Don't let these courses scare you away

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

CLEVELAND - Better watch out...the bogey-man might get ya! Maybe if you're lucky, he'll put you six feet deep before you can play the golf courses mentioned below. Some of them might not be as scary as the Mummy, but all have one serious flaw or another that's likely to scare the bejeezus out of even the most brave soul. It's best to stay away from them, especially around Halloween.

Scariest clubhouse - Riverside Golf Club, Olmsted Falls.

Yikes! Bless this little 5,498-pard par 69 course for never being crowded. A great course to get a quick nine holes in on your lunch hour. But the clubhouse is a nightmare! Dark, musty-smelling and out of date, it serves as its own time capsule to the past. The vending machines, the chandeliers, the clubs offered for sale in the pro shop -- everything is old! Metal folding chairs and turquoise-colored tables look like they're from Grandma's basement. A few measly sets of blades are on display, as if someone would buy them. The one gem is a nice-looking persimmon three-wood, but this isn't a flea market, it's supposed to be a modern day pro shop offering the latest technology, not ghosts of the past! An outdoor patio has a few rusty tables and chairs scattered about, along with a good helping of dead leaves. The bar looks like it hasn't tapped a keg in years, but one can see the potential lying beneath the dust. The ghosts of dead golfers would have a swell time here.

Scariest customer service - Big Met Golf Course, Fairview Park

True story: a couple friends go to Big Met after work to get a quick nine holes in. They put their name down and are told the wait will be 45 minutes. An hour and a half later, they recheck with the starter and see that their name has been crossed off. It turns out the starter crossed off the name but never called it over the loudspeaker. Now, the two friends are out of luck as twilight is approaching. The starter offers no apology, just a blank stare and an "oh well" expression. Big Met is one of the most played courses in Ohio, and the Cleveland Metroparks recently invested over $1 million in it for improved drainage and paved cartpaths. But the park has never done anything about the cantankerous old farts who sit at the starter's table and claim ultimate authority over the tee time reservation and waiting lists. They're consistently unfriendly and forgetful. You might say a jack-o-lantern would do a better job.

Scariest conditions - Keys Public Course, Sandusky

This track is truly interesting. Open year-round, this 6,079-yard par 72 has an honor box in winter to drop your money in. Some golfers feel like fishing it back out, however, after a tour of the front nine. The greens give a whole new meaning to "banging it in" as some of the cups actually stick out of the turf, necessitating a hammer-like putt and a prayer. One golfer reported (albeit in the dead of winter) that there were several abandoned carts on the course, apparently with dead batteries. If you don't do well out of bunkers, you might look past the abominable conditions - there are no bunkers. One golf website rated the course a 3 out of 5, but that was probably on a good day. Perhaps the saying, "You get what you pay for," applies here as an 18-hole weekend round runs about $18. With the kind of traffic this course gets (an estimated 24,000 rounds annually) and its "open year-round" policy, the superintendent should have his work cut out for him. The problem is that the work put in doesn't amount to much at all. Aaaugh!

Scariest hole - Sleepy Hollow Golf Course, Brecksville

It isn't that the 14th hole, a 495-yard par 5, is so tough. It does require a lot of thought to negotiate a ravine reachable by some off the tee, then determine how to steer around an abrupt dogleg right to the green. Some skilled golfers can actually cut the corner off with a long iron and hit the green in two. It's what lies below in a deeply wooded chasm that's a little unnerving. Once past the ravine, the right side of the hole drops off into a deep gorge, so steeply that those with a fear of heights should steer clear. But braver souls have noticed an abandoned, beatup golf cart lying at the bottom of this gorge. Different stories about how it got there have been traded over the years: a suicidal golfer having a bad round took a hell ride down the hill. A mobster with a vendetta popped it in neutral and pushed it, along with his victim, toward the gravity graveyard. A poor golfer lost control of the cart when he saw the Headless Horseman. This is, after all, "Sleepy Hollow," right?

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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