Many have mistakenly accredited Brookside Golf & Country Club in Columbus to Donald Ross, for a number of reasons. One, Ross was responsible for the club of a similar name in Canton, Ohio, and two, there is a distinct semblance of Ross in the fairways and greens at the Columbus location. This is likely because it was designed by Charlie Lorms, who was the first golf professional at Columbus Country Club. No doubt he took some inspiration from his home course when laying out his first route a bit farther north.
The greens are perhaps the most celebrated portion of the design, and players will need to work to reach them, as Lorms uses defensive bunkering—and at least one pond—to guard the putting surfaces.
The club has been in the hands of Brian Silva for a few years now as he continues an ambitious renovation. The new plan involves restoring the original No. 11 par three, which was abandoned and replaced with an uphill par three at the No. 16 hole. The current plans involve maintaining the latter as an “extra” while restoring Lorms’s original short hole to the 18-hole route.
I cracked open my fourth can of Coke at around the No. 13 tee and downed it summarily, the last of 156 grams of sugar ingested during a walk at Brookline Golf & Country Club amid 35.5℃ temperatures. At this point, I was grateful that — unlike my trip to Bandon last year — I was not paired with a Type II diabetic giving me tips on blood sugar management for my own Type 1 diabetes. Imagine getting swing tips from that stranger on the range, but in this case the stranger plays lacrosse. Two dissimilar beasts that dissatisfactorily share a name. I only bring it up to generalize, perhaps unfairly, that some burdens are more god-given (also known as strictly genetic) where some may be the result of poor maintenance.
Brookside was dealing with burdens of both natures when I first played here during 2016. On the god-given side, the terrain is largely flatter than that of Ohio’s world-beaters. Fortunately, the assistance of a strong architect can abate such a problem, and Charlie Lorms proved surprisingly competent during his debut. The professional at Columbus Country Club during 1927, Lorms clearly drew from his time at the Donald Ross club; as with CCC, Brookside overcomes a modest property with its great greens (Nos. 3 and 7 stand out).
Typical praise for Brookside in the past few years: “Great greens, but too many trees.”
Trees are, despite their natural occurrence, maintenance issues. In many cases, they simply grow when we grow too lax to cut them. In other cases, trees were historically planted to allegedly “improve” golf courses. I don’t know which occurred at Brookside but, based on the number of memorial plaques, I’d hazard at least a bit of both.
Brian Silva has recently served as an endocrinologist of sorts, undertaking a significant masterplan. Two of the best holes at Brookside during my 2021 visit reflect where Silva either reinvigorated or totally reinvented the course to great effect. The reinvention comes in the creation of a new No. 11, a par three that takes a Redan approach, feeding draws down a long green that’s fronted by a creek to punish those who would challenge the flag directly. A splendid addition.
The “reinvigoration” at No. 13 involved clearing a hillside of trees along the inside of a dogleg right, opening views to a pond that has always existed, but was previously hidden. Requiring an uphill shot that obviously can’t cut too far in, yet can’t run too far lest it finds bunkers (also new) at the outside of the dogleg, the view from the teebox is now the most daunting I’ve yet experienced in Ohio. The transformation is deft and total. It’s a fine opening to the “ravine” portion of the property, which features both the best land and best opportunities moving forward.
At No. 17, players will see just how far the club has yet to go. A short par four, doglegging left along a very steep drop down to the No. 16 fairway, which by itself should serve as ample defense for the daring driver. It should, that is, if the large tree just more than 100 yards out from the member tees had come down. Why it remains when Silva removed so many others is puzzling, as are the number of trees that umbrella into the fairway, preventing a bold second shot who struck what should be great shots at a number of par fives and doglegs (Nos. 4 and 12 come immediately to mind).
Granted, Silva’s work is not done. I’ve been told more trees will be felled, and some bunker work done as well (also an improvement on the current hazards, which have lost personality over the years). Where CCC might surpass Brookside, a very similar club, would be in the refurbished short areas around the greens at Columbus. Perhaps Silva’s bunker work will address this?
Lorms did great work to adjust to the “god-given” problem of terrain at Brookside. Can the club do diligence and continue a healthy lifestyle once Silva has left by maintaining, and even continuing, his tree maintenance? Courses must actively work to keep tree-counts down, as diabetics of all stripes must work to keep the ol’ A1C down.
Admittedly, servicing trees is a much less sweet task than chugging four cans of Coke...so perhaps a certain golfer should choke on his diabitterness and acknowledge a few cans of soda is no real tax for a fine round of weekday golf. Apologies.
Brookside is a parkland course. The first hole is a welcoming par four. Fairway bunker right and greenside bunkers left and right. The 2nd is a long tight par five with several fairway and four greenside bunkers. The 3rd is a good birdie oppty. Straight away par four to a guitar pick green with three front bunkers. The 4th is a reachable par five. Favor the right side off the tee as the latter third of the hole bends left. The green is well protected with 3 bunkers. The fifth is a mid-length Florida par three. The 6th is a long par four that bends right and is the number one handicap hole. While there are a couple of fairway bunkers and one greenside right the difficulty is its length. The 7th parallels the 6th and is just a wee bit shorter. The 8th is amid-length forgettable par three. The 9th is the longest par 4 and just about straight as an arrow. From the tips 483 yards, I didn’t even sniff getting home in two.
The back starts off with another long par four that leans a little left. The 11th is a reachable par five with the last third of the hole doglegging left. To get home in a high draw down the right side is key. The green is protected with front right and left bunkers. The 12th is a long dogleg right. To give yourself a chance cutoff as much of the corner as you can. It is the number two handicap hole. The 13th-16th are your scoring oppties on the backside. The 13th is a short par four with fairway bunkers left and a fairway that tapers as you approach the green with a greenside bunker front right. The 14th is a mid-length par three. The 15th is a pretty straight par five that is pretty narrow. Possible to get home in two, but it is very treelined. The 16th is the shortest hole on the course it is uphill and has bunkers on each point of the compass. The 17th leans left and you can hit it through the fairway. There isn’t much worse than draws that do not draw. The home hole is a long par four with fairway bunkers left and right and a large greenside bunker left.
A pleasant mature tree-lined course.