Sweetbriar Golf & Pro Shop in Avon Lake: The golf club of choice on Cleveland's west side
AVON LAKE, Ohio -- The 36 holes at Sweetbriar Golf & Pro Shop have been pieced together over the years like a complex jigsaw puzzle.
The final result is two courses completely different, which adds up to the perfect club for golfers of all ages and abilities. The newer Legacy Course at Sweetbriar has matured into the top stop on the west side of Cleveland. A foursome of assistant coaches from the Detroit Tigers teed it up on the course earlier this summer before a series showdown with the Indians.
"We try to tailor to every golfer," said Brian Butchko, the director of golf at Sweetbriar.
Sweetbriar: Two different courses
The first nine holes of the original Sweetbriar Course were built in the 1960s. The entire original 18-hole loop was later rerouted to make room for the Legacy. Architect Don Childs, of Michigan, built the Legacy front nine in 2002. The back nine came in a second phase in 2007.
The 6,634-yard Legacy does not play overly long, but there isn't much room for error, either. Water, trees, bunkers and a few out-of-bounds stakes from surrounding backyards will cause concern throughout the day. All the par 3s are solid to strong. The par 5s tempt long players into taking on trouble. The long par-5 fifth and 16th holes remain the No. 1 handicap on each nine.
"The par 5s are reachable but risk-reward," Butchko said. "It makes it fun for longer hitters, but for other handicaps, it's still fair."
A series of creeks and ponds keep the original, 6,006-yard, par-70 Sweetbriar course interesting. Five par 3s give players an extra chance at a birdie or better. Amazingly, there isn't a single bunker on the entire layout.
Bobby Jones, 82, of Bay View, Ohio, said he likes playing the original course more since it allows walking. He added that both courses are good tests.
"The Legacy is newer. It's in better shape," Jones said. "Sweetbriar (as a whole) is a nice facility and clubhouse."
The Legacy Restaurant & Grille Room inside a spacious clubhouse are perhaps Sweetbriar's biggest asset. There's both a casual seating and bar area with TVs for golfers and a separate section for more private sit-down meals.
Different menus serve entrees at different price points. Live music plays some nights during the summer. A nice veranda and bar out back allows golfers to chill outdoors after a round.
Sweetbriar Golf & Pro Shop: The verdict
If every small town in America had a club like Sweetbriar Golf & Pro Shop, the game would be much better off.
Sweetbriar had the feeling of Cheers during my brief stay. It seems to serve as a gathering place for the community.
Better players will enjoy the Legacy, while seniors, beginners and families gravitate toward the less expensive, more forgiving original course.
The food in the clubhouse is worth stopping in for, even if you're not playing golf.
June 18, 2013