Putt great greens at Cumberland Trail Golf Club in Pataskala
PATASKALA, Ohio -- If there's one piece of advice for playing Cumberland Trail Golf Club, it's this simple tip.
Stop at the putting green for a good 10 minutes before the round. Unless you're a high roller used to putting country-club greens that rev up to 12 or more on the Stimpmeter, it will take some time to get used to Cumberland Trail's slick surfaces.
The only other clubs in greater Columbus using A4 bentgrass greens are Muirfield Village Golf Club, site of The Memorial Tournament, and Scioto Country Club. Not bad company, right? Cumberland Trail's greens consistently run faster than Longaberger Golf Club, the gold standard for public golf in central Ohio.
Scott Bierly, a member who lives near Cumberland Trail, has played highly ranked courses in Myrtle Beach, S.C., during the World Amateur and in Nevada during golf trips to Las Vegas and Mesquite, but he's never found a more pleasurable place to putt than Cumberland Trail.
"They are the best greens I've putted," Bierly said. "They stay that way year round."
Cumberland Trail is a Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry design that opened in 2000. The 7,205-yard playground, roughly 22 miles west of Columbus, features two distinct nines, a more forgiving, open front side and a tougher, tree-lined back nine.
"The front nine is more of a links," said Mike Pickett, the head professional at Cumberland Trail. "The back nine has more hazards and tight landing areas. I like the back a lot better."
Most players take on the whites, which play a manageable 6,403 yards with a 70.5 rating and 124 slope. The course allows a player to warm up a bit before throwing water in their face starting at the fourth, a 360-yard par 4. Water guards the next four holes, notably a creek that forces a lay-up off the tee at No. 7, a 378-yard par 4. This is just an introduction to the more prominent wetlands that dominate the home stretch.
A killer loop starts at the par-5 12th, where a small hazard dissects the fairway. Wetlands on No. 13 and trees on No. 14 squeeze tight tee shots. The course allows players to catch their breath on No. 15, a drivable par 4 of 301 yards, before a monster finish. The 481-yard par-5 16th can be reached in two by avoiding deep bunkers surrounding an elevated green full of severe undulations. The 195-yard par-3 17th and the 385-yard par-4 18th decide many matches.
Pickett played golf with former Ohio State University star Kevin Hall when Hall shot a course-record 65. Hall, an African-American who is deaf and currently playing on the Hooters Tour, mastered the greens that day, a skill that eludes many visitors to Cumberland Trail.
"It (the course) is attracting a lot of guys who play from the back tees," Bierly said. "We (members) would like to see it stay a hidden gem."
Cumberland Trail Golf Club: The verdict
The friendly staff and greens alone - along with the value - make Cumberland Trail one of the top-tier places to play in Columbus. Although the layout and setting won't blow you away, it's got hidden gem written all over it.