Designed by the legendary figure of Stanley Thompson in the 1920s, the Sleepy Hollow Golf Course originally opened as a private country club on property rented from the local authority before it became open to the general public in 1963.
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.