Forty years after its formation in 1889, The Country Club moved to its present-day 300-acre site at Pepper Pike, where a new course was laid out for the members by William Flynn – a layout that later garnered national recognition by hosting the US Amateur Championships in 1935.
Gradually, down the years, the course lost its way a little. Playing corridors had become too narrow due to excessive tree growth and greenside bunker complexes had been added unnecessarily. To rectify this situation, the club enlisted Brit Stenson of IMG Design in 1992 to restore the layout to its former glory.
The Country Club hosted the US Women’s Amateur in 2012 (won by New Zealand's Lydia Ko) when spectators and competitors appreciated such a fine example of William Flynn’s architectural expertise.
The Country Club in Pepper Pike, OH is one of the best clubs people have never heard of. The current location is a William Flynn designed. The club is classic old school. Lots of trees
You can score early at The Country Club. The first hole is welcoming, a short downhill par four. Favor the left side off the tee. There us a brook that runs in front and left of the green as well as a bunker left and one short right. The 2nd is a short dogleg right par 5, very reachable. Aim just left of the large fairway bunker. This green is well protected by bunkers. Additionally, there is a steep drop off on the left side. My normal ball flight is right to left and thought I hit a stellar second shot as the pin was left. It was a real teaser, I was encouraging it to go, then go in, then sit down. Short sided stories rarely end well. The third is a short par 4. Favor the left side of the tee to set up your flip wedge. This narrow green is protected by three bunkers and is very shallow. Favor the left side of the fairway on the uphill 4th to avoid the fairway bunker right. This is a two tiered green with 2 bunkers front left, if the pin is back definitely one extra club. The first par 3 is long but downhill. This is one of the smallest greens and has bunkers front right and left. The 6th is a 450 yard par four dogleg left. However, the fairway contours right. It is tempting to drive down the left side, but you will run the risk of being blocked out. This is deservedly the number one handicap hole. The 7th is a 505 yard par four. The good news is it is downhill. To give yourself a chance you must avoid the right fairway bunkers. This is a really tough hole. The dogleg right par 5 8th is my favorite hole. Big hitters can get home in two, but most of us should play it as a 3 shotter. There are three bunkers about 120 yards out from the green, if you carry those the ball will usually trampoline towards the green. I had some tree trouble and had a longer approach than expected. My skulled 9 iron found the downslope and caromed to 6 inches from the cup for a non-deserved birdie. The 9th is a mid-length uphill par 3. Bunkers right and left and a creek in front.
The back starts with a par 4 that has no bunkers. However, there is a creek running across the width of the hole in front of the green. The 11th is another mid-length uphill par 3. This one is protected by 5 bunkers and left of the green is a steep drop-off. The par 5 12th is a definite 3 shotter. Favor the right off the tee and the left on your second, or run the risk of being blocked out. The dogleg left 13th is a good birdie oppty. There are multiple bunkers on the inside elbow, a high draw works nicely off the tee, The green has bunkers left and right. The 14th is 200+ yards and 165 or less from the other tees. It is a redan with 2 bunkers front left and wide right. The 15th is a long par four that leans left with multiple cross bunkers in the ridgeline. It is the number two handicap hole. The 16th is the last par 5 and a dogleg right with a bunker on the inside elbow. There is a deep swale in front of the green that is surrounded by three bunkers right and one left. The 17th is a fantastic hole. The hole tilts left and the drive is over a step ridge. The contour is left so favor right of center. This hole has a wonderful approach visual. Green perched on a ridge that falls off left, right front bunker and several on the left side. Probably, the signature hole. The finishing hole is long par four that leans right. Off the tee aim at the 2nd from the left fairway bunker. The two greenside bunkers on this hole are very deep.
The Country Club in Pepper Pike is a superb course with old school charm. I would pay to play it again.
The Country Club in Ohio, designed by William Flynn, is an absolute gem. On my first visit there we got rained out on the second hole, retreating into a home bordering the second fairway. We headed out during a lull that lasted three minutes, ultimately resulting in 3 inches of rain in 6 hours. We then made out way to the locker room for lunch/drinks. After an hour, I was able to look at the course as we made our way to our cars and see that the small stream fronting the ninth and first greens had become a two acre lake. The next day we played The Kirtland Country Club early, then made our way back to The Country Club where we played a soggy course, but one that had drained very well given the amount of rain the previous day. We had debated going back given we were tired, but I am so glad I did because there was limited play and we were able to take our time getting around the golf course, despite my eagerness to start my drive back to Philadelphia.
The round was followed by a near seven hour car ride back home – no stops.
Bobby Jones made a list of his “dream” golf course which included the fifteenth at The Country Club. Two U.S. Amateur events have been staged here both due to the quality of the golf course as well as one of the more amazing clubhouses and men’s locker room I have ever seen.
The golf course has a wonderful flow to it, with an outward nine returning in front of a most impressive clubhouse. I did not hear many noises on the course as it is located in a quiet residential area as well as lying adjacent to Pepper Pike Club. Much like the back nine at Kirtland, one plays in solitude here as it sits on 240 acres. There is a fine mixture of long and short holes with the only slight criticism being that the par 3’s are of similar length from the Country tees. However, the par 3’s are different in topography and one does not notice the similar yardage. Possibly the only critique is that two par 3’s are close to each other (nine and eleven), however, as mentioned they play very differently.
The holes at The Country Club are set apart from each other providing one the opportunity to focus only on that hole. You rarely see more than two holes at one time due to the vastness of the golf course, the change in terrain and the use of trees to define the holes. As one who rarely likes trees on a golf course, at The Country Club there are many and they are often in play as a defense. The Country Club reminds me of many famous parkland courses before they started their tree-clearing campaign. At the Country Club one feels the trees are not in play, merely serving to define the playing corridors of the hole while also providing a feeling of playing only one hole. However, they are much more in play then they appear to be sometimes on the tee shot and sometimes on the second shot. They have to be considered and are a part of the strategy of the course.
There is also a very good mixture of straight and dogleg holes with the dogleg holes offering tempting driving lines to reduce distance. The course offers a compelling mix of easier and harder holes.
The greens are very good, not as undulating as Brookside which are the class of the area, but with adequate slope and interesting green surrounds with mounding. There are also a good mixture of flat, uphill, and elevated greens.
There are a lot of bunkers on the golf course and on the holes where there are few, the single or double bunkers are excellently placed. One does have to think around this golf course for their tee shot a bit more than on other courses.
On the golf course one does not get the feeling of playing the same hole twice, which is a criticism I find in several other well regarded golf courses.
The course is a par 72 with the Championship tees at 7080 yards, rated 74.3/138. The Flynn tees are 6810 yards rated 73.2/136 yards. The Country Club tees are 6565 yards, rated 71.8/134. There are five other sets of tee combinations ended at 5355 yards. We played the Country Club tees at 6565 yards which is where the majority of the members play. I will reference the Championship and Country yardages as the Flynn tees represent a combination tee.
1. par 4 – 355/345. What should be perhaps the easiest hole on the golf course has a smallish, raised green that is very tilted back to front. There is a bunker short right of the green but the bigger danger is the bunker left of the green which is about five feet below the green. Miss the bunker left and one is in the stream that has started left of the tee and cuts across the front of the green. The second shot needs to cross a stream and carry the false front. Ideally one is still below the pin location as a putt down the slope is very quick. Trees and the stream line the right side presenting an out-of-bounds possibility or a blocked line to the green. It is a ticklish, but fun starting hole playing down the valley to an undulating fairway.
2. par 5 – 495/475. A short par five made to play longer as it is a sharp turn to the right with thick trees set on a side of a hill down the right side as well as a bunker on the inner turn. Before that are flanking bunkers that should not be in play but serve more as a guide line for the fairway. The ideal shot is out to the left to provide one a view of the green. The biggest of hitters likely can carry all of the trees on the right leaving a gap/sand wedge. Roughly 50 yards short of the green on the left is a bunker and a tree set in the fairway that catch a lot of balls. The green, while flattish, goes to the right but have a drop-off on the left side. There are two fronting bunkers and another on the right. I felt the hole played very difficult for the average length hitter who hits the right side of the fairway because one then has to hit a punched fade around the trees.
3. par 4 – 335/315. One of my favorite holes on the front nine and reminiscent of sixteen at Kirtland as this is a short par 4 but the green is perched on higher ground and angled left to right, yet squared from the right side of the fairway. There is a fairway bunker right so the ideal line is from the left side. The green is skinny unless one is left and is up all the way. A ball hit short right either in the front bunker or before it still has to climb up that can leave one with a blind chip. There is a bunker left of the green. From the left side of the fairway the access into the green is blocked by this left bunker. Another bunker is behind the green which slopes quickly back to front and right to left with a lot of inner contours. Mr. Flynn’s routing ensured this land was used for a green which is perfect.
4. par 4 – 375/350. You can peek through the trees to see the Pepper Pike Club from this elevated tee. The trees are thick down both sides but should not be in play due to the width of the fairway. One plays across a valley then uphill making the hole about 20 yards longer. There is a fairway bunker right that is long and likely collects a lot of tee shots. The green has a lovely chipping/putting area fronting it with two bunkers on the front left. The green is two-tiered. One does not want to miss too long behind the green due to the trees sitting about ten yards away. It is a nice hole.
5. par 3 – 205/190. The first par 3 is a good one, and the longest on the course, although playing downhill. A bunker is set at the right front of the green with the left bunker going down the entire side. One can land short of the green and run a ball on. The green is small so one has to be very precise to hit it.
6. par 4 – 450/420. A really long hole as a dogleg left with three trees at the left turn set closer to the edge of the fairway. Bigger hitters fly over these trees. The fairway canters to the right. There is a bunker left about 60 yards short of the green and then flanking bunkers on either side of the green. This is the second most difficult hole on the front nine although the green is a bit easier to read for pace and line. Anyone playing out to the right likely adds another 15-20 yards to the length of the hole.
7. par 4 – 505/460. Two bunkers right pinch into the fairway. Much like six, there is a bunker left about 50 yards short of the green which has a single bunker right. The hole plays slightly downhill. Although it has an easier green, the length of the hole makes it the most difficult on the front nine.
8. par 5 – 565/530. This hole plays as a dogleg right with the second or third shot playing slightly downhill. Thinned-out trees down the right side offer a chance of recovery should one enter them. There are three bunkers grouped together about 120 yards from the green that one either has to lay up, carry or play left of them. There is another bunker front left of the green. It is another nice hole.
9. par 3 – 190/160. Looking right back at the clubhouse after a quick stop at the halfway house, this is a beautiful golf hole back-dropped by the large clubhouse and putting green. You play across the stream to a slightly elevated green with bunkers right, left and back. The green is very tilted and undulated. This is a special golf hole.
10. par 4 – 395/385. No bunkers on this hole with the second shot playing over the creek winding its way in front of the green. The fairway has higher ground to either side with the left side having more trees coming slightly into the fairway. The green is slightly crowned back to front. Visually it is another very attractive hole as offers very good playing options.
11. par 3 – 180/165. This hole perhaps plays the longest as the green is on a plateau above you perhaps twenty feet. Before the green built into the hill are five bunkers. The green is tilted to the left and to the front. Even if one misses long, it will be a difficult recovery. The drop-off on the left side is very severe.
12. par 5 – 585/560. A fish-hook hole with the green set off substantially to the right after the hole appears to be relatively straight. You play over a valley to a rise. The second shot needs to stay left of a group of trees and a bunker. The green is narrow at the front where there are two bunkers to either side although it is a flat green. One should stay at left as possible with the tee and second shot. This is the best par 5 on the golf course. The good news if you have scored poorly is that you can stop at the halfway house again.
13. par 4 - 405/390. This is a classic hole with fairway bunkers down the left side of this dogleg left. It does remind me a bit of the sixth hole in its shape but the length, terrain, and bunkering are very different. There are four bunkers down the left side of the fairway. The green has bunkers left and right with a very difficult back left pin position almost hidden due to the green continuing behind the left side bunker. This was my second favorite hole on the back nine.
14. par 3 – 215/165. A version of a redan as the green slopes to the left and away from the player. There is a false front here. The green has two bunkers set away on the right, one fronting the left side of the green and another on the left. However, I found this to be the least interesting hole on the course which does not mean it is bad. As with any redan, if you leave yourself in a downhill position, the putt is very speedy.
15. par 4 – 455/415. The most difficult hole on the back nine plays as a dogleg left going left at the final third of the hole. There are four cross bunkers beginning about 175 yards from the green going right to left. These are set against a ridgeline. The green has smaller flanking bunkers on the sides. The green has subtle interior contours. As mentioned, Bobby Jones included this hole in his “dream eighteen.” It deserves to be for that period of time. One wants to play this hole over and over.
16. par 5 – 540/510. A dogleg right with an inner turn large bunker paralleling the fairway. You play up a ridge off the tee, then the ground then the land flattens to a green heavily defended by a bunker left and three on the right front. Before the green is a deep swale beginning about 50 yards prior to the green. One cannot go right into the trees off the tee. The par 5’s on the back nine are very good while the front nine are not in the same league.
17. par 4 – 385/335. The tee shot has to carry a steep ridge with the ridge continuing down the left side of the fairway to the green. The ridge is higher on the right side. Trees on the left block average length hitters from trying to shorten this dogleg left. There is a steep drop-off left of the green. Four bunkers are place on the ridge line left of the green with the first bunker pinching the fairway smaller. At the green is another bunker right with a final bunker left back of the green. This is a very good hole.
18. par 4 - 445/395. The final hole plays over a valley with scattered trees down the right side and thicker trees down the left. A small bunker is on the left but should not be in play. Another larger bunker on higher ground as the fairway rises is on the left. The green is angled left to right with a large, deep bunker on both sides. It is a fine finishing hole and a fitting end to a very good golf course.
In terms of which course do I find to be the number one course in the northeast part of Ohio I would personally rank them as: The Country Club, Canterbury, Brookside, The Kirtland CC and Firestone South. I have not played Pepper Pike. However, have me play them a second time and I might reverse them, particularly 2-4. It is a very worthy debate and one in which I believe there is not a “wrong” order of those top four. I played both Kirtland and The Country Club the poorest, possibly due to the heavily saturated fairways or playing in fatigue, yet I enjoyed these two the most from a visual and routing perspective. Kirtland has the best ten holes, Brookside has the best consecutive five holes, Canterbury has the best hole and a feeling of “openness” that I like, but The Country Club is the most consistent.
As mentioned, what is unique about The Country Club is that the trees remain. I recall playing Oakmont, Merion East, Aronimink, Winged Foot (both) and many others before the tree-clearing campaign started which I fully support. However, at The Country Club the trees are very much a part of the golf course and remind us of the value they can provide if the routing and use of bunkers is correct.
it is a terrific golf course.
Many people confuse Country Club at Pepper Pike and the Pepper Pike Club. Both are designed by William Flynn and the courses border each other. Both are good courses, but "Country" as locals call it, is the better course of the two. It is an underrated course with good variety and great greens. The par 3 9th and par 3 11th are outstanding, but the par 4 17th is a whole lot of fun.
William Flynn laid out more than one “The Country Club” in the United States. For those of us familiar with the club in Brookline, it’s ironic to stumble across another club with the same name by the same architect.
“Country” as it’s referred to by the locals is arguably the most historic and significant club in this part of the nation. Its membership included Coburn Haskell who introduced the one-piece rubber cored ball in 1898. The clubhouse is 77,000 square feet with at least 8 dining rooms.
The routing is focused on the many ridges that run through the property, and it highlights the talent of the architect to find the holes that took advantage of these ridges and changes in elevation. The property is set about 15 miles east of Cleveland where the terrain really begins to rise and fall. The changes in elevation throughout the course are significant, but it is one of the best walks in golf.