The Appalachian region of Ohio has received the least love from golf over the years, and Eaglesticks Golf Club represents an effort to bring affordable, quality play to citizens in a region often lacking. Part of the dearth of courses is the southeast portion of the state’s drastic topography, which is on display at Eaglesticks. Built on former farmland, one must sympathize with the livestock that were forced to pull equipment up and down these hills in eras past.
Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry were able to squeeze a reasonable golf course within and on top of the slopes, however. Although many of the teeboxes will look down to fairways below, many players may want to consider leaving the driver in the bag: At just 6,500 yards from the tips, and ever-undulating land, finding the correct place to approach from is often preferable to finding the farthest distance from the tee.
The par five at No. 11 is perhaps the course’s signature hole, stretching nearly 600 yards, and divided by a creek about 250 yards out from the green. Ever resourceful, the club used remaining corn cribs from the property’s agricultural days to craft covered bridges across the span.
Having lived and worked in Columbus, Eagle Sticks is a polarizing and a bit quirky golf course about an hour east in Zanesville. Hurdzan and Fry did a masterful job shoehorning the course into the rolling hills. Do not be surprised by the elevation changes. It is not long, and in many cases it is prudent to lay up off the tee. It does have 5 par 3s and is a par 70 layout.
The first hole is not welcoming, a long uphill par four with fairway bunkers right and a large one left. Favor right of center off the tee. The green I is protected with bunkers right, rear and left. The 2nd is a mid-yardage par three with a narrow green. There is a ridge back left, my recommendation is middle of the green. Three through seven are the front side birdie holes. The 3rd is the first par five and it is reachable. At less than 500 yards and downhill even an average drive will make you consider going for it. However, a creek bisects the fairway and the fairway ends about 100 yards out. In our foursome the two guys who reached in two birdied, the others who missed the green bogeyed. The 4th is a straight forward par four. Fairway bunkers right and left and the green has a large ridge. The short 5th is probably the weakest par 3. The 6th is a short par four with one of the more generous landing areas. The 7th is a fun hole, a short downhill quasi-driveable par four. The fairway narrows precipitously about 75 yards out from the green to about 15 yards wide. The green is also very narrow with bunkers left and right with a water hazard further right. In our group, the two guys who went for it doubled. The feint of heart who laid up parred. Just saying… The 8th and 9th are tough par fours. On 8 there is OB left. Favor the right off the tee. The 9th is long and uphill with fairway bunkers right and a BAB short right.
The back starts with a strong Florida par 3 at 190+ yards to a wide green but all water carry. It is a penthouse or outhouse type of hole. The 11th is the best par five and is not reachable even though it is downhill. The hole leans left and the creek cuts across the hole. The fairway ends about 225 yards out and resumes about 180. Favor the left side as the dominant slope is left to right. There is a lovely natural waterfall and I was told the covered bridges were made out of corn cobs. The 12th is a mid-distance par 3 and its teeth is the three tiered green. The 13th is a long uphill demanding par four. There is a fairway bunker right. The green is sloped front left to back right and you can run your approach on. The 14th is a dogleg right with a u shaped bunker on the inside elbow. This is a very skinny green. Best play I think is cut as much as you can to give you an attack iron as this green is also sloped front to back. The 15th is a long par four with a very narrow green, favor the left side off the tee. The 16th is the shortest par four on the back and a decent birdie oppty. The 17th is a short slightly uphill unmemorable par 3. The 18th is a reachable par five, however, there is a strategically place pot bunker in the middle of the fairway which I inadvertently found. Favor the left off the tee
This is a fun affordable golf course. I heartily recommend it.
Imperfection takes on a positive spin while playing Eaglesticks Golf Course. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry drove the hour from Columbus to examine small parcel of land packed with jarringly abrupt hills, and probably had a small budget for moving earth——considering the course’s location near Zanesville, one of the more prominent stops in Ohio’s notoriously poor Appalachian region. They did what they could. It’s not difficult to find weaknesses in the design. The fairways are narrow, as are the greens. It’s not a bucket-list course worth driving terribly far out of one’s way to visit.
But they did what they could, and it’s worth noting, if not a road trip.
Ohio and the majority of Appalachia is full of quirky, eccentric holes, where designers wage simultaneously unwinnable wars upon geology and economics. The battle for EagleSticks followed the same formula. Fry routed thin fairways because that’s what the Earth’s narrow corridors demanded. Hurdzan rotated his thin greens to match whatever relatively flat space he could find. But that Hurdzan and Fry were there at all embody the ambition of the course’s founders. The yardage doesn’t add up enough to challenge the lowest handicappers, but neither do the greens fees. Those fees apparently go much further for groundskeeping purposes than at Hurdzan’s subdivision-based courses in Columbus, based on recent experience.
You’ll see a few homes during the round, but they won’t be what you expect at a ranked course. No. 7 takes the theme of tight fairways and greens to its logical conclusion: as a short, downhill Par 4 where the player simply must consider funneling a driver through the tunnel onto the green, threading numerous layers of bunkers in the process. Distinctive, however, is the row of trailer homes that overlook the fairway from the left, separated by a simple chain link fence. Whether you appreciate the community that EagleSticks was built for goes a long way in determining whether you’ll drive down from Columbus to play it.
One has no idea about the nature of Eaglesticks from the entrance roadway. You don't really see anything of the course until you're literally on the 1st tee. The site used to be land for horses and the rolling nature is well prepared for the golf you'll encounter. Credit much of the routing magic to Dana Fry -- before joining to form a partnership with Michael Hurdzan -- Fry was a key player on the Tom Fazio team.
The holes use the sweeping nature of the property to good effect. The bunkering is also far more than just scenic because key pin placements on most holes are well protected. Eaglesticks rewards smart and accurate play. Those who attempt to muscle the course will get plenty of pushback if such aggressive play is not executed properly.
The aspect that really elevates Eaglesticks is how 18 holes were crafted for such a tight piece of acreage. At the same time, there's a general feeling that you're not cramped to the point of suffocation when playing.
My lone real disappointment is that the actual back tee for the 1st is not in usage anymore. The extra yardage and angle provided made for a quality opener.
One of the things you quickly realize at Eaglesticks is how the short holes are the ones with the longest fangs. The downhill par-4 7th plays 338 yards but it's no less demanding than the far longer par-4''s at the 8th and 9th which play 438 and 456 yards respectively. At the 7th, players are tempted to go for the green. There's an alleyway
provided but it's akin to the width of an English countryside community roadway. Water is just to the right and the green shape is serpentine in nature.
The inward half of holes balances the layout in equally fine fashion. The par-3 10th is a devilish target to hit with a fronting pond waiting for any shot hit too meekly. The plunging downhill par-5 11th is a first rate three-shot hole. At the long par-4 13th you encounter a testing two-shot hole with a putting green that narrows considerably when the pin is cut in the far rear half.
Eaglesticks does have birdie holes. The final three give you opportunities to close strongly but you'll always need to play quality shots to do so. One of the really neat touches is the pot bunker placed perfectly on the closing par-5 18th. Gives just enough pause for long hitters to consider before launching away. For a course that plays just over 6,500 yards there's plenty of sizzle and bite to the course. Anyone driving along the I-70 corridor to and from the Columbus area when heading to Pennsylvania should make it a point to stop by and see firsthand. A top tier public course that's very affordable and fun to play.
by M. James Ward