The original 9-hole course at Elyria Country Club opened for play in 1905, established by executives from the Worthington Ball Company of Elyria to promote their business. Just a couple of years prior, the firm had purchased patents from Hunt Manufacturing in Massachusetts, one of which was for the production of a Haskell ball called “Bounding Billy”.
Twenty years after its formation, the club acquired additional land along the Black River, allowing it to call in William Flynn from Ardmore, Pennsylvania to fashion a new 18-hole layout on a 161-acre site. The new course was inaugurated on 4th July, 1926 and the first foursome used gold-plated golf balls, courtesy of the Worthington Ball Company, of course.
Built during the Golden Age of golf
course design, Elyria is wonderful, tree-lined track which measures
6,750 yards from the championship tees, with water coming into play
on half the holes. It’s a remarkable example of Flynn’s ability
to design natural looking courses that still challenge golfers after
almost a hundred years of operation.
The Elyria Country Club marks one of the great missed opportunities in golf course names, as the founders of said club opted to adopt the name of this Ohio town rather than the river that lines the course. “The Black River Club” carries an incomparable magnificence, at least in this reviewer’s mind. The club does not seem interested in adopting a new moniker at this point, but it does seem interested in maintaining and, in some instances, invigorating the William Flynn features that make it noteworthy among Cleveland clubs.
Elyria has done work in recent years to reestablish Flynn’s original bunker style, and problem trees have begun to disappear. Those using Google Maps as a reference point will notice the course’s most photogenic green, the Par 3 No. 13 — where one must carry the merging point of the Black River and a tributary — seems to be quite congested by overhanging trees. No longer, as of my playing. The overarching quality of this round is strong, and you should enjoy it. I state this summary early, as I’ll be committing the next paragraph to three potential tree removals that stand to take the round from “strong” to — my mother will appreciate how much my writing degrees contributed to this next word choice — “very strong.”
I bring it up, because a touchpoint throughout the round was a man-by-man ranking of which trees had most cause to go. It was generally agreed that removing trees and widening the left fairway along No. 15 would make the Black River a hazard worth its name...and make a fine view as well. No. 11 is one of two Par 5s that require a blind, uphill tee shot, where position off the tee makes all the difference on whether the strongest players can reach (reminiscent, I’ve heard, of Flynn’s work at Philadelphia Country Club). A large tree sits at the top of the hill, and makes reaching the ideal landing area near-luck for the strong player, and provides a headache for the duffer, who only knows they can’t aim left, because of doglegging fairway atop the hill. Finally, the green at No. 17 falls off steeply at the right, which itself (there are no bunkers) is the core defense factor for this side of the green. The foliage of two large Ash Trees (don’t quote me on species), almost nullifies the need for skillful distance management, however. If a tree swats lofts from the inside of the dogleg, the ability to control the distance of said loft and maintain a tricky green is irrelevant. According to my playing partners, the club is interested in attacking such tree edits, which is a great sign.
But I’ve spent too much time complaining about trees to reflect how much I enjoyed the round. The greens at Elyria are surely the highlight, emphasizing controlled approaches to avoid rolling off of steep banks. Although Ohio borders Pennsylvania, the true distance between it and Philadelphia is evident in the dearth of Philadelphia School courses in the state. Flynn designed three, and Tillinghast only one. Greens such as that at No. 17 and No. 10 especially show what we’re missing. Three of the Par 3s at Elyria are great fun, and No. 9 (the outlier) looks like it may have some Tillinghast “Reef” bones to it, if Flynn hobnobbed with his Philadelphia compatriot.
Assuming that The Country Club and Pepper Pike live up to their reputations, Elyria can rest knowing it’s a very shiny bronze medal for Flynns in Ohio. It has one leg up on Flynn’s most prominent Ohio design, however: Even if “Elyria” isn’t quite as glorious as “The Black River Club,” it’s a much better name than “The Country Club.”
A top 10 NE Ohio course. Not a long course, but requires strategy off the tee. Get in the wrong side of the fairway and you might have tree limbs partially blocking the flight of your approach shot.
The greens here are phenomenal in terms of design and conditions. The course will not disappoint if you are in Cleveland and want a place to play.