2196 Riverside Drive,
Ohio (OH) 43221,
- +1 614 486 4341
2 miles NW of downtown Columbus
Members and their guests only
According to The New World Atlas of Golf, “Scioto is the course where Jack Nicklaus developed from a pudgy junior to a world beater. Designed by Donald Ross in 1916, it carries all the hallmarks of his best works – greens nestling into the terrain, gentle slopes on the approaches, full use of the ground’s natural contours and plenty of subtle problems which demand thought rather than power.”
Scioto Country Club may well be where the young Golden Bear cut his golfing teeth, but we should not overlook the club’s impressive tournament history. It was here at Scioto in 1926 where Bobby Jones won the second of his four US Open titles, becoming the first man ever to hold both the US and British Open titles in the same year. Five years later, the club played host to the 1931 Ryder Cup, which the US squad won and, in 1950, Scioto hosted the PGA Championship, which, as it turned out, was not the spectacle that many had hoped for.
Donald Ross originally laid out the course at Scioto Country Club, but today it’s really only the routing that can be attributed to Ross because Dick Wilson made extensive changes to Scioto in the early 1960s.
Mike Stachura, writing in American Classic Courses: “1953: Jack Nicklaus, playing with his father [at Scioto] and breaking up his front and back nines to run home and eat dinner, shoots under 70 for the first time at the age of 13, making an eagle on the final hole.”
In 2008 Jack Nicklaus and Michael Hurdzan’s award-winning renovation at Scioto was unveiled, which involved rebuilding Dick Wilson’s greens to USGA standard. The result, we think, will stand Scioto Country Club in good stead for many years to come and will appease most Donald Ross design aficionados.
Scioto Country Club has a storied past; Donald Ross designed it, in 1926 Bobby Jones won the US Open on it and Jack Nicklaus came of age on it. One of the original founders, Samuel Bush, is the grandfather of George Bush and hence the great grandfather of George W. Bush. The stone walls at Scioto really add a wonderful contrasting feature. It is a wonderful throwback course and I was fortunate enough to play it a few years ago.
The first hole at Scioto is not welcoming. For that matter the first few holes aren’t either. Regardless, on the first tee you know you are in for a treat. A long slightly uphill left leaning par four with fairway bunkers left. The approach is to an elevated green with a false front not to mention an assortment of greenside bunkers. The first is tough the 2nd is dirty. It is long and the number one handicap hole and the biggest challenge is keeping your drive in the fairway. In the landing area is a mound, hit the left side and you will carom into the trees left, hit the right side and you will probably end up in the right fairway bunker. If you are successful off the tee you will be faced with a long uphill approach to another well-protected green. The 3rd was much more my speed, favor left of center off the tee. A decent drive will eave you with an attack iron, but be aware of the two tier green to ensure you are on the right level. The first par three is 200 yards to a raised green with 3 front bunkers and a steep fall off in the back. If you are going to miss, right is best. Tough par 3. The 5th is another demanding par four. Off the tee it looks fairly benign and appears any errant tee shot will be pushed back to the center by the contours. It did not work with my draw. Aim down the middle and you will still have a long approach. A stream bisects the fairway and the green has bunkers left, right and rear. Not sure how often the back bunker comes into play, I managed it somehow. Trust me, you do not want that shot. The 6th is a good birdie oppty. Favor the right off the tee on this reachable par 5. The green is well protected and has two tiers. The 7th is a good birdie oppty. However there is a ridge in the fairway. Well struck drives should clear it and have an attack wedge. Mediocre drive will end up with a mid-iron off an uphill lie. This green also has a false front and is surrounded by four bunkers. My favorite hole was the par five 8th. It is not a long par 5 but it is extremely well protected by bunkers and water. Evidently, the original design there was a moat around the green. I would have liked to see that. My advice play this as a 3 shotter. Not a lot of margin of error, especially with this green that slopes back and left. Par is your friend. The front ends with the shorted hole on the course. The green is slightly uphill and surrounded by four bunkers, play for the middle of the green!
The highlight (?) of my day was the par 4 10th. It is a two tier green, I have a 15 foot uphill birdie putt to the second tier. We had caught the group ahead of us and I could hear them bantering on the 11th tee box. As I was lining up my putt, I heard one guy say, “I bet you $5 he three putts.” Followed by, ‘You’re on.” Not exactly the confidence building repartee one would hope for. With singular focus I address my ball, make a good stroke and my putt heads for the hole. Initially, I think I am going to miss high, but at the last moment it breaks left and appears to be heading into the hole. Alas, too much pace. Horrors of horrors, the hole spits it out with a vengeance. I start shaking my head, because I know this one is coming back. Sure, enough my ball finally comes to rest about three feet closer to the hole than when I started. As I am lining up my second putt I hear muttering from the foursome on the 11th tee box. I believe I have the line nailed and as I address my putt I convince myself to not hit it so hard this time. I didn’t . My putt runs out of steam about three balls below the hole. Gravity and kinetic energy then take over. This one is coming back to me as well. To add insult to injury I hear, “Told ya, you owe me $5!” The good news is I am gaining on the hole, I am now only 8 feet out. I get my third putt to the hole and then some. I now have a four footer coming back, which mercifully goes in. We did not get within speaking distance of the foursome in front of us until the 14th hole. I waved and said, “I four putted, give him the $5 back!” The 11th is the shortest par and is a birdie oppty. The fairway does hourglass with fairway bunkers right and left, but a decent drive takes them out of play and leaves you with an attack wedge. The par 5 12th is a dogleg left. Big hitters can get home, my recommendation is play it as a 3 shotter and favor the right side with your second shot short of the cross bunker. This should give you a wedge in, but this is one of the deeper greens so pay attention to pin location. The 13th is a long straightaway par 4. While it is downhill, I wasn’t even close to getting home in reg. Another well protected green. The 14th is a long uphill par 3. Don’t be ashamed to hit driver. Everything will run to the right so play left of the flag. The right front bunker is deep and merciless and if you are right of that good luck. The 15th is a long dogleg right. Off the tee favor the left and aim at the left fairway bunkers. The green is elevated so take an extra club. The 16th tilts a wee bit to the right. The approach is tricky as the green is raised between right and left bunkers with a steep slope in the front. Don’t get rejected! The last par three is a redan green with a water hazard providing the defense front and left. Pay attention to the pin location as this will have a big impact on club selection. On second thought, just play for the middle of the green. The 18th is a good demanding finishing hole. If you par it, you know you earned it. Off the tee aim just right of the flagpole and with a little luck you may catch the speed slot. The approach is uphill with bunkers guarding the front, so take an extra club.
Scioto is rich with history and an awesome golf course.
It's funny. When I think of my time at Scioto, I recall the clubhouse more than the course. The course is certainly nice; however, I truly feel it's overrated. Ohio is an embarrassment of riches for good golf (MVGC, Inverness, Canterbury, Carmargo, etc) and I feel Scioto sneaks into this list because of its history.
And speaking of its history, it's fantastic! And so too is it's clubhouse!
However, when thinking of the course, much of it runs together. Hole 2 is particularly strong, and so too is 8. 18 is a good finishing hole.
In all, there are better courses in the area, though my time at Scioto was certainly enjoyable.
I had the pleasure of playing Scioto a few weeks ago. The club itself is the type of club you'd love to join with a lively membership, great practice facilities, nice clubhouse, friendly staff, pool, and other amenities. The course has the perfect amount of trees (enough to give you trouble if you miss the fairway but few enough to give you great views). The pars 3s were outstanding, the par 4s had a lot of variety, and the par 5s were very good.