Betcha didn't know these facts about these Ohio golf courses

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

CLEVELAND -- If you're an avid golfer, you probably like to play a lot of different courses for a variety of different experiences. You might play one course because you heard it's exceptionally challenging. You might play another because you heard it has the best greens. You may have even decided to tee it up at a course because of its rich history.

But let's face it: you'd have to be a golf nerd to the highest degree to play a course because of the fun little facts of its past. I mean, who digs around for these little tidbits about a certain famous golfer playing this course or military training exercises happening at that course? The fact of the matter is that most golfers don't care. All they want is to notch a few birdies or (gasp!) a hole-in-one.

Well, dear reader, I'm here to tell you that the noteworthy nuggets of nonsense from a local links' past IS worth hearing about and might make good conversation during your next rain delay. The following courses around Cleveland all fall into that "I bet you didn't know!" category, so quit practice putting and listen up:

Highland Park Golf Course. Few know that this course hosted the Cleveland Open in 1964, and that "Champagne" Tony Lema won. The win capped a brilliant four-week stretch for Lema that also included wins at the Thunderbird in Rye, N.Y., and the Buick Open at Grand Blanc, Mich., Lema also won the British Open that year. The Blue Course is a par-71 that measures 6,740 yards. The Red Course is a par-71 that measures 6,322 yards.

Avondale Golf Course. The Nolls who own and operate this golf course are second cousins of legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll. George Noll built the front nine in 1974, but died of a heart attack before he could finish the back. His sons built the back nine and today run the course with mother, Jane. No word on whether or not ol' Chuck has actually played the course.

Hilliard Lakes Golf Club. Part of the land the course is built on was officially listed as Avon Airport. The 18th hole was the runway, and in World War II military pilots trained there.

Tam O'Shanter Public Golf Course. This golf course consists of two courses, the Dales course and the Hills course. The Dales opened in 1928, and the Hills in 1931. As the story goes, when Hills opened, developer T.K. Harris invited Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen from the Western Open to play the dedication round. And a Massillon bootlegger provided the booze.

Sleepy Hollow Golf Course. Guess who used to be the pro here from 1975-1988? Cigar-chomping Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to win a PGA Tour event (the 1967 Hartford Open, where he shot 64 in the final round). He also won the PGA Seniors Championship in 1975, amassed over $1 million in career earnings, and published an autobiography in 1992 called, "Just Let Me Play."

Springvale Golf Club. Feeling footloose and fancy-free? Then you should get over to this course, which features a ballroom. Original owner George Biddulph built the ballroom on his family's farm in 1923. The City of North Olmsted now owns the course, but the ballroom is still active, with big bands playing there four nights a week.

Skyland Golf Course. This course in Hinckley south of Cleveland was supposedly the first course in the area to eliminate the "Women After Eleven a.m. Only" rule. As quoted in the Cleveland Golfer's Bible, owner Tim Rhodes says: "We thought that rule was one of the most arrogant things around. We were the first to break it. We didn't see any sense to it, and I have women with permanent tee times on Sunday mornings, as well as women's leagues." A woman-friendly course, no doubt.

Manakiki Golf Course. The 200-acre property of this course was originally the summer estate of Howard Hanna, a prominent Cleveland industrialist. The property was then obtained by a group from the Willowick Club and converted into Manakiki Country Club, and the Hanna mansion was converted into the clubhouse.

EagleSticks Golf Club. This course, which features a pet cemetery on the first tee, used to be a horse farm owned by the McClelland family. At rest in the cemetery are Dad McClelland's favorite hunting dog, Boots, and trophy trotters OK Mac, OK Dick and Little Champ.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • who will be d winner of british open

    kanayo wrote on: Jul 12, 2004

    i hv been trying to reach u people long ago,well golf is a game of d mind,if realy u hv no mind what will u be able to do to ur game to inprove it?and u will want to play in ur tour how will u be able to register some one,plz send me all ur infomation about ur tour and what it takes.ok iam a golf proffessional in i will luv to be one of ur registerd members.ok
    my name in ,kanayo anslem chukwu.thanks .bye