Alister MacKenzie tendered for the design of the Scarlet course at Ohio State University in 1931 but seven years would pass before Perry Maxwell constructed the layout.
I was hugely sceptical about this course. For starters, I haven’t met a Nicklaus course that I enjoyed. I could count on one hand the number of Nicklaus courses that got a second date with me. Add in the fact that a few years ago, Jack “restored” this Alister MacKenzie course, I debated not getting out of my car. Jack is not the first person you call when you want to tinker in any way with a MacKenzie course. A beautiful example of this is what he did to “The Australian” down in Sydney in 1976 after he won two Australian Opens there. I’m sure MacKenzie is rolling in his grave.
Jack Nicklaus is an alumni of Ohio State and with an incredible golf resume, the debate as to who would win the work to restore the Scarlet course didn’t take very long. When I pegged it up on the Scarlet course, I was fortunate to play with a member of 35 years, so I could grill him with questions all day long. The majority of the changes made by Nicklaus were actually quite helpful. Without losing their original design and intent, he significantly deepened the bunkers, including the enormous fairway bunker complexes.
It’s a sincerely strategic course with fantastic visuals, and I even concluded that it was underrated in the state of Ohio. Jack did move a couple of green locations, including the creation of a really poor par 5 early into the round. It was originally a par 4, but he moved the green 60 yards right and expanded the pond in front of the green, rendering it an awkward 3-shotter for most golfers. I was lead to believe that when the Web.com players make their annual visit to the Scarlet course that this is the hole they complain about the most. It’s just bizarre.
With that said, I was relieved that Jack didn’t ruin the Scarlet course, and in fact he did a good job preserving the spirit of MacKenzie’s imagination. The bunkers were the highlight. I still needed a stiff drink after the round to get over the shudder of Jack touching a MacKenzie gem.