Featuring elevated tee positions on many of the
holes, the 18-hole layout at EagleSticks Golf Club was routed across an
undulating landscape by Dana Fry and Michael Hurdzan where elevation changes
occur with great regularity.
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