ohio - There should be a sign outside the clubhouse of Black Diamond Golf Course. It should have a skull and crossbones on it, and it should read: "Warning! This course could be hazardous to your health for those golfers with average skills and below average physical conditioning."
But there is no sign…and no other advance warning, for that matter. You're lured down from Cleveland or up from Columbus by the promise of scenic valley views and Amish country serenity, only to be buggy-whipped into reality by a course that regulars wholeheartedly agree is one stiff test.
"Some of the holes are a bit unfair," says Jay McCulloch, a resident of Millersburg and 10-handicapper who plays the course often. "You have to be an avid golfer to enjoy this course. I would recommend this course only to low- to mid-handicappers. For the person who doesn't score well, you won't get many breaks."
True, you might see an Amish buggy or two on your way there, and you'll see so many of God's fingerprints on the hills and valleys of this course that you'll think you're a cast member of CSI. But if you're easily frustrated and don't like uneven lies, fast, undulating greens, several forced carries over water, and losing a lot of golf balls, then pack a picnic basket and go watch a farmer tend to his field or something else because you'll have a much more memorable day.
"You can't go fairway to fairway here," said Don DeHass, a 12-handicapper and another Millersburg resident. So perhaps he's partial when he says that Black Diamond is the most beautiful course he's ever played. But he's brutally honest about how the course sets up. "You can't recover from going astray here. It's target golf. You have to hit your spots, and you'll probably only use your driver a few times."
Owner Walter "Bud" Eppley talks about his course's ferociousness with a hint of pride. "I've had pros play here and walk away with a score in the 90s," he says with a laugh.
The torture begins on the 490-yard par-5 first hole with a forced carry over water from the tee. But this hole is representative of the breathtaking beauty of this golf course: natural rock formations, ponds and waterfalls…and probably one of the reasons Golf Digest named it one of the Top 25 courses in Ohio in 2002.
The 610-yard par-6 seventh hole that a brochure brags "can play up to 720 yards" is clearly a gimmick hole as a solid drive and 3-wood will leave you with a sand wedge in. But hey, it makes it that much easier to score an easy eagle.
The 405-yard par-4 12th hole is where those of weak heart and little patience might tie their golf towel to the end of a 3-iron and wave it in distress. It's the tightest driving hole on the course, barely 20 paces wide, with water running down the entire left side of the fairway and deep woods on the right.
But don't think there aren't holes that you can catch your breath on. The fifth hole is a straightforward par 3 of 128 yards, as is the 13th (125 yards). Most of the par 4s aren't over 400 yards, and the 18th is a par 5 that measures a mere 443 yards. But again, don't expect to recover from wayward shots. Areas of tall natural grass, thick woods and deep lakes gobble balls insatiably.
This course would be a great place to take eight of your buddies for a weekend romp. You can stay at the lodge on-site, fish in the ponds and drink beer til you drop without the owners complaining (but bring your own alcohol because it's not sold on the premises). And the course with all of its challenges is sure to satisfy the testosterone-lover in you. But this course is not for senior citizens or the Stepford Wives, or your children who are just beginning to learn the game. Never mind the tough golf - this course will physically exhaust you, cart or no cart. Bud and son Jeff keep this course in top shape, and the views are priceless. You won't mistake this place for a country club - there is no bag service, spacious locker room or 5-star eatery on site, and the clubhouse is merely a trailer, albeit a neat and well-stocked one complete with homemade Amish fry pies and displays of fossils dug up during excavation. But this is a course you have to play merely to say you did it and lived to tell about it.
Stay and play
7500 Township Road 103 Millersburg, Ohio 44654
This is a lake house on the golf course available by the day or week, including all-day golf, fishing privileges and a row boat. $300 a day for eight or more, not including golf. (330) 674-6110
Roscoe Motor Inn
Coshocton, Ohio 43812 (740) 622-8736
Guggisberg Swiss Inn
5025 St. Rt. 557 Charm, Ohio 44617 (877) 467-9477
South Side Mo's Restaurant & Tavern
149 W. Front St. Killbuck, Ohio 44637 (330) 276-0600
Hotel Millersburg Tavern
35 W. Jackson St. Millersburg, Ohio 44654 (800) 822-1457
5324 C.R. 201 Berlin, Ohio 44680 (330) 893-3333
Two operating oil pumps are located on the course.
July 9, 2004