Indian Springs Golf Club: One of the Best Places to Play in Central Ohio

By Carl W. Grody, Contributor

Mechanicsburg, OH - If you go to Indian Springs Golf Club, you need to be going for the golf.

If you like dining out, go somewhere else. Want a night on the town? At Indian Springs, that means coon huntin' and star gazing. If you like the hustle and bustle of city life, you'll need to head for . . . head for . . . heck, you might have to get entirely out of Ohio.

The nearest movie theater to Indian Springs is more than 11 miles away. The closest restaurants -- not counting the golf course's snack bar -- are Katy's Kitchen and the Pork & Pickle in nearby Mechanicsburg. The nearest hotel is the Holiday Inn in London, more than 10 miles away.
What you get around Indian Springs are farm fields, farm fields and more farm fields. The only exception is across the road in the -- wait, that's a farm field, too.

But if you're interested in good golf, Indian Springs is one of the best places to be in central Ohio. The first 18 holes opened in 1990, and by 1996 Golf Digest gave Indian Springs four stars. In fact, Golf Digest has given Indian Springs four stars in each of the past five years.

The first 18 holes were designed by Jack Kidwell, the Ohio architectural legend who spawned nationally known designer Michael Hurdzan. Those two nines, known as "The Reserve" and "The Woods," combine for a rating of 71.5 and a slope of 134 from the white tees, which play 6,480 yards. From the blue tees, they stretch out to 7,123 yards with a rating of 72.9 and a slope of 137. This course is definitely not just a stroll through the cornfields.

The third nine, designed by Kidwell and Herb Bash, opened in 1998. It plays almost as long at 3,162 yards from the white tees and 3,454 from the blues. The addition of the third nine means that Indian Springs now features three course combinations instead of one, with the Lakes/Woods combo playing the easiest from the white tees (70.5 rating, 132 slope, 6,346 yards).

Whatever combination you choose, you'll enjoy your round as long as you're not picky about posting a good score. The grass is bent, the greens are fast, the fairways are well-manicured and each of the nines is a tough test of your skills.

To play well here, you need to hit the ball high; be good at "target golf"; hit your woods long and straight; and have the ability to shape your shots. OK, that sounds more like a tour pro than a weekend amateur, but Indian Springs is worth the humiliation that you might feel when you add up your score.

Your first challenge of the day will be to find the course. It's located on State Route 161, which weaves 36 miles west from Columbus through a few typical Ohio small towns. There's a tricky fork in the road near the course, and even if you make the right turn, you might drive past the parking lot because the Indian Springs sign isn't easily seen from the road.

But you'll quickly realize Indian Springs is a great place to be. The clubhouse sits high above the courses, and you'll find yourself looking out over a large lake filled with reeds, geese and quite a few golf balls.

Indian Springs might be Kidwell's best work, at least on a public course, and it plays host to 30,000 rounds per year. Part of the reason for that is the quality of the courses. Another reason is the quality of the green fees -- just $24 for 18 holes Monday through Wednesday; $30 on Thursday and Friday; and $35 on the weekends (carts are extra). Walking is allowed anytime.

The first nine is "The Reserve," and it stretches out to 3,591 yards from the blue tees. That includes the 633-yard sixth hole, which plays "just" 580 yards from the whites. The hole plays tight as well as long. There are fairway bunkers to worry about on your tee shot, and teeing off with a three-wood is pretty much out of the equation if you plan to reach the green in regulation. You just have to blast your ball from the tee and try to keep it in the fairway.

The next hole won't do much to calm your nerves after the mammoth sixth. The seventh is a 160-yard par three that features a 150-yard carry over water. The reeds in the pond are pretty, but by this point in this course, the only thing you care about is staying dry.

The second nine, "The Woods," starts with a dogleg left around the huge lake you saw when you arrived. You can try to bite off a portion of the lake, but remember your mother's legendary advice -- don't bite off more than you can chew. A pulled tee shot will flirt with the water, and a sharp hook will dive right in with the other ducks.

This isn't a long hole -- 379 from the whites, 412 from the blues -- so conservative players aim at the right side of the fairway. But there's a hazard on that line as well -- a hillside bunker right of the fairway shaped like an upturned pair of sunglasses.

The next hole, the second -- or the 11th, depending on where you started your round -- is another forced carry over water. This hole is only 130 yards from the white tees, but the green is small and well-protected by bunkers, mounds, a large tree on the right and lots of moisture.

The ninth hole (or 18th) is a long, tough par five. It plays 575 yards from the whites, and features blind shots from the tee and on your second shot. Then the fairway rolls down toward the green, settling into a deep dip a few yards in front of the putting surface. To get out of this depression, you might need a Prozac wedge.

To reach "The Lakes," you have to walk across a long bridge that cuts across the lake near the clubhouse. You seem to get lost in the tall reeds on either side of the bridge, and then you'll probably get lost on the other side as you search for the tee. Follow the cartpath to the right, and you'll eventually run into the first teebox tucked among some trees.

Before heading for the tee, though, stop on the bridge and admire the view. The lake is picturesque, and you can watch the action on the first hole of the Woods course while listening to the golfers on the first hole of the Reserve (although you might want to hold your hands over the ears of any junior golfer that happens to be with you; the first hole of the Reserve course is a tough one and inspires golfers to use "colorful invective" after wayward shots).

The highlight of the Lakes course -- indeed, maybe even of your whole day at Indian Springs -- is the tee shot at the par-five seventh hole. The hole plays just 509 yards from the whites, but the teebox is perched high on a hill. (Some might call it a cliff, but let's not be picky; after all, how many cliffsides have a cartpath?) The enormity of the hole plays out in front of you, and you feel like you're hitting your tee shot from the platform of a blimp.

The next hole is even more exciting, but not necessarily in a pleasing way. It's a 154-yard par three -- 194 from the blues -- with a pseudo-island green. There's a sliver of God's good earth that stretches to the putting surface from the right-hand side of the hole, but the rest of the target is surrounded by water stretching out like fingers slipping around someone's neck. This hole will throttle you, too, if you pull the wrong club.

For the faint of heart, this hole will be a pain in the grass. But if you love a challenge, this is a great hole. The moment after you hit your tee shot, you'll remember why you play the game -- the suspense, the challenge, the anticipation as the ball fades into the clouds before gravity sucks it back down while you scream, "Be the right club!"

For all of its pluses, Indian Springs does have a problem in routing. By necessity, the middle of the course is a jumble of holes from the three different nines, and you'll be confused on your first trip around.

This is particularly tricky after the third hole of the "Reserve" course. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself teeing off at the eighth hole instead of the fourth. The key is not to plant any tee in the ground until you first check the sign telling you which hole -- and which course -- you're on.

That problem aside, Indian Springs is a great place to play. If you plan it right, you can play all 27 holes in one day, and you'll have plenty to tell your golfing buddies back home.

That is, if you can find the way back out. It might not hurt to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to mark your path, ala Hansel and Gretel, but be forewarned -- the geese might gobble up the crumbs when you're not looking. If that happens, look on the bright side: there's no evil, man-eating witch living in a candy house in the forest. An occasional ranger, sure, but they're not that bad.

Carl W. Grody, Contributor

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