Best of Ohio full of can't-miss spots

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

CLEVELAND -- For a state that's covered in snow half the year, Ohio doesn't do too badly as far as golf is concerned. It's home to some of the best courses in the country and some of the most avid golfers you'll find. It may not have oceanside views or palm trees, but hey, it's got, uhhh, OK, never mind.

When you walk into a cave, you don't grab the nearest blind man to lead you through it, do you? Of course not. You need an experienced guide. Same goes for exploring the vast world of Ohio golf. I, dear reader, am your guide. I'm certainly not the wise old man on the hill yet, but neither am I a greenhorn. And I won't bail on you if we lose each other in the dark or bats dive-bomb our head. So take my hand and let's explore the "Best of" in Ohio:

Best course

StoneWater Golf Club in Highland Heights has been consistently recognized as one of the best public upscale courses not only in the state but in the country, and I must give it the nod over all others. The conditions are immaculate, and the combination of natural wetlands and ponds, creeks and tee boxes lined with limestone quarried on-site make for intense visual stimulation. The service is first-class, too. This is the best place for Joe Hacker to feel like he's part of the country club set for a day.

Best place to scope out chicks

Without a doubt, Thunder Hill Golf Club in Madison. At least it was in 2003, when the Playboy Scramble was held there. The course, known for its "monster" length (7,504 yards from the "Thunder" tees), was chosen by Playboy as one of 18 courses across the United States to host the event. Those teams that made it to the finals became guests of honor at a VIP Players' Party at the Playboy Mansion. Thunder Hill was the perfect choice for a local qualifier -- just the raw challenge it serves up is enough to pump up your testosterone levels, never mind scantily clad Playmates running amok.

Best weekend getaway

Who was the "Real Man of Genius" who created Longaberger Golf Club? Men all over the planet should bow and kiss the corns on his feet. Why? Because he created the perfect "decoy" weekend getaway trip for guys. You go there with your wife ostensibly to tour the home office of the nation's premier maker of handcrafted baskets, but then you slyly mention to your better half that, "Oh gee, there happens to be this great golf course on-site too, and we should really check it out." You'd be a fool of Jean Van De Veldeian proportions not to. This is one of the best courses in the state. In fact, Golf Digest named it "America's Best New Upscale Public Course" in 2000. You can stay at the Longaberger-owned Place Off the Square featuring "The Gift Place" gift shop where you can reward your wifey difey with a basket for putting up with watching you do your Bill Murray-as-Carl Spackler imitation 18 times.

Best hole

No. 11 at EagleSticks Golf Club in Zanesville, a 591-yard par-5 that plunges downhill and over a creek, then twists around a stand of sycamores to a wide but shallow green. This hole will definitely make you cry -- the first time from its sheer beauty and rural charm (an old corncrib is still there), the second from scoring a 10 and tearing your scorecard to pieces. But don't just visit this course because it has one great hole -- it's one of the best in the state, period.

Best place to have an outing

Bob-O-Link Golf Course in Avon may not be the most manicured course in the state, but it sure is a heck of a place to have a golf outing. Who wants to have an outing at a prissy country club anyway? This is a man's course, a place where you can get drunk and play bumper carts and chase groundhogs and get away with all kinds of tomfoolery with a reasonable chance of not being reprimanded. And golfers of all skill levels and sobriety levels can have a good time because it rates a medium on the difficulty scale -- lots of wide open fairways and par-5s that duffers can reach in two.

Yeah, Tiger would probably shoot 58 here. The facilities on-site can accommodate any size outing without anyone touching elbows. And the people here know what they're doing -- they've been holding outings here for more than 20 years and serve up over 70,000 rounds a year.

Best driving range

The same guy who thought of putting coffee machines in hotel rooms was probably the same guy who thought of putting a junker car in the middle of a driving range. Pure genius. To no one's surprise, the windows of the car at The Range in Avon were busted out within the first week it opened. Screw aiming for the island green -- the real badge of honor comes when you hear the sweet metallic thud of a golf ball hitting the hood of an automobile.

This range consistently brings in fresh batches of balls, not the fuzzy, smiley kind that stick around for years at other ranges. And you'll never get shut out of space -- there's more than enough grass area and indoor area (heated in winter) to work with, plus a practice green for putting and chipping. The pro shop is clean and well-stocked, and top-notch instructors like Heather Haas (sister of PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour pro Hunter Haas) are at your service. This place is huge, has long hours and is open year-round. Plus, a snack bar and 24-hour repair service.

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
  • best of ohio

    Scott Bailey wrote on: Aug 12, 2004

    You are close with Stonewater, but the rest of your choices show how little you really get around and see Ohio's golf facilities. I played Eagle Sticks this spring, worst course Ive been on all year. Stonewatwr has 5 or 6 holes that are better than the mis marked formentioned par 5 at Eagle Sticks.