Clovernook Country Club was founded by the Crosley family — the same group whose name once appeared on the Cincinnati Reds’ ballpark — so the local history runs deep at this club.
Designed by the duo of Langford and Moreau, players can expect to find the pair’s trademark features, such as steep-sided greens. The club last played host to the LPGA Buckeye Savings Invitational during the ‘60s, and the course has remained largely unchanged since.
Many matches, both then and now, probably came down to the final two holes, where a natural pond on the property comes into play. On the former, a par five, players must debate — based largely on the merits of their tee shot — whether to cross the pond on their second, or lay up. On the latter, the lake is an easy carry off of the tee, but the bunkers around this drivable par four make one wonder just how much carry should be taken.
Playing at just under 6,600 yards from its back tees Clovernook has undergone touch-ups from William Diddel and Arthur Hills as it heads toward its centenary.
Clovernook is a charming course from the pen of William Langford and the bulldozer of Theodore Moreau; To the club’s credit, the steep-sided greens preferred by the pair are evident across the course, making its putting surfaces unique to almost everything in the Cincinnati area (short of Seth Raynor’s work at Camargo).
Charming is a loaded word—or so I’ve learned when my mother comments on my attempts at baking—and indeed I will get the bad news out of the way first: Clovernook, like so many of its era, is in need of some renovating.
Trees are an obvious starting point; what could be a righteous challenge on its own, the 230-yard par three at No. 4 borders on requiring a low-links-style shot due to trees on the right. The mutually doglegging Nos. 13 and 16 could also benefit from removing the foliage that hampers what would otherwise be the preferred landing spot for a strong player. Worst of all is No. 17: The pond on the hole is located to serve a similar purpose to Tillie’s Great Hazard; if you strike a poor tee shot, you’ll be forced to get back in position with a short wedge shot before crossing. Two trees (one on the right fairway, fronting the pond, and one on the left fairway, opposite side of the pond) create the damndest alley so that even a ball in the fairway does not guarantee an open second shot across the pond. Therefore the mid-handicapper, otherwise happy to be on shortgrass, must pull some Phil Mickelson wizardry to find their way around (note: Phil Mickelson is not a mid-handicapper).
Although that forced carry would be fair minus the two trees, the gaps between fairways on other holes have gotten extreme. There are several valleys with creeks on the property, which is typical in Ohio. An original sketch of the routing shows that fairways often rolled right down to the stream; a justified defense against big hitters, and safeguard of sorts for lesser players. Now holes such as No. 1, 3, 5, and 10 feature significant forced carries. Again, it is typically the weaker golfer who ends up at the bottom...the difference between fairway and rough is a greater divide for them than the skilled player.
I’ve dwelled significantly on the negative so, as I tell my baking virtuoso mother, it’s important to remind critics that an ugly cupcake is still delicious. The putting surfaces could perhaps use expansion in places, but they are fun as they stand. The collection of par threes lives up to L&M’s standards for short holes. The highlight of the property, however, is No. 9...a long (467 yards) par four featuring a tee shot to a somewhat blind landing area, followed by a risk/reward approach that must thread a bunker perhaps 40 yards out, before settling on what is the finest putting surface at the property.
Clovernook is far from being written off, and I hold it highly among courses in Ohio that I would love to get a knowledgable renovation.