Golf At Sugar Creek not so sweet after the long drive to Lima
LIMA, Ohio - Two-and-a-half hours of driving time one way to reach a golf course may not sound bad. But if the golf isn't worth it that can make for a long day.
Such is the case with Golf At Sugar Creek, which does little to distinguish itself from thousands of other golf courses. Only five years old, the trees aren't mature yet, so perhaps the course will acquire more character when they grow in. But as it stands right now, the course is rather featureless and shows a singular lack of creativity.
When you enter the property and drive down Sugar Creek's own version of Magnolia Lane, you get a glimpse of No. 9, a par-3 of 190 yards lined on both sides by heavy woods. It looks about the width of a standard residential home driveway, and all at once, you marvel at the difficulty of the hole and the fact that you could probably have created a similar looking hole by driving your beatup Pinto through a cornfield and sticking a flag in the ground where you stopped. Mentally preparing yourself for a tight layout, you then get a few holes under your belt and realize that Sugar Creek is wide open…and there's little protection from stray balls from golfers on adjacent fairways and tees.
Head professional George Palombi defends the course, however, saying it's one of the better courses in the area.
"It's a course where a lot of people will grab their clubs and round up their buddies and play the back tees, which measure at 6,810 yards," he said. " ... The GPS on the carts attracts people, too. When this course opened in 1999, it was the first new course in the area in 25 years, so many people came out of curiosity. Being new, we have a modern drainage system, and we haven't closed a single day because of rain."
The course starts out promising with No. 1, a hearty 475-yard par-5 yards where water lurks on the left side of the fairway. The problem is that you can't see it from the tee and don't know how far it extends across the fairway. Good golf course designers signal trouble well, but that's not the case here.
But that sounds like an excuse worse than, "The cloud I was aiming at moved." To the course's credit, each cart comes outfitted with GPS at no extra charge, so you know what's coming before you get there.
But it's too bad GPS can't steer you to the right hole, and you can't take advantage of its precise yardage readings when the "cart paths only" rule is in effect. In many places around the course, directional arrows to the next hole aren't placed in the appropriate spots and cause confusion. One wonders how many linksters have mistaken hole No. 18 for hole No. 2 and headed back to the clubhouse in record time. And on some holes, yardage markers were too difficult to locate…if you found them at all.
Another pet peeve: holes that share the same tee box. Such is the case with the fourth and sixth holes. No. 6 is one of the more distinctive holes on the course, a 130-yard par-3 that forces you to hit over a ravine to a large, undulating green that's an easy three-putt.
But No. 4, a 390-yard par-4, has to be one of the most unfair holes in Ohio. The hole is a dogleg right, and the branches of a large tree to the right of the tee extend so far across the fairway that anyone who cannot hit a fade will either have the ball batted straight down or miss the fairway if they aim too far left. Locals shouldn't be surprised to someday read in the weekly newspaper about an angry golfer who came back under the cover of night and cut this bad boy down.
The staff says that the tight No. 9 hole visible from the entranceway is the course's signature hole. Bushwah! The vote should go to No. 7, a twisting, turning par-5 of 505 yards with a stream that spoils any big lug's idea of going for the green in two. Even if you successfully lay up short of the water, you face an blind approach shot uphill to the green.
Perry Miller thinks the course could be better, too. And Miller knows his golf. A 9-handicapper, he plays 60 rounds a year, and has played Golf At Sugar Creek seven times.
"It's well-groomed, but it's young yet and needs some time," the Waynesfield resident says. "It's not even close to being in my Top 10 for Ohio, but it has the potential to be really good."
Miller agreed that the course could use more yardage markers, saying that he thought they relied too heavily on the GPS system. In his estimation, only 50 percent of the sprinkler heads have markings, but he says the staff knows that and is working on rectifying the situation.
Palombi explained that "the previous owners had never let walkers on the course, so no yardage markers were ever needed. We've recently done laser yardage and put it on sprinkler heads, and people are allowed to walk now."
Asked if he'd recommend this course to others, Miller said that if they were taking a trip to Lima he'd steer them to Colonial Golfers Club or Hawthorne Hills first.
Although Golf At Sugar Creek can at times turn on the rural charm with old farmhouses and native grasses swaying in the wind, the golf experience just isn't worth the long trip in store for most out-of-town linksters. Its Web site claims that it's a "public golf course with country club service," but there is no such service in evidence.
There's no bag drop service, the clubhouse is small and the pro shop offerings are meager. A snack bar provides the only food service, but there is a nice outdoor patio area to do your munching. As you play each hole, you constantly search for something that distinguishes this course from others. Although nicely manicured, the layout elicits an arm stretch and a loud yawn.
Palombi said the course offered better service when it opened but that changed when prices were cut in half. "Lima is a blue-collar town, and other courses in the area charge $17 to $20 for 18 with a cart. So after a couple years of finding no repeat customers or people from outside the area, the owners dropped the price," Palombi said. "So you have to go within your means. You have to find a reason for people to spend another $40 to play your course, and it was hard to make a go of that. For outings, we do offer bag drop service."
Stay and play
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Fairfield Inn By Marriott
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Burgundys Italian Grille
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Bandido's Restaurante Mexicano
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Captain D's Seafood
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A historic barn dating from the 1860s and the original homesite overlook the 17th fairway.
March 23, 2005