Sleepy Hollow is one of two designs from Golden Age greats to be featured among Cleveland’s municipal offerings (the other is Donald Ross’s Manakiki). Stanley Thompson came down from Canada for several northern Ohio projects, and contributed the second nine holes to the relatively new Sleepy Hollow Golf Club. Thompson’s holes now comprise the opening nine at the course, and his influence can be seen, particularly on the par threes.
The architect was noted for identifying the locations for his short hole greens before anything else, and the dramatic carries across glacier-hewn valleys are notable here (although players will appreciate walking across the long bridges across these valleys, similar to another Sleepy Hollow). The topographic features are present across the property, including a nearly 70-foot deep “canyon” on the inside of the dogleg par five at No. 14, which once counted it among the most-discussed holes in the region.
This topography also led to the institution of Cuyahoga Valley National Park during the late ‘90s, long after the area had been inhabited. This means that Sleepy Hollow is one of just a few golf courses in the United States that sits on National Park land. “Find your park” indeed...and play golf in it as well!
Stanley Thompson accumulated acclaim for his series of courses complementing many of Canada’s National Parks, so it’s appropriate that when Cuyahoga Valley was incorporated into the American National Park System in 1998, it inherently ingested Thompson’s Sleepy Hollow design as a rare route within a U.S. National Park. Although the rolling hills of northern Ohio can’t live up to the mountain majesty of Banff or Jasper, the Canadian icon’s style does translate to the course at Sleepy Hollow.
The most-telling facet of the course’s historic status is the angles present on its greens. Almost every hole will demand the player stay below the pin upon approach, or prepare for a three-putt. If controlling distance is difficult for the player, they should consider laying up short and playing for an up-and-down Par; better to be chipping your third shot from the front of the green than chipping your fourth from the same position, having sent a birdie putt screaming down the slope. The green at No. 9 will be a particularly shocking experience for those lulled into complacency at more modern munis.
At a course that demands such control upon approach, it’s appropriate that the Par 3s are the choice crop at this course. No. 2 plays long—up to 230 yards—along a marsh, to a narrow, lengthy green. No. 8 uses a well-placed bunker to accomplish a redan effect, while the aforementioned slopes make placement essential. Both this and the Par 3 No. 6 require carries over deep creek beds, where the only true connection to the more famous Sleepy Hollow—Seth Raynor’s Hudson Valley classic—emerge, as walkers traverse lengthy, cross-beamed bridges (a nice aesthetic experience, if nothing else). The creeks provide little strategic consideration; the only reason for a lost ball will be shaky nerves.
If the Par 3 at No. 2 sounded like a stiff short for so early in the round, you aren’t wrong. Those playing against par may quickly find themselves in the hole, as—following a reasonable and reachable opening Par 5—the course quickly runs through three of its most beastly. Although the yardage is similar between the two nines, the front-half is a tad disproportionate in its challenge when compared to the second. If walking (you’ll need the cart even more after you’ve paid for it; Cleveland Metro Parks charges an arm and a leg), you’ll be in for one of the state’s finest greens fee values.