Rejuvenated Cleveland will rock golfers too

By William K. Wolfrum, Contributor

Cleveland is synonymous with coming back from the brink. Once the butt of late-night-TV jokes for being a polluted mess, it has become the shining example of the good things that can happen to a city.

Sleepy Hollow G.C.
Sleepy Hollow Golf Course is a Stanley Thompson that dates back to 1925.
Sleepy Hollow G.C.StoneWater Golf Club
If you go

Cleveland Browns Stadium, Jacobs Field and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have replaced the infamous image of a flaming Lake Erie in the public mind. Cleveland is no slouch golf-wise either: The city and surroundings boast more top golf courses than you'd expect, and in keeping with the region's working-class history most have green fees of $30 or less.

Can't-miss Cleveland golf courses

Sleepy Hollow Golf Course is a former private course in the Cleveland suburb of Brecksville that has maintained its quality since its opening in 1925.

Designed by the legendary Canadian architect Stanley Thompson, Sleepy Hollow gives golfers great views of the Cuyahoga River Valley, but it is also known for being a tough play. Nearly 6,700 yards from the back tees, Sleepy Hollow carries a respectable 132 slope rating, with 64 bunkers scattered throughout the course.

A semi-private course that shouldn't be a scramble to get on is StoneWater Golf Club in suburban Highland Heights. The Dana Fry design features bridges, sand traps, tee boxes and lakes lined with limestone quarried on site as the course was being built, giving the course its own ambiance.

Golf Digest ranked StoneWater the best public golf course in Ohio and one of the top 50 best courses in the country in 2003. Covering more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, it plays longer than many of the older courses in the area, and the 139 slope rating testifies to that it's a demanding layout.

Donald Ross-designed Manakiki Golf Course is closing in on its eighth decade and doesn't seem to be slowing down. The home course to the Carling Open in the 1950s, Manakiki has hosted the likes of Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead.

Second choices

Pine Hills Golf Club in Hinckley is one of the top public golf courses in Ohio. Built in 1957 from a design by Harold "Pappy" Paddock Sr., Pine Hills was created by golfers for golfers and has long been a course in demand.

If you're game for the hour drive to Norwalk, Eagle Creek Golf Club offers plenty of golfing bang for your buck. This 6,500-yard run has a 126-slope rating.

Hawks Nest Golf Club, a former farm turned into a golf course in 1993 under the guidance of Steve Burns, matches great conditions to an interesting layout.

Briarwood Golf Club in Broadview Heights has three separate nine-hole runs that combine into 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. On the Lochs Course, be prepared to spend some time worrying about the water that often comes into play.

Also playing

Fowler's Mill Golf Course is a 27-hole Pete Dye design on Cleveland's east side. Eighty bunkers and other tests will give high handicappers a workout, but the service, luxurious surroundings and lower-than-expected prices make it a worthwhile round for anyone.

Boston Hills Country Club is a shot-maker's course that goes easy on the wallet. The award-winning driving range will add a level of pleasure to your practice.

Bunker Hill Golf Course is a well maintained public run known for running deals and discounts on its Web site. When winter hits, try one of Bunker Hill's seven indoor golf simulators.

Windmill Lakes Golf Course is the home of 2003 British Open champ Ben Curtis and an Amateur Public Links sectional qualifier.

Take a trip down I-80 to Warren to play Avalon Lakes Country Club. It's a semi-private course that will dazzle you and counts pro athletes as members. Check ahead and you should get a tee time, and then enjoy the spa afterward.

Down in Millersburg, Black Diamond Golf Course is an interesting place to pull out your clubs, or your fishing pole, or your shotgun, for that matter. Black Diamond will blister you with some tough holes but make it all better with a laid back attitude and nearby fishing spots.

Cleveland lodging

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

The nearby Renaissance Cleveland Hotel is popular with business travelers and goes out of its way to pander to them, but it's still a good choice for a family trip or romantic getaway.

If you're looking to spend a bit more time in town, consider making the Embassy Suites your home away from home. The 800-square-foot suites include work stations with plenty of up-to-date technological frills, and you'll be walking distance from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other attractions.

All the national lodging chains are also represented here, but rooms can be hard to come by if an event is in town, so be sure to get reservations well ahead of time.

Where to dine

A former speakeasy, White Oaks in suburban Westlake has long held a spot in Clevelanders' hearts. The fantastic ambience will give you a glimpse of 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, but the food is always first-rate. Try the surf 'n' turf or the German sauerbraten for an entrée if you like, but make sure not to miss out on the potato pancakes.

Stop at cozy Sokolowski's University Inn for a crash course in Polish comfort cuisine. Load up on kielbasa, paprikash, cabbage and Sokolowski's very own beer, and make time for a nap afterward.

Cleveland off course

Don't miss the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Explore rock history, and feel like the giddy, music-loving teenager you once were. Other attractions include Cleveland Play House, Children's Museum, festivals and special events like the National Air Show.

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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