The course at Little Mountain Country Club is one of three operated by the same company - the other two are StoneWater and Cumberland Trail - with all three emanating from the drawing boards at Hurdzan/Fry Design.
Michael Hurdzan is based out of Columbus, Ohio and, as a resident of this capital city, your correspondent can attest that much of his work in the area involves courses routed around subdivisions. I recently commented upon another reviewer’s post regarding housing complaints when reviewing golf courses themselves, and the need to justify one’s complaint in regards to the course. Little Mountain Country Club is a testament to an architect’s battle against real estate interests, and the unfortunate, realistic limits within such a battle.
The first major question to ask when considering housing on a golf course is whether a poor shot has any likelihood of breaking a window and/or killing the wealthy resident therein. This answer is certainly “no” at Little Mountain; all homes are tucked well enough from the holes that not even your correspondent could damage them. Unfortunately, this bit of “smart” urban planning means sacrifices elsewhere, and Hurdzan was forced to make them. He remained admirably steadfast that wider fairways are better: Nos. 5, 8, 11, 13, and 16 are examples where players have more strategic options from the tee (than at my local subdivision clubs, for example). This commitment requires many parallel fairways stand closer together than current COVID-19 regulations allow. We found the fairways peppered with balls that were abandoned following a tee shot from relatively nearby. In one instance, an elderly gentleman played my partner’s ball rather than his own, which was lying maybe 10 feet away (that my partner’s ball had a better line to the nearby Par 3’s green was not suspicious at all). Some complain about trees between fairways, but the ones at Little Mountain clearly serve as a modest shield for patrons.
The Par 3s punctuate routing issues in a tight property. Gil Hanse recommends waiting until No. 4 for a Par 3, as nothing kills pace-of-play like high-handicappers on early shorts. Little Mountain features shorts at Nos. 2, 4, and 6. Their locations seem the opposite of the Stanley Thompson method, as if Hurdzan waited until he had 13 holes drawn up and was looking to fill gaps on what little property he had left. In his defense, these holes feature some of the best greens on the course. No. 12 looks like a throwaway from an aerial perspective, but its green bubbles to punish those who miss the short tee shot (a mere 90 yards the day we played).
All these spatial issues stem from the subdivision that stabs awkwardly from the South into the heart of the course, to the point where the walk from the No. 14 green to the No. 15 tee requires exiting the course and walking along “Augusta Lane” (I acknowledge that this walk would be less bitter had the street been named something not quite so overwhelmingly cliched). Had Hurdzan the opportunity to access the full breadth of this property, I don’t doubt the Little Mountain experience would have been less constrained, and lived up to a more full potential.