With good golf, food and stores, Columbus has attractions for all

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Jack Nicklaus Museum TrophiesCOLUMBUS, Ohio -- It might be hard to believe driving around Columbus, but the capitol of the Buckeye State is actually the 15th-largest city in the U.S. What might be harder to believe is that Columbus is on its way to becoming an honest-to-God golf destination, and not just for highly rated courses like Longaberger Golf Club, The Golf Club at Dublin, and Cumberland Trail Golf Course. The city has a surprisingly rich golf history, as well as an increasingly varied potpourri of recreational and gastronomic alternatives.

In 1903 a manufacturer of hickory buggy whips named William Burke realized that the horse was on its way out as transportation, so he retooled his business to make hickory-shafted golf clubs instead. Today, nearby Newark is the home of GolfWorks and Dynacraft, two of the three largest golf club component companies in the nation.

Oh, yes. And there was that local boy - the Buckeye golfer with the golden hair and game-altering power - who made good, so they built a museum for him.

Fact is, whether golf, business, or one of those famous game-day tailgate parties at The Ohio State University brings you to town, you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover what this unassuming burgh has been doing with itself over the last decade.

For those rainy days

One often over-looked aspect of a quality golf destination is the range of rainy-day and evening options. Take for example Myrtle Beach: How many seafood buffets and tacky bars can one really stomach?

Jack Nicklaus Museum Statue Columbus boasts a goodly number of distractions when you're not on the links. Perhaps the most interesting of these is also the newest: The Jack Nicklaus Museum. Located right on The Ohio State University campus, this shrine to The Golden Bear contains artifacts, memorabilia, and art collected by the Nicklaus family throughout Jack's illustrious career. Admission ranges from $9 for adults to $6 for students.

A couple of the highlights: The George Low Wizard 600 Sportsman putter with which Nicklaus won 15 of his 20 majors, the video montage of Jack's TV commercials, and a film narrated by Sean Connery (every time he waxed poetic in his unmistakable brogue about "a young boy'sh schwing," I cracked up). And nowhere else in the world can you see six Master's trophies in the same room.

The museum is more than just a parade of trophies, though, and Executive Director, Gerald Goodson, "wanted to make sure the museum was digestible for the scholar, the stroller, and the streaker alike. We want everyone to be able to take something away from here." Just don't take away one of the Master's trophies, please. Visit the wonderful gift shop instead.

When You're Golfed-Out

There's no shame in admitting that you've had enough golf for the day. (Well, not much shame, anyway.) Fortunately, when you're golfed-out, Columbus offers about, oh, a thousand better options than plate after plate of deep-fried ocean detritus.

Jack Nicklaus Museum - Arena District One of the best places to go is the Arena District, which revolves around Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL team. The 95-acre district is pedestrian-friendly and houses an 18-screen movie theater, an outdoor concert venue, a variety of dining options, hopping nightclubs, and shopping.

And speaking of shopping, if you or your non-golfing significant other would like to indulge in another pastime that involves a lot of hunting around for something you'll never find, no place offers as many ways to run up your credit card debt as Easton Town Center. With over 70 upscale dining, shopping, and entertainment establishments, this outdoor town-square, combined with an indoor mall, contains enough retail shopping (and bars) as to make the experience bearable even for those of us who hate to shop.

Where to Stay and Eat

If Easton Town Center sounds like just the ticket to keep the non-golfers in your life placated while you traverse the links, the ideal place to stay is right across the parking lot. The Hilton Columbus was awarded AAA's prestigious Four-Diamond rating last year, and it's easy to see why. The stately brick Georgian-style Hilton is obviously fashioned after the grand hotels of old-world Europe, but on a newer, larger, even more luxurious scale. (There's even a seafood buffet, if you absolutely cannot control yourself.)

Cherry Valley Lodge Lobby If you'd prefer your accommodation to be somewhat more low-key, but no less plush, the Cherry Valley Lodge is located 35 miles east of Columbus. Close to some of the best courses in the state, Cherry Valley Lodge is a unique 200-room resort-style lodge. It may also be the nation's only hotel recognized in two categories by the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta for its lush, expansive gardens, including over 2,000 plantings of over 400 species.

Replete with public lounges and entertainment, biking trails, pool, workout room, and massive fieldstone fireplaces everywhere you look, Cherry Valley Lodge handles the enormous weddings of millionaire socialites as deftly as it does weekend golf getaways. Senior Sales Manager Jim Hudgens used to work in the golf industry, and he's created a number of package deals in connection with local courses. Besides posh executive suites, the lodge also has rooms outfitted especially for two golfing buddies: Two beds separated from one another by an entertainment center with two TVs, one facing each way.

Cherry Valley Lodge Courtyard One of the best parts about the lodge is the wide range of refreshments and entrees served in the casual elegance of the bar and dining room. Specialties of the house include tournedos of beef over crabcakes, and sage and peppercorn duck breast with pecan wild rice.

For another unique libation station, check out the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café, where you can drink in OSU sporting lore as you drink in one of the locally hand-crafted brews. The steaks come highly recommended, as do the loaded potato skins, which are just slightly smaller than canoes…cheese-covered canoes…mmmm...

The Cradle of Ohio Golf

Mr. Burke could hardly have imagined what Columbus would look like a century after he whittled his first hickory golf club shaft. Now home to an NHL team, one of the largest university campuses in the country, dozens of public and private golf courses, and shopping galore, Columbus could soon start to challenge Indianapolis as the Heartland's best urban golfing destination.

This cradle of Ohio golf is still home to not only GolfWorks and Dynacraft, but also Toski Golf and the new Aztec Golf. At any of these the devoted golfer can find club components, finished clubs, and fitted clubs - basically everything a golf geek could every want.

GolfWorks is also planning a paradigm-shifting complex for the near future: a 155-acre golf course that will incorporate three courses into one, all on the same property. The idea is to provide a facility for novice golfers to improve themselves, scratch golfers to test themselves, and all golfers to get fitted for and test out new clubs. According to Dave Stewart, GolfWorks' Vice President of Marketing, it will be a complete golfing "experience," a reason in and of itself for golfers to visit Columbus.

Add one more to the list.

Columbus Vitals

Hotels

Hilton Columbus
3900 Chagrin Drive
Columbus, OH 43219
Tel: 614-414-5000 or 800-HILTONS
Web: www.hilton.com

Cherry Valley Lodge
2299 Cherry Valley Road
Newark, OH 43055
Tel: 740-788-1200 or 800-788-8008
Web: www.cherryvalleylodge.com

Diversions

Jack Nicklaus Museum
2355 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, OH 43210
Tel: 614-247-5959; Fax: 614-247-5906
Web: www.nicklausmuseum.org
Admission: Adults $9, Seniors $7, Students $6

Columbus Blue Jackets
Nationwide Arena
Web: www.BlueJackets.com

GolfWorks
4820 Jacksontown Road
Newark, OH 43058-3008
Web: www.golfworks.com

Food

Buckeye Hall of Fame Café
1421 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, OH 43212
Tel: 614-291-2233
Web: www.buckeyehalloffame.com

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.


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