Cleveland's golf scene can spice up your vacation

By GolfPublisher Staff, Staff Report

If the old saying holds true, the Cleveland metro area's golf scene can spice up any golfer's vacation. Ohio is not usually the first state golfers turn to in their course guides, but there's no doubt it has a fine selection of traditional courses to choose from. Courses like Sleepy Hollow Golf Course and Sawmill Creek provide, respectively, traditional Ohio golf and fine southern golf in Ohio packaging.

As the placard at Sleepy Hollow Golf Course's first tee box points out, none of it would be there were it not for the glaciers from about 20,000 years ago that covered this ground more than a mile deep. The resulting glens, glades and dales left behind when the glacier retreated now provide the perfect place for a lush, rolling course. Sleepy Hollow is just that. Located in the Cleveland suburb of Brecksville, the course allows every golfer to enjoy the swoops and slides through gentle valleys and ridges with views of northern Ohio that nearly stretch to the blue umbrella skies of Lake Erie and on a clear day, the distant towers of Cleveland.

If Sleepy Hollow seems to be one of those rare public courses in Ohio that truly has country club conditions, it's because it once was just that. Decades ago when Ret. Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum was looking to play a few rounds of golf a couple of times a month, he was denied membership here. He believed he was a victim of discrimination. Metzenbaum, who would later become a multi-millionaire and hero of rank-and-file workmen and their union causes, didn't turn the other cheek and get his tee-times elsewhere. He filed a lawsuit against the country club in the name of his wife, and then set out to get even. The country club had been built on public land. That was all he needed to know. Tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees later, Metzenbaum won his case. Now Sleepy Hollow is a bastion of quality, daily fee public golf. The original country club, which opened in 1925 became a public course on new Year's Eve in 1963. It was designed by flamboyant architect Stanley Thompson, named greatest golf architect of all-time by the Royal Canadian Golf Association.

Challenges abound at Sleepy Hollow. The fairways undulate and offer thick grass that limits roll and makes the course play a couple of hundred yards longer than the scorecard's tepid 6,671 yards. Steep, unforgiving ravines run along and up to most fairways. Huge old oak trees, some with trunks so big that two men cannot wrap their arms around them, protect dinky greens. The trees are full of lichen and moss. There are more than 65 bunkers. Not all the greens are small, though. The No. 2 and No. 12 greens are double greens, a common practice during the era in which the course was built.

The Cleveland area is also savvy enough to have attracted some of the game's best designers. Built in 1974 as Tom Fazio's first course in Ohio, Sawmill Creek Golf Course offers a traditional round of golf, only it's a tradition somewhat un-Ohio, if you will. The golf at Sawmill Creek on Ohio's northern shore has a distinctly southern grace.

More than 200 weeping willow trees haunt wayward irons or rustle with the slightest wind. The willows are everywhere: behind tees, guarding greens, lining fairways and flanking the water on the 14 holes where ponds or streams come into play. Undulating greens with odd and obtuse humps can be found all over the course. While early fairways are broad, Sawmill Creek becomes a course of shot-making through the ticklish back nine. For many, this is the closest they can come to a South Carolina course.

Somewhere beyond the tree lines and past the roofs of condominiums, Lake Erie is tossing 36-foot boats full of walleye fishermen around like a bunch of wine corks in a choppy kitchen sink. But on the fourth tee of the Sawmill Creek Golf Course, with that all-but hidden Great Lake at your back and an improbable dogleg ahead, a par is as elusive as the Browns' quest for a Super Bowl.

Finding good golf in Cleveland, however, is not nearly as formidable a task.

Cleveland Metro Courses

GolfPublisher Staff, Staff Report

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