Donald Ross laid out the course, formerly known as Granville Golf Club, in 1924 and it extends to a modest 6,559 yards from the tips. Tight and sloping fairways, coupled with firm and fast greens, make Denison Golf Club at Granville a tough test.
Tom Doak commented in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses as follows; “this old course has been taken over by Denison University after a second round of financial difficulties. Sadly, earlier in their struggle to stay afloat, the club re-routed three holes overlooking the town to a real estate developer, and replaced them with three banal holes between the houses – thus losing the very thing that made the course special.”
A number of classic architects are basking in a renovation revival, none more so than Donald Ross. Gil Hanse is on a Ross run, tapped for work on both Aronimink and Oakland Hills—plus his reimagination of Pinehurst No. 4. Nearer to your correspondent, recent work done at the Columbus Country Club has reportedly done much to restore the Scot’s philosophy to the property (we aim to affirm soon).
Denison Golf Club would benefit greatly from such attention.
Two of the best holes are instantly improved by something as simple as removing five trees—hardly the relative deforestation that occurred at the aforementioned renovation sites. No. 3 provides a classic Cape-style drive, positioned diagonally to the fairway, where a wide creek flows along the left side. Strangely, a single tree stands intimidatingly off the tee-line where a less confident golfer may aim to “bail out,” spooking the novice toward danger. A larger tree stands farther along the left side, which stands to punish those who play long and near to the creek, upending the entire purpose for such a design. Likewise, No. 13 is a short Par 4 where players can opt to gun past a deep bunker at the corner to a thinner landing area and earn an easier approach, or they can lay up short of the bunker. Basic architect calculus suggests nearness to corner bunker correlates directly to ease of approach (landing in the bunker is a multiplier of 0, of course). Three pines (not featured within original aerial photos) mean nothing but the most precise of iron shots leave an open approach to the uphill green. Ten yards too short? Better be able to bend it like Beckhamickleson.
Those fixes are simple. The rest...not so much. A real estate sale way-back-when meant removing three holes and creating a new 15-17 tucked within a subdivision. No. 16 slogs up an intense hill with no plans other than reaching No. 17, which is just a green tucked unromantically on the parcel’s last remaining bit of flat land. Imagine Lawsonia’s classic No. 7, minus a soul. We’ve heard similar complaints about No. 15, but we’re actually fans of the this long, downhill Par 4. If the course were to expand the fairway, long hitters could worry whether the right-sloping fairway will kick their ball into more than just rough, funneling it down into the pond—finally giving strategic purpose to the water. This fairway width problem, unfortunately, has muffled many quality hazards along Denison’s route—either surrounding sand with a virtual bullet-proof vest of long turf, or allowing bunkers to slip from the fairway’s orbit altogether.
Having recently played Shennecosset, a private Ross restored splendidly as a municipal, I know Gil Hanse is not the only option. The design at Denison is inherently strong. A prioritized list of fixes will prove it.