Opened for play in the early 1990s, New Albany Country Club is a Jack Nicklaus-designed 27-hole golf facility located within a large suburb of Columbus, less than two miles from Pete Dye’s celebrated layout at The Golf Club.
The West and North nines comprise the 18-hole course of first choice, with Rocky Fork Creek featuring prominently during a round here.
Daniel Wexler has this to say about the layout in his book The American Private Golf Club Guide; “things pick up when the mid-section of the West nine encounters the water for three holes: the 436-yard 3rd (which requires a long second to a narrow green overhanging the creek), the 525-yard 4th (where the creek affects all three shots), and the 151-yard 5th.”
The author continues; “the North is a touch less inspiring, though the 427-yard 8th (where water fronts a bunkerless green) leaves little room for mistakes, and the 454-yard 9th straddles the creek, which also closely flanks the green’s left side.”
Ranking the West/North route at New Albany Country Club is a difficult one for me, as I’m not convinced it’s the pair I should be rating. The club itself has always sold the West/North as its “championship” route but, considering that the club has never hosted any actual championships of note, this gives me some leeway to determine my own superior route, no? My host suggested that he was inclined to support the North/East collaboration over North/West (German politikers, eager to create clever color-coded nicknames for their coalitions, might call this the “Kanye Offspring” option). I’m inclined to agree.
Bad news first. I’ll begin with a short list of things I don’t really appreciate about the North compared to its siblings: A) The first half of holes are not particularly inspiring (the opening par three is actually quite alright). It’s possible that at this point, on my third nine, I was expecting visual stimulation akin to the rest of the club thus far (and, in honesty, much of Jack Nicklaus’s oeuvre). But, to immediately counteract myself, the final stretch on the North crossed my line in terms of blending “interesting” and “dangerous” to create what I presume is the final stretch in club competitions.
No. 15 is the nearest thing to a reachable par five at New Albany (although some other yardages appear gettable, my host says the plush maintenance and surrounding creeks keep fairways slow, and par fives three-shots), with the best angle coming from attempting to carry the bunkers at the right of the fairway. Squeezing a tee shot through the narrowed fairway on the left is hardly a risk-free shot, however...so that the player has no chance at the green because it doglegs left around trees is unfortunate. No. 18 would be a fine closing hole if the fairway had a bit more bounce...the position of the creek that cuts ahead of the green can make second shots difficult for even well-placed drives on this long par four. No. 17 receives a similar complaint as the closer, but it’s also my least-favorite Nicklaus trick...the “pillar green,” set atop a stone wall, surrounded by water (the shame is that it’s a fine green, maybe even the best on the property, big and rolling, and able to defend itself from par even without the wide maw of Rose Run).
The opening hole on the East is the more clever version of the creek-ahead-of-the-green trick: Playing to the inside of this dogleg right gets a shorter approach shot, while challenging the bunker at the outside of the dogleg gives a longer shot with a better angle into this green, which plays front-left to back-right along the creek. The plaudits continue on the East Side; No. 2 features a much steeper green than most Nicklaus offerings, using slope rather than water to inspire fear. Deep bunkers and angles makes No. 3 a fun par five. The short cape-style hole at No. 6 (361 from the back tees), coupled with a long green, made it a fun twist on the Gauls-to-the-wall version featured at No. 8 on the West nine (which is also a good, and challenging hole).
The West Course falls somewhere between the North and East...a tad more Nicklaus quirk than the East (see the par five No. 4, in which Rocky Fork and Sugar Run reach their confluence, crossing the fairway multiple times). If anyone should suggest that I’m simply aquaphobic, consider that I greatly enjoyed the No. 5 par three despite losing two balls during the bout; one to the creek that flows along the front and right of the hole, as well as knocking my second ball over the green from the bunkers at the back (I’m honest, if not good). My appreciation for this hole may speak more to my appreciation for a well-executed uphill par three than anything else.
Interestingly, I began this review by wondering whether the West/North was truly the desirable pairing at New Albany, or whether the East should be included instead. It seems that I’ve talked myself into personally favoring the East over both the two courses currently celebrated by Top100! Therefore I must endorse the West/East coalition for Ohio ranking purposes. A bit of drying out would do this parkland estate some good, and further emphasize Nicklaus’s strategic touches.
That said, I more fully endorse you just playing all 27 and deciding for yourself, unless you’ve got an invitation to The Golf Club in the afternoon.
New Albany CC has 27 holes. A Nicklaus design, true to form, the first hole bends right. It is a welcoming par 4 with 4 bunkers on the inside elbow and two more greenside front right. The 2nd is a ho-hum par 3. The third is a tough hole. A creek cuts across the fairway just inside 150 yards and then angles left and parallels and extremely thin green. Not really a challenge off the tee, but if you push your approach you are sunk. The first par 5 is a good hole. Favor the right off the tee. It is possible to reach but the risk is high. The fairway ends at a creek about 120 yards from the green. This in and of itself is not a problem, but the creek then cuts back across a peninsula fairway in front of the narrow green. From my perspective, going for it does not make a lot of sense. Even hitting your second shot to the peninsula gains little advantage. Stay pack and hot your 125-130 yard iron. Thinking mans hole. The 2nd par 3 is the shortest hole on the course, long narrow green with 3 bunkers left, one right over a water carry. The 6th is a long par four that leans right. There are two large bunkers on the left that compresses the fairway and the green has bunker left and right. The 7th is a good risk reward par 5. The water carry will only affect really bad tee shots. There are four fairway bunkers left. As a rule of thumb if you cannot reach them off the tee then there is no sense going for it. Conversely, if you can reach them, then you need to be right. The 8th is a fun hole, all water carry, leaning left it is about appetite. Having said that, if you drive through the fairway there are multiple bunkers on the other side that may make you pay. Choose wisely. The 9th is long with fairway bunkers left and right and the same greenside.
The back starts off with four good birdie oppties. The 10th leans left with a fairway bunker on the inside elbow. Be right of it. The redan green is protected by three bunkers short left. The 11th is the longest par 3 with huge bunkers right a couple left and a water carry, yet it is the 18th handicap. The 12th is a pretty straight par five with a few fairway bunkers scattered about to keep people honest. The 13th parallels 12 with no fairway bunkers and two greenside, but it is a long par four. The 14th is mid-length Florida par 3. The par 5 15th has two fairway bunkers right that pinch the landing zone. This makes it a wee bit harder to get home but still doable, especially if you can draw the ball. The 16th is a par four that leans left with a bunker on the inside elbow. The 17th is a straightaway par four with no bunkers. However, the green is a peninsula, short left and right are NG. I did not care for 18 at all. Perhaps, because I lost two balls? It is a long dogleg right. A creek crosses the hole about 150 yards out and then runs down the right side before diverting in front of the green and then running down the left side. Favor the left side of the fairway off the tee. I am sure if I birdied it, I would be saying, what an awesome hole.
Good course, with some really good holes but more average ones.