Windmill Lakes: A course fit for a champion

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

RAVENNA, OH - Before PGA Tour star Ben Curtis won the British Open in 2003, Windmill Lakes Golf Club was merely a highly regarded golf course in the Cleveland/Akron area. Now, it's become somewhat of a holy site where Ben devotees from all over go to walk the same turf he did as a member of the Kent State Golden Flashes golf team from 1996-2000.

Plans are underway to install a rock with a brass plaque on it commemorating Curtis's achievement. Herb Page, who owns the course and is also in his 27th year as the Golden Flashes' head coach, sounds like a giddy schoolgirl when he talks about the changes Ben's big win have had on his life.

"I was able to caddy for him on the Monday of the Masters, and he invited me out to the British Open at Troon this year," Page says. "And I still give him some coaching when he asks for it."

A whole wall of the aged clubhouse is covered with team photographs from over the years showcasing the golf talent that Kent State has graduated, including Curtis, David Morland IV (PGA Tour), Karl Zoller (Nationwide Tour) and Kevin Kraft (Hooters Tour).

"Four or five of my former players hold the course record of 63," Page says proudly.

No small feat on this course, which touts its length of 6,936 yards from the tips as the main reason it's regarded as one of the toughest around. There are also 59 bunkers to contend with and fairways lined with trees that have had since 1970 to mature into golf ball-deflecting demons. One pleasant surprise is that not a single hole requires a forced carry over water -- although several of the water hazards are large enough to intimidate even (dare it be said?) the mighty major winner.

The greens, however, cause more migraines than the few aquatic atrocities. Severely undulating and lightning fast, they make three- and four-putts a common occurrence.

"They're always in phenomenal shape, and they're the best part of this course," says Jason Shadima, a 0.7-handicapper and frequent visitor to Windmill Lakes. Shadima didn't have the same to say for the snack bar, which he claims has been closed on his last three visits. According to staffers, the snack shop, which is run by the on-site restaurant Cipriano's, will sometimes close early if it's a slow day. So be warned, snackhounds: pack a granola bar or banana just in case.

Tom Klemens, who drove an hour from Lakewood to play the course for the first time ever, also said the greens were very challenging and that the course as a whole doesn't favor dimbulbs. "It forces you to think about your shots," said Klemens, who plays 15 to 20 times per year. "Club selection is crucial." The only negative comment he had was that the course lacked character and could have been more aesthetically pleasing.

Okay, so no member of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy's Fab Five would do cartwheels over the fake windmill stranded on its own deserted island in the middle of the lake on no. 1. But it justifies the name of the course, right?

Far more pleasing is the fall foliage and immaculately trimmed tee boxes, fairways and greens, none of which will be seen from on high as the course is basically flat. The good thing about that is, of course, that uphill, downhill, and even sidehill lies are virtually nonexistent. Of greater concern are the trees, one of which makes the 387-yard par 4 no. 10 the tightest driving hole on the course. Page says about the narrow no. 18, a 380-yard par 4: "If you don't hit it in the fairway, you're in the pines." This hole also plays into the wind and is uphill the whole way. Another hole of note is no. 17, a 390-yard par 4 that features a finger of marsh area that comes into play on the approach shot to the green. Like every green on this course, this one is protected by numerous bunkers, ensuring that erratic golfers will have a day at the beach.

The verdict

For the history alone and the opportunity to worship at the altar of Big Ben, Windmill Lakes is a course golf nuts should take a gander at. If it's good enough for the USGA (which annually hosts a U.S. Amateur Public Links sectional qualifier there) and the Mid-American Conference (which has held collegiate men's golf championships there), then it's good enough for you. In addition, it boasts one of the most well-stocked pro shops in the state that has earned accolades as a top club fitter for all brands. A nice touch is yardage books mounted in the carts, and well-marked distances on both the fairways and cart paths. Two other nice features are a driving range and Italian restaurant (Cipriano's) that offers high-class fare like filet mignon and lobster tails.

Stay and play

Fairfield Inn by Marriott
9783 State Route 14
Streetsboro, OH 44077
(888) 452-1166

Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suite
9459 State Route 14
Streetsboro, OH 44077
(800) 465-4329

Comfort Inn
9789 State Route 14
Streetsboro, OH 44077
(800) 228-5150

Dining out

6544 State Route 14
Ravenna, OH 44266
(330) 297-0440

Scorchers Casual Eatery & Draft House
9244 Market Square Dr.
Streetsboro, OH 44241
(330) 686-8333

El Campesino
9169 State Route 14
Streetsboro, OH 44241
(330) 626-9777

Fast fact

Windmill Lakes is the home course of the Kent State Golden Flashes and British Open champion Ben Curtis.

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

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