4601 Dorr Street,
Ohio (OH) 43615,
- +1 419 578 9000
3 miles W of Toledo
Members and their guests only
Bernard Nicholls, Donald Ross
For those readers who associate Inverness with a certain shy little Nessie, we can tell you that the Inverness Club has absolutely nothing to do with the Loch Ness monster. With four U.S. Open championships to its name, the Inverness Club, located in Toledo, Ohio requires little introduction, especially as each Open was packed full of drama.
According to the author and historian, the late Michael Hobbs: "The Inverness Club was founded in 1903 and named for the castle in Scotland where in 1040 Macbeth had King Duncan murdered. Nine holes were planned for a start, but the first architect to work at Inverness had a problem with his arithmetic. As he stood back to admire his handiwork it was suddenly realized that there were in fact only eight holes. Very embarrassing! However, Bernard Nicholls hurriedly tacked on a par 3, which in the event proved to be a very good hole."
The course was extended to 18 holes in 1915 but Donald Ross put Inverness on the map when the club hired him in 1916 to turn Inverness into a full-blown championship course.
It’s worth mentioning that by 1920 Inverness welcomed professionals into their clubhouse, the first club in the USA to do so. The exciting 1920 US Open, saw big hitting Ted Ray birdie the 7th hole in each round on his way to victory. Consequently, prior to the return of the US Open to Inverness in 1931, A.W. Tillinghast revised the layout and Dick Wilson did the same before the club hosted the 1957 US Open. Open surgery was alive and well long before the "Open Doctor" arrived on the scene.
Doctoring continued with George and Tom Fazio making further course changes in 1978 and Arthur Hills in 1999. Today’s Inverness stretches out to almost 7,800 yards from the back tees and it’s a demanding course for most golfers from way back there.
Second shot accuracy is the key to unlock Inverness and if you can as safely negotiate the last five holes, sometimes called “murderers’ row”, then you might just card a decent score.
The club carried out a course upgrade in advance of hosting the US Junior Amateur in 2019 and the Solheim Cup in 2021, with architect Andrew Green using historical photography to reintroduce Donald Ross design intent.
“The project began as a bunker renovation but evolved after I showed how we could reintroduce the original Donald Ross vision of holes 6, 7, 8 and 13,” explained the architect. “We did this by building new holes along the southern end of of the property that was previously a field.”
Andrew Green continued: “I made the new 3rd a long par three that represented the original Ross 8th. The new par four 4th used inspired concepts from the original 7th. And the new par three 5th was modelled after the original par three 13th.
We continued the theme with a new 8th green that mirrored the strategy of the original par four 6th. To make it all tie together, we also pushed the 2nd green back a hundred yards to a natural high point. That green was replicated using lasered survey information, restoring the feel of the Ross bunkers from the 1920 and 1931 US Opens.”
Unreal course. Get on a plane and go. USGA needs to give this course another shot a hosting a US Open. Checks all the boxes.
A return visit to the Inverness Club was a must because of the recently-completed major Andrew Green-designed renovation.
Inverness was founded in 1903 with a nine-hole course that soon became 18 holes. Donald Ross did a major redo in 1916-1919, and subsequent revisions were done by Tillinghast, Dick Wilson, George and Tom Fazio, and Arthur Hills. Before the 1979 U.S. Men’s Open, the USGA was concerned about crowd control on this compact course. The Fazios’ answer was four brand new holes. Unfortunately, they bore no resemblances to the remaining 14 Ross holes. They seemed totally out of place and were jarring to the eye.
Andrew Green was hired in 2016 to consult on bunker renovation. However, after doing considerable research on Donald Ross and Inverness, he convinced the club to do a major renovation of the whole course based on Ross’ design philosophy. Construction started in May 2017 and was completed only a year later. The club took a risk in hiring Green because this was his first solo renovation effort on a World Top 100 course. The decision proved farsighted as not only did Green do an excellent job at Inverness, but several other highly-ranked courses have signed up for his services – Oak Hill, Congressional, Scioto, and Wannamoisett.
Green blew up three of the four Fazio holes and the green on the other was moved and redesigned. Three totally new holes were built (#s 3, 4 and 5), another was lengthened 100 yards, bunkers were rebuilt and repositioned, and greens were expanded to allow for more hole locations.
Inverness is a difficult course to score on from three major standpoints. First is its unusual par distribution. Par is 71 — 35 on the front and 36 on the back. However, Inverness has an unusual number of par-4s: 13. The front has two par-3s and one par-5. But the back has only one par-3 and one par-5.
The second difficulty is Inverness’s new length. In the club’s last three major championships the distances were: 1979 U.S. Men’s Open at 6,982 yards; 1986 PGA Championship at 6,982 yards; and 1993 PGA Championship at 7,025 yards. The new yardage is a whopping 7,730 yards! The front side yardage is 3,934, par 35. The back side is 3,796 yards, par 36. Certainly, these tees are only for the elite player. Mere mortals can enjoy the next set of tees at 6,990 yards. The important point is Inverness now has the tee setup flexibility of 7,000 to 7,700 yards to handle every level of high-quality player.
The third major challenge is its very small greens (6,000 square feet being typical). Inverness greens average 21% smaller at only 4,840 square feet. The first nine greens average 5,372 square feet, and the second nine average only 4,308 square feet. The largest is #7 at 7,400 square feet for a par-4 at 481 yards. The smallest is #17 at 3,800 square feet for a par-4 at 483 yards. The deepest greens are #s 3 and 4 at just 35 yards. The widest green is #7 at 36 yards. The overwhelming best advice given by Inverness members is to play for the middle of the greens where you will always have a birdie putt.
The newly-rebuilt greens of Pure Distinction bent grass feature noticeable contours including some steep slopes. There are some steep falloffs on all sides requiring delicate chipping/pitching options. Today the greens were in beautiful conditions – running smooth and true at about 11 on the Stimpmeter.
In counting the number of bunkers, I discovered something unusual. Because the course is so compact Inverness benefits from having some bunkers serve two holes. Holes 1 and 10 are parallel and run north/south. Four fairway bunkers on the left side of #1 also act as four bunkers on the right side of #10. The 2nd and 11th holes are also parallel and run north/south for the first two thirds of the second hole. They share one fairway bunker. The other shared bunker is on the left fairway side of #2 and also extends to the left to be the right greenside bunker on #11. In all, there are 45 fairway bunkers and 45 greenside bunkers with grassed faces and attractive wrinkled edges. Many of the bunkers pinch the tee shot landing areas and others pinch or completely block shots to greens. Pin point accuracy and distance control is a must at Inverness.
A meandering stream (or ditch) comes into play on nine holes. Overall, there is not much water involved, but the grass-covered steep banks are to be avoided. The stream appears on the side of fairways, in the middle of fairways, and in front of greens. In addition, some fairways are interrupted by rough so there is an aspect of playing from one island part of a fairway to another island — a feature found on a few holes at Pine Valley.
What I saw last year was another terrific renovation program. There is no question Green has greatly improved all aspects of Inverness. The Fazio eyesores are totally gone. Now all 18 holes flow with a really nice rhythm. More shot options have been added to test every level of player. The course is definitely more difficult, so bring your “A” game.
Overall a very fun and historic course to play. The recent design improvements by Andrew Green make this more strategic and returns a few holes to its original Donald Ross design.
An excellent course! I was completely blown away with the hills on this property. I've been going to NW Ohio my entire life, and I had no idea hills like this were to be found anywhere!
The course has a history that is just about unmatched. There are a few courses that have hosted more majors, but after the renos that have just been completed at Inverness, I look for Inverness to be hosting more majors.
Holes 1, 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, and 18 are particularly strong. There are other good holes, too.
Ohio has so many good courses. Inverness certainly holds its own!
Your correspondent mistakenly believed for years that the Inverness logo featured an elephant and an elk, confusing the flourish of the knight’s helmet to be antler’s on the stag’s head. It seemed odd, at first, to learn the beast’s true identity was a camel. After all, one’s nobility is typically held in higher regard than the other’s. Having played the course, I now fully endorse the decision.
Glaciation’s role in forming Ohio golfland is well-established, generally for the better. The bubbling slopes of fairway seen looking back at holes such as No. 13 or No. 7 are blessings left in the form of glacial moraine (the namesake for another fine Ohio golf club). Glaciers, being non-sentient beings, did not necessarily do everything correct when shaping land for golf, however (better luck next time, guys). At countless clubs across Ohio, the result is a singular valley surrounding a creek that was at one point much larger, and much more frozen. Unfortunately, such a feature stumps lesser-level architects into making repetitive holes back and forth across the property.
Donald Ross is no lesser-level architect. The shape of the Inverness property was going to inevitably force many north/south holes, and indeed eight holes cross the Deline Ditch (actual name) and its burn. Ross’s ability to avoid boredom with a variety of challenges and approach types — holes where running down the hill’s fairway is ideal and holes where it is not; holes requiring carries to greens perched on the rim, and holes requiring (forced) carries over the burn to greens down in the valley; approaches with blind bunkers lurking upon approach, and greens making the challenge of their well known. And again, this is just eight holes, playing over an identical landform. I imagined the camel as I struck from one hump, hoping my ball reached the green atop the next.
(The elephant is perhaps represented in the championship-level strength this club intends, personified best by the daunting “Sunken Pits with Raised Faces," as Ross described the bunker style in his ‘Golf Has Never Failed Me.’ They are not casual hazards for those of poor approach).
The camel’s humps become a less fortunate symbol with regards to Inverness’s history as a course, however. I’ve seen maps of the Fazio holes, compared to Andrew Green’s reimagined/restored Ross holes and shaken my head. Worse yet, I’ve seen comments like poor John Sabino’s, who summed up the course as “small greens” circa 2016. I hope he has the opportunity to return soon, as Green’s restoration will surely be invigorating. Placement of one’s approach is still essential, but now it is not enough to simply find the green, but to find the correct place on the green...one of the core tenets of strategic golf.
Inverness began high on the back of Ross’s splendid work, descended into the valley of architecture’s dark ages, and has risen again atop the camel’s next hump.
(As a side note, after my misunderstanding on Inverness’s logo, now I’m concerned The Golf Club’s logo may also be some hoofed animal aside from a stag! If anyone cares to give me a closer look…)
The club logo is an elephant and a camel. Inverness Club (with the permission of Inverness, Scotland) uses the logo of the Scottish town.
What a great course Inverness is!
Fascinating routing with lots of parallel holes featuring a steep ravine with a creek. Ingeniously routed to provide variety in how each hole utilizes the ravine at different points in the hole to limit repetitiveness. Case in point are the 1st and 10th hole which play side by side. With the 1st green on top of the ravine and the 10th down it, the holes play completely differently. The greens were very small, but I thought they were challenging without being over the top. My favorite stretch of holes was 4-8, mostly on the back half of the property. I especially liked the 8th hole, where a well placed drive that catches the edge of the ravine funnels down into the valley for a good chance to go at the green in two.
I recently played Inverness after the renovation. The improvements definitely increased my already favorable opinion. Not only does the course have a variety of holes and shots required, it has some of the best greens in the U.S.
Worthy of a top 150 course in the U.S. The greens are the highlight of the course. The small greens are extremely challenging to hold when firm and fast. Great variety of holes.
If I had to sum up Inverness in two words: small greens. Inverness has the smallest greens of any golf course I have ever played. Almost every green is a postage stamp green. Not only is each green very small, but the predominant design feature of the course is well guarded greens with narrow openings that require accurate approaches. Each green has either mounds on both sides or bunkers with high lips. It is a fairly easy driving course, with wide fairways. The trick at Inverness is getting on the greens in regulation. It requires very precise iron play.
I liked the layout and routing at Inverness. I especially liked the 7th hole, which is the #1 handicap. You play your tee shot from an elevated tee. The ideal tee shot favors the right side of the fairway, but in shades of Carnoustie, you have to flirt with a burn that snakes subtly throughout the entire course. The second shot is straight uphill and really favors an approach from the right as opposed to left side of the fairway since a big sycamore tree sits at the top of a plateau protecting the green. As is customary in Ross's designs, Inverness has its fair share of holes with shaved areas around the small greens. It’s an old-style Donald Ross gem of a course.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
The par 3 12th was a great medium length one shot hole where the small undulated green is heavily protected and green surface partially blind from the tee box. A lovely hole requiring a carefully placed tee shot into the wind on our day. One of the amazing things about Inverness that attests to the strength of its routing is how easily walkable it is and how well it flows from green to the next tee. Yet the holes still don't feel crammed together.
Inverness is a great members club and a thrill to play. I imagine it's a course that just keeps getting more and more fun to play once you get to know it better. If you ever get the chance to play it jump on it.