Cleveland rocks! This football town will keep any golfer busy

By William K. Wolfrum, Contributor

Despite the blundering of its current Browns, Cleveland will always be looked at as a football town. From the Dawg Pound, where maniacal fans, likely fueled by only beer, sausage and an undying love of the Browns to Bernie Kosar to the great Jim Brown, the NFL has cast a large and imposing shadow over Cleveland.

Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow Golf Course has stood the test of time in the Cleveland area since its opening in 1925.
Sleepy HollowManakikiEagle Creek
If you go

Nonetheless, Cleveland is also a great golf town and ironically golf and the NFL will meet head-on in Ohio in 2007, when Akron's World Golf Championships event moves to its new dates of July 30-Aug. 5, and will overlap with Pro Football Hall of Fame week.

The crossover and spillover crowds should mean a bonanza for Cleveland hotels. It should also mean that some of Cleveland's top golf courses will be getting some serious play.

And in this land of football - and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - there are more top golf courses ready to be played than you would imagine. And in keeping with Cleveland's working-class image, most courses have green fees of $30 or much less.

Must plays

Sleepy Hollow Golf Course is a one-time private course in the Cleveland suburb of Brecksville that has stood the test of time from its opening in 1925.

Designed by Stanley Thompson, Sleepy Hollow gives golfers great views of the Cuyahoga River Valley and is a scenic delight, but is better known for its toughness of play. Measuring out at around 6,700 yards from the tips, Sleepy Hollow carries with it a respectable 132 slope rating, buoyed by the 64 bunkers scattered liberally throughout the course.

A semi-private course that shouldn't be a scramble to get on is StoneWater Golf Club in the Cleveland suburb of Highland Heights. Designed by Dana Fry, StoneWater features bridges, sand traps, tee boxes and lakes lined with sandstone, quarried on site as the course was being built, to give the course a special feel all its own.

Golf Digest ranked StoneWater as the best public golf course in Ohio and the 40th best public course in the country in 2003. At 7,002 yards from the tips, StoneWater plays longer than many of the older courses in the area, and the 139 slope rating is testament to the course's demands for shot making from a player.

The Donald Ross creation of Manakiki Golf Course is nearing its 80th birthday and doesn't appear to be slowing down. Playing host to the Carling Open in the 1950s, Manakiki has seen players like Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead play its fairways.

The huge clubhouse was converted from the original mansion that stood on the grounds, giving the Willoughby course a classic, old-time feel. With trees throughout, however, this 6,600-yard course earns its 128 slope rating and will have golfers battling for their scorecards on an off day.

Solid seconds

One of the top public courses in northern Ohio, Pine Hills Golf Club was built in 1957, and was designed by Harold (Pappy) Paddock, Sr. Located in Hinckley, Pine Hills is a course created for golfers, by golfers and has long been a favorite of the game's purists.

It will be about an hour's drive from Cleveland, but a trip to Norwalk will give avid golfers a round at Eagle Creek Golf Club. A pleasant, 6,500-yard run with a 126 slope rating, Eagle Creek will give you a $75 course for less than $50 during the week.

Hawks Nest was a 200-acre farm, but was made into a golf course in 1993 under the watchful eye of Steve Burns. Rated by Golf Digest as the fifth-best public course in Ohio in 1996, Hawks Nest puts great conditions together with an interesting layout.

In Broadview Heights, Briarwood Golf Club at Wiltshire has three separate nine-hole runs, which put together three diverse 18-hole layouts. The Glen Course is tight and will require some shot making, while the Ben Course has rolling, but open fairways. And in the Lochs Course, be prepared to spend some time worrying about the water that comes in to play often.

Stay and play

The downtown Ritz-Carlton was part of Cleveland's rejuvenation and continues to be one of the city's top hotels. Antique reproductions in the room add to a sense of style and class, and service is as top-notch as you'd imagine it would be at a place called the Ritz.

Also downtown, the nearby Renaissance Cleveland Hotel (formerly the Stouffer Tower City Plaza Hotel) is popular for business travelers and goes out of its way to pander to them. Nonetheless, it's also a great hotel for families or for a romantic getaway. Doubles for both the Ritz-Carlton and the Renaissance start in the $150 range.

For those looking to spend a longer time in Cleveland, think about making your home the Embassy Suites, which will give you all the opulence, plus the little things that will make it a home away from home. The 800-square-foot suites include workstations with all the up-to-date technological frills you would expect. And you'll be walking distance from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other attractions.

Obviously a vibrant town like Cleveland has its share of national lodging chains, but rooms can be hard to come by if an event is in town, so be sure to get reservations taken care of well ahead of time.

Dining out

A former speakeasy, White Oaks has long held a spot in the hearts of Clevelanders in the suburb of Westlake is a Cleveland institution. The fantastic ambience will create a throw-back feeling to prohibition days.

The menu features outstanding American fare, replete with seafood and any cut of meat you're after. For what you get, the prices are reasonable. Try the stuffed golden trout or the venison au poivre.

Klucks Restaurant has been serving seafood plates to Clevelanders since 1939 and has the customer base to prove it. It's old school at Kluck's, but the food is always first rate, as you'd expect from a restaurant that has survived nearly seven full decades. Try the surf 'n' turf or the German sauerbraten for an entree if you like, but make sure not to miss out on the potato pancakes.

If fine dining isn't in the cards, a stop at Sokolowski's University Inn should hit the spot, especially if you're after a crash-course introduction into Polish cuisine. The atmosphere is cozy and the menu includes such fare as kielbasa, paprikash and cabbage. They even carry their own beer. Be prepared for a nap after leaving Sokolowski's.

Off course

Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Miles Davis and the Sex Pistols are four of the 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they give a good sign of the musical diversity that permeates one of Cleveland's most popular landmarks. Explore all of Rock and Roll's history here and again feel like the giddy, music-loving teenager you once were.

Other attractions include Cleveland Play House, Children's Museum, festivals and special events, such as the National Air Show.

Fast fact

Water sports enthusiasts in Cleveland take advantage of nearly 100 miles of Lake Erie shoreline and its many private and public marinas, as well as numerous inland lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams.

William K. WolfrumWilliam K. Wolfrum, Contributor

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.

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