Flanked by Little Walnut Creek and the Scioto River, Cooks Creek Golf Club (formerly Raintree South) is the result of architectural cooperation between Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry with John Cook.
M. James Ward's review takes care of a good chunk of what I would contribute; namely that the Par 5s at this course are its highlight (the exception being the opener). No. 8 is short enough to tempt almost all solid drives, with an uphill approach and a centerline bunker asking for at least a second-glance before the player lets a fairway wood rip. No. 10 operates on similar principles to ANGC's Azalea, with a small creek flowing along the left side. A powerful player can attempt to carry a large bunker on the left and set up a carry of the creek into a wide green, or they can play it safe on the approach and lay up to a large collection area to prepare a more targeted birdie campaign. No. 16 tumbles back down to the entrance road, ducking through more bunkers than any other hole on the property, and again providing a good risk/reward opportunity.
The course's Par 4s, as Ward alludes, are occasionally interesting, but uninteresting geography often leads to uninteresting holes. No. 17 appears to be an Old Course approach to strategy, with a humongous fairway theoretically offering bountiful options based on pin placement. The lack of any significant undulations hampers the notion, however.
One area where I would like to expand on Ward's review however is playability, or even availability. To this point I had not bothered reviewing Cook's despite many visits because in the late Summer the fairways were intentionally left to go as rumors swirled the city park system would be buying the property and converting it to a boat launch. New photos no announcement of closure suggests these plans have been scratched. This is great news, as Cook's Creek is simply the best value when finding interesting public golf in Columbus. That said, you really must be here at the right time. If it has rained, almost all of the front nine, and several on the back, will be soaked. Simply the result of building a course at the culmination of the Scioto River and Walnut Creek. There's healthy marshland to capture excess rainfall (one of my communicants described Cook's as "Poor-man's Victoria National") but this course simply doesn't have the budget for extreme drainage measures.
If the timing is right, however, Cook's is an affordable asset for the Columbus golfing community.
Land is the most critical dimension for just about all courses because it sets the tone for what will likely be the architecture you find.
Cooks Creek is a challenging course because on a number of holes you do have wetlands to consider. That means there area few "do or die" predicaments encountered and having one's driver in working order will help keep your golf balls in your pocket rather than providing for the golf ball fund at the course.
The outward side is fairly mundane. After you finish the par-5 1st you then are routed in the same direction through the 5th with the Scioto River on your left. The par-3 6th reverses course and is a good hole over the wetland. At the long par-4 7th you must contend with the wetlands on both sides of the drive zone. Like I said -- it's a must to have a good day in driving the ball.
The 10th hole is a quality risk/reward hole and for those attempting to reach the par-5 green you have to place the tee shot successfully and then fly over a fronting creek to a green angled to the left and protected by trees closer to the fairway and bunkers encircling the green.
Then inexplicably you have a short par-4 at the 11th and it's just so architecturally empty -- just an opportunity for long hitters to get up on their haunches and let loose with the big stick.
The 12th is a demanding long par-4 -- with the fairway tapering in and then having a green that is quite long and fairly narrow.
The final three holes are each a worthy challenge to end the day on a high note. The par-5 16th is quite good. Here you face a series well-placed bunkers throughout the hole. The par-4 17th is sufficient for what it requires to succeed, however, it's the 18th that really tests nerve. Just under 490 yards -- the tee shot is under pressure with wetlands bracketing the fairway. The green is also a challenge to reach in the regulation stroke as it tucks behind a tree line pinching in from the left and with bunkers both in front and to the far right.
The issue with Cooks Creek is that there isn't any real movement within the fairways. It's just one flat fairway follows the next. The greens are a mixed bag -- some movement on a few and others often sterile discs.
Cooks Creek is far from an easy play but the broader and more salient issue is where's the compelling architecture that drives you to say, "I can't wait to get back here." When I left I wasn't exactly saying those words.
M. James Ward