Players will notice an immediate similarity to the Inverness Club (the most notable club in the region) when they tee off at Stone Ridge Golf Club, as the No. 1 and No. 10 tees briefly share a common area of fairway. After that, however, Arthur Hills’ design personality comes to the fore, featuring a number of challenging shots bringing ponds and large bunkers into play.
Interestingly, players will immediately challenge the No. 2 handicap hole, a par four that stretches 430 yards. They won’t meet the only hole ranked tougher until No. 18, when facing a 450-yard par four that features a long pond along its entire left side.
Another big difference between this and Inverness: Stone Ridge is a public access course. Hills has created quite a few around his home state of Ohio, and Stone Ridge is certainly the best near Toledo, the city from where Hills bases his design firm.
I’m hardly an urban planner, and the market certainly seems to suggest that as many homes should be crammed in as little space as possible (note: This opinion was expressed during the COVID low-interest-rate housing boom). As a reader of both The Economist and The Golfer’s Journal, I like to think that some middle ground exists where well-designed golf courses can exist alongside subdivisions. Columbus, Ohio—your correspondent’s base—has not readily supplied such opportunities. Although I try to avoid critiquing such residential hybrids just for existing, I can’t deny that there is something lacking. I’ve formulated a list of problems:
One is simple upkeep. I’ll preface this by saying that many of the subdivision courses in Columbus are operated by the same company, and the waste-quality of the bunkers or the sogginess of the fairways are similar between them. Basically, if a manager with some interest were to step up, the issues could be addressed.
Second is playing corridors. This complaint is mostly heard regarding trees, but opportunistic development plans often mean lining both sides of a fairway with housing, which is a nightmare for players who go wide of the mark. Sometimes ponds are added as a barrier, but let’s be honest: If a slicer is being forced to aim to avoid a pond on the right, he’s now aiming at the houses on the left. The more affordable the housing, the more likely it is to take mortars from next door. My sympathy to the latter parties only goes so far; I don’t know what Brezhnev sold you when you bought the condo at Chernobyl, but you should have seen the radiation poisoning coming. The answer then? Simply limit yourself to homes along one side of the fairway (and ideally the left). If holes are able to run parallel to each other, the lack of a barrier between them allows the course to breathe, and for lackluster players to breathe easier when looking for their ball. An unpenalized shot from deep rough is still better than losing a stroke and a ball to a dog that looked much smaller 200 yards ago.
Finally, creativity just seems to slip among residential courses. The mass-production concept of “freeway” golf has been resurrected in the form of subdivision golf, and there are multiple reasons. One is a lack of budget; Michael Hurdzan puts more work into blank-check properties like Erin Hills than he does the neighborhood accompaniments in my neck of the woods (that’s not completely removing the yoke of blame from the architect). When a creative architect can combine intriguing sand hazards with strategic foresight (for example, making players choose between distance and angle; leaving a longer, straighter shot for those who leave the driver in the bag and vice-versa), you get a much more satisfactory residential golf experience. If the designer can even use dirt from the construction process to place a tabletop green atop the shortest par three on the course, perched above deep bunkers in tribute to the Ross “volcano” concept…
OK, the last “theoretical” example was a bit too specific. You’ve probably caught on that I had somewhere in mind while writing up this review. Take the pleasant alternative I offered for each critical complaint, and you’ve got an idea what you can expect at Stone Ridge. It’s not going to top any lists soon, but it’s a stated improvement on the typical Saturday morning experience I described in my negative Columbus examples. I was pleasantly surprised at what Arthur Hills and Stone Ridge accomplished here, and would certainly recommend it to those in the area.