Amid the current rethink on Christopher Columbus’s legacy, the prospect for renaming America’s No. 14 city by population has livened up. The most popular candidate (at least in the social media universe) is “Flavortown,” a reference to Food Network personality Guy Fieri, a hometown hero. It’s an ironic thought, however, as Columbus is rather vanilla compared to Ohio’s other population hubs, Cleveland and Cincinnati, in terms of both personality and food (the latter puts chili on spaghetti, after all).
Likewise, the terrain at Donald Ross’s Inverness packs much more bam-boom-in-your-face punch, in the vein of Fieri’s infamous “Donkey Sauce,” than does Columbus Country Club. True culinary connoisseurs will tell you, however, that the art in cooking comes with subtle touches. And so Ross (and more recently Kevin Hargrave) set about his work.
Columbus holds some hills, and players will begin with a dive down from the first tee with an approach back up to the first putting surface. The approach to uphill No. 3’s green is the most photogenic point on the course. From there, most of the holes exist on one plane or another: either the “highland” of the clubhouse or the “lowland” holes that fill the valley down on Blacklick Creek, which edges the property. Looking out from the teeboxes of Nos. 5 and 11, respectively, one can admire the placement of the fairway bunkers as solid strategic golf and, the more animalistic pleasure in driving a ball a great distance downward. One will also notice, however, the fairway stretched like mother’s table linen, with hardly an askance lie to be found. Ross’s task then was to accentuate his dish with zest that the meat of the land did not provide.
He focused on the greens and their immediate surrounds...and especially their immediate surrounds. Great greens do not make a great golf course. They are necessary for a golf course to be great but an architect cannot make a career on designing putting surfaces alone. The chemistry between these greens and their surrounding shorts areas are paramount, akin to that of brown sugar and paprika...two different flavors that must work in tandem to reach a higher purpose...either on a golf course or in your correspondent’s world*-famous (* = I am the world, after all, in my own ego) Kansas City BBQ rub.
Ross will allow you to have your flat lie but, like ingredients, a tee shot must be coupled with an approach to score. I received a taste early at No. 2, when my approach caught a hiccup short and bounced right into a downward-angled chip. No. 10 is one of several long holes that appear like your eagle approach is gold...until it’s diverted into one of Ross’s noted short-grass gathering areas below the hole. No. 11’s aforementioned tee shot is mac-and-cheese but its approach is spaghettini cetarese. Indeed I am grateful that there was just a slight inhale of turf ahead of the No. 9 par three, otherwise I am convinced my perfectly-executed shot would have found the cup, which would have been an existential nightmare...an ace with no playing partners. Thank you for sparing me, Mr. Ross!
Hargrave’s recent work restoring the course merits major recognition. His work with Keith Foster, a master restorer, reflects in the current course, and the swathes of native area add further flavor to land that, alone, can be quite tepid. Still, Columbus Country Club can only excel to the extent of its land’s potential and some stretches, particularly the final three holes, display these limits. It’s a fine meal worth a look forward to, assuming you won’t be eating at Ross’s several Michelin-starred locations around Ohio.
As a side note, I have inquired whether the club will change its name to “Flavortown Country Club” if the city itself rebrands. No answer yet but will keep you in the loop.
Date: April 09, 2021