Alec “Nipper” Campbell designed the golf course of the Moraine Country Club and it opened for play in 1930. Campbell was raised at Troon and in 1899, aged nineteen, he emigrated from Scotland to take up the post of professional at The Country Club in Brookline. When his professional playing career came to an end, Campbell turned his hand to course design and after building Moraine, he became the Club Professional, a position he held for many years.
Host to the 1945 PGA Championship, which Byron Nelson won, Moraine received a Dick Wilson (Joe Lee) makeover in 1954. In 2015, Moraine was returned to Nipper's Scottish roots by Keith Foster. This major renovation included total greens reconstruction, fairway widening/regrassing and the reintroduction of long-lost bunkers, which were revealed from old photos and drawings.
Moraine’s par four 1st is one of the trickiest on the card despite its modest yardage. The green complex is shaped like an upturned saucer and if your approach shot ends above the hole you’ll do very well to make par. In fact, Moraine’s first three holes have challenging greens. Most first time visitors tend to drop more shots than they bargained for so early in their round.
Apart from its contoured greens, Moraine is a traditional, perhaps old-fashioned, parkland course that provides a fair and interesting challenge. Keep on the right line, master the greens and you might card a decent score.
By pleasant coincidence, Will Gwaltney has also posted about his round at Moraine Country Club on this fine day. I, known for overwriting, will now perform the role of a cuckoo by taking the eggs he has laid in his review (“outstanding piece of property” and “firm and fast”) and place a much larger, overblown bird atop them (only in terms of webpage structure, of course).
In truth, I’ll be concise regarding the firm-and-fast nature of the course: splendid conditioning.
Let’s discuss the outstanding nature of the property at length instead. The club, and the neighborhood that hosts it, is named for glacial moraine, a terrain type where the frozen trains of yesteryear deposited significant amounts of debris. In fortunate cases, that debris is more sand than gravel, creating both ideal golfing platforms and an inspiring landscape that seems to swoop rather than just fall. The aesthetic nature of these glacier-carved hills match Erin Hills (another moraine gift), where the rest of Ohio must make do with simple ol’ hills (also crafted by glaciation, albeit less artfully). The same moraine ridge that serves as the focal point at Moraine runs for miles through the area.
This is largely golf gold, but it also creates one of the inherent problems at the club (I’ll get the bad news out of the way first): routing. The course opens with five holes in the same direction, followed by four in the opposite, and concludes with a stretch of three-and-three, heading in their respective directions. This is not to say I have an alternative; I doubt that the height of the ridge and the relative lack-of-width (it’s a rather thin property) would allow much better than what Campbell found here. Unfortunately, lacking for additional moraine-land to work with, he also settled somewhat with holes Nos. 10 through 12, which play across the uncharacteristic flat patch near the clubhouse.
But even these holes feature brilliant greens, which in my experience are the best in Ohio (I wracked my memory and frantically flipped back and forth between the pages of this yardage book and that of Inverness...Camargo may be the last true competitor that Moraine faces in my state rolodex, and I suppose I should see what Jack has done with his most recent fixes at Muirfield...but I have doubts in the latter case). These putting surfaces are full of both dramatic drops and nuanced nudges, like Keith Baxter — er, Keith Jarrett, sorry — playing the piano.
There is nothing subtle to be said for the landscape in the hills, and there is nothing to be sorry for in it. The ripples and outright waves of these fairways leave the player with unpredictable runs and blocked views...joyously reminiscent of faraway coastal golf. The most majestic — and intimidating — view at the course comes at the No. 14 tee, where players gaze up a fairway that crests twice on its way to a green perched atop the second peak, like a Greek temple. Research has shown Campbell to be involved in designing the best holes at Brookline, so I took special pleasure in comparing the shape of No. 7 to No. 4 “Hospital” at The Country Club; although almost exactly the same length and difficult to distinguish from Google Maps, Moraine’s plays downward, daring a carry of the high bunker for those wanting a kick toward this reachable green (Brookline’s rendition plays up and then back down, offering a blind tee shot toward similarly-placed hazards).
I, to steal another sentiment from Mr. Gwaltney, could certainly play this club everyday. In fact, I’d need to in order to gather the knowledge required to manage two-putts on these greens. I’m stealing many a commenter’s sentiments by suggesting Keith Foster’s work restoring Moraine was superb. I’ve heard it mentioned as potentially the best in Ohio, but I’m not prepared to go that far.
In my perfect world, the best parts of the two aforementioned moraine courses would come together to create a masterpiece: If only Campbell could have applied the apt abilities shown here onto the more wandering canvas of Erin Hills, and we would be better for it. As I live in an imperfect world, the existing Moraine Country Club will do nicely.
What an outstanding course and piece of property. Completely blown away by the land movement. New superintendent from Oakmont has the course in great shape (firm and fast). I could play this course daily. So much fun. Do not pass up a round at Moraine.
Moraine is a treat from start to finish, great variety in the different types of holes and conditioning is always fantastic. Favorites holes are 4th - uphill Par 5, 5th - short Par 3 and 7th - short Par 4. On the back nine, my favorite holes are the 13th - Par 5 and 14th - Par 4 are my favorites. It is in my Top 5 in Ohio, probably Top 3.
This is an excellent golf course. The lay-out is enjoyable and provides much variety of shots. The greens are some of the best in the country with a consistent roll.
I played Moraine this week and thought it was worthy of being a top 150 U.S. course and a top golf course in golf-rich Ohio. The restoration and tree removal provide for openness and outstanding scenery. The tall brown fescue that borders the rough on holes provides a stunning visual contrast to the perfectly green fairways and greens. The bunkering is fantastic with a few holes, such as the par 3 5th, reminiscent of Seth Raynor bunkering. The course really has no weaknesses in regards to strength of holes, quality and interesting greens, etc. The one weakness is the front nine routing with the first 4 holes all going away from the clubhouse and the last 4 holes coming back. On a very windy day this can prove a challenging start or finish to the front nine.
An incredible restoration / renovation may well elevate this course into the Top 100 courses in the United States one day with enough votes. The course is almost unrecognizable today compared to just a couple of years ago due to the mass removal of suffocating trees across the entire property. A fabulous golfing canvas has been fully exposed like never before.
New tees have been added, bunkers have been restored, par 3 holes have been redesigned and the conditioning is top-notch. You’ll fall in love with the views of the course from the elevated tee boxes and bask in the glory of how the land rises and falls. This course is a must-play experience!