There is great golf to be had in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, but West Virginia should not be forgotten about; the Mountain State inserts itself literally into the situation, poking a long strip of property up into the gap between the two aforementioned states. Located along this stretch is the Oglebay Resort, where the original golf course was created by Robert Trent Jones.
Like the rest of this state, there is wild topography to keep visitors enthralled, and Jones makes the most of trips up the slopes (carts are required) in the form of dramatic drops from the tee box. Almost every par three features such a drop, including No. 15, which offers no place to leave the ball short. Although the hole is just 160 yards from the back tees, a creek runs in front of the green.
The landforms also allow Jones to take some less conventional approaches to hole design: The green to the No. 5 par five is just barely over 300 yards from the tees. That said, you won’t be able to see it through the trees, nor will most be able to reach it across the drop-off between the two points. Therefore a drive out to the fairway and a 90-degree turn toward the green will be your best bet.
The course was home to the LPGA West Virginia Classic from 1974 to 1984.
I can remember my first round on the Jones Course came when the 1983 US Open was being played at Oakmont and a few people in the media suggested I should make the short drive to the panhandle of West Virginia and see firsthand. Oglebay is a wonderful State Park and has a range of activities for people to engage with golf clearly on the agenda.
One thing you can say with certainty the terrain in West Virginia is clearly on the hilly side and you notice that when you access the final uphill roadway to the property.
Robert Trent Jones, Sr. was at the height of his career when the course named for him was constructed. The usual features associated with a Jones layout are present here -- long narrow teeing areas, mega-size bunkers in certain key locations and putting surfaces that clearly provide plenty of pin locations.
The strength of the course rests with five (5) par-4s that play beyond 435 yards. You encounter this early on with the opening hole which plunges downhill and turns left in the drive zone and at the 3rd hole which features another Jones design fingerprint with an offset fairway and a tapered landing area in the driving zone.
Unfortunately, the handiwork of Jones often failed to create short par-4s that have stood the test of time. You also have a silly 90-degree dog-leg right par-5 5th hole. Jones did this at other layouts -- a few like Hazeltine National were eventually changed for the better by his son Rees years later.
You also get the obligatory par-3 over a fronting water penalty area - the 4th is nonetheless a fine hole. The same type of hole is part of the inward side with the par-3 15th with a stream that cuts in front of the putting surface.
The aspect that keeps the Jones Course entertaining is the land the course occupies. There's sufficient movement that the out-of-fashion Jones style still works at various times during the round.
The other issue is the inane placement of paved roadways throughout the course. In a number of instances the pathways resemble interstate highways and are located either on or too near the preferred line of play. Frankly, it amazes me how many courses cannot find a bit of imagination in skillfully positioning such intrusions in less consequential positions.
The inward side has a few holes of note. The long par-3 11th is done well -- the green angled slightly and having two greenside bunkers which must be avoided. The ending trio of long par-4s provides a strong finish to conclude the round.
The Jones Course is no pushover but it would help matters considerably if an updating takes place. Clearly, where the cart paths are located would need immediate attention. And, as I alluded to earlier, the nature of a few of the holes is a by-product of a design style that simply has faded into the sunset. The West Virginia landscape is a major plus -- it's too bad the golf is not at the same consistent level as the terrain.
M. James Ward