Designed by Arthur Hills, the attractive parkland layout at The Virtues Golf Club (formerly Longaberger Golf Club) opened for play in 1999, which was just in time for it to host a “Shell's Wonderful World of Golf” match between Dottie Pepper and Karrie Webb, giving the course instant international exposure on television.
There’s little level terrain on the property so many of the tee shots and approach shots play uphill or downhill, some with significant changes in elevation. Doglegged fairways that bend in either direction are also prominent design features.
Perhaps the hole that best encapsulates The Virtues is the par five 4th, where the fairway drops one hundred and fifty feet from the tee before kinking left to a green that’s guarded by a pond to the front right hand side of the putting surface.
Constructed by Longaberger Company, the handcrafted basket firm, the course was sold off at the end of 2013 as part of a restructuring package which allowed the new owners, Four Virtues, to retain the course name for a period of time.
Arthur Hills left nothing on the drawing board when he designed The Virtues Golf Club in Newark, Ohio a mere 40 miles from downtown Columbus. Up until 2016, The Virtues was known as the Longaberger Golf Club; on your way odds are you’ll drive by the abandoned basket-shaped office building that was once home to the world-renowned basket company. The Virtues Golf Club is the top-ranked public course in Ohio and #73 in Golf Digest’s 2019-20 list of America's Greatest Public Courses. In 1999 Virtues hosted Shell's Wonderful World of Golf featuring Dottie Pepper and Karrie Webb; they also hosted the 2004 PGA Club Professional Championship.
The Virtues Golf Club offers golfers 5 sets of tees. The back tees play 7,243 yards with a course rating of 75.2 and a slope of 139. The average golfer will have a lot more fun from the White (6,180/70.2/127) or Gold (5,641/67.4/122) Tees. Ladies typically play from the Green Tee (4,985/67.9/115). Don’t bite off more than you can chew yardage wise and you’ll have a great time.
As you make your way around this magnificent layout, you’ll encounter a variety of holes. Many consider The Virtues a parkland layout, but I think it incorporates several styles. Holes lined with tall, thick fescue grasses are reminiscent of a link-style course while rising and dropping fairways coupled with blind shots are more like something you’d encounter in the mountains. You’ll play through meadows and rolling countryside, around tree-covered hills. The hitting surfaces are incredible: well-manicured Bentgrass tee boxes give way to Bentgrass fairways which lead to Bentgrass greens.
The Virtues Golf Club is not without its share of hazards - there are over seventy strategically placed bunkers and water comes into play on 8 holes. Odds are that they will figure into your score by the end of the day. There isn’t a lot of level terrain out here and because of that and the elevation changes, The Virtues Golf club isn’t the kind of course you’ll enjoy walking unless you're part mountain goat.
Virtues Golf Club is one memorable hole after another. Number 4 is a par 5 that plays 563 yards and is memorable not only because of its challenge but also for the views it provides. There’s a significant change in elevation from the tee to the green and from the elevated tee box, you can see for miles. It also gives long ball hitters a chance to get home in two. Although the awaiting fairway is generous, finding the green can be an arduous task as it is narrow and angles back and to the right, bringing the water into play that much more. Shot selection on your layup shot is important as the water can come into play if you hit it too far. Big numbers are as easy to make as birdies!
Number 8, Par 4, 444 yards. There are two ways to play this downhill dogleg left par 4. As you look over your tee shot, you’ll see a large group of trees straight ahead with fairway on either side. Therein lies your decision: Do you play left or right of the trees? Playing left shortens the hole and if you can carry your tee shot at least 225, by all means, have a shot at it; you’ll be left with a short pitch shot into the green. A good drive right of the tree will leave a somewhat longer approach shot from a fairway that slopes right to left and can leave some awkward stances. Your approach shot plays downhill into a peninsular green with a large trap behind it. No matter which way you play it, par is a good score here.
Number 16, 527 yards. Yet another risk-reward opportunity at The Virtues Golf Club. The water down the entire right side of this dogleg right hole dares players into biting-off as much of the corner as possible. A good drive just right of the first set of fairway bunkers on the left, followed by a layup shot over the next fairway trap to the right will leave a short pitch shot into a large green that slopes down towards the water. As a rule, your approach shot plays half a club longer.
Number 18, 466 yards. If I were naming holes, this would be called “Uphill Journey.” This dogleg left par 4 plays uphill all the way and finding any of the five fairway bunkers at the corner of the dogleg makes par that much tougher. A draw shot off the tee that finds the short grass over the left side bunkers will leave a mid-iron approach shot uphill into the green. A back-right pin placement can be tricky because of the bunkering around the green. The view of the clubhouse in the background makes for a nice picture.
The Virtues also boasts some pretty impressive practice facilities. Before your round, warm up on their full-length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag. There is also a spacious short game area with a practice bunker and a large putting green nearby.
After your round, be sure to stop by the Overlook restaurant at The Virtues Golf Club. In addition to a wide selection of beers and a full liquor bar, the food is amazing and well presented. Appetizers include traditional clubhouse favorites such as Mozzarella Sticks, Quesadillas, and Chicken Wings. If salad is more your thing try the Nut and Berries Salad - tender baby spinach, mixed greens, spiced pecans, chevre cheese, and dried cranberry tossed in our house-made vinaigrette. They have some unique sandwiches and entrees as well such as The BBQ Meatloaf Sandwich, Lemon Broiled Salmon, and a Grilled Ribeye Steak.
Virtues Golf Club offers the best golf membership opportunity in the area, allowing you to play the State’s top-rated public course as often as you like. They offer several different membership plans including Weekday Golf Memberships, Twilight Golf Memberships, Affiliate, and Junior Golf Memberships. They also have flexible payment plans, with monthly payment options or you can pay it in one lump sum for an additional discount. Check out the website for more details.
Virtues Golf Club has partnered with several local hotels to create stay and play packages that allow you to play the course a few times rather than just one and done. Or, if you prefer, you can play a different course, Eaglesticks Golf Club in nearby Zanesville. Packages include overnight stays in comfortable guest rooms and access to dining and local attractions. Click on the 9 Stars of Golf icon on their website, fill out the form and they will get back to you quickly. Playing this course on back-to-back days is a golfer’s dream!
Planning a rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, or wedding reception? Virtue’s 60,000 square-foot clubhouse is a great location for your next golf outing or special event. In addition to the clubhouse, there are a variety of beautiful outdoor spaces including a lovely verandah that overlooks the golf course and has provided a picturesque setting for many wedding ceremonies, vow renewals, and alfresco luncheons.
Last Word: To me, this is the most beautiful and challenging Arthur Hills course I have played. Holes are routed such that wayward shots are penalized; miss the fairway off the tee and you’ll find your ball easy enough but it’s usually going to be in some tall grass or behind a tree. With such forgiving and generous fairways off the tee, the emphasis is on approach shots into the greens. The green complexes are guarded with bunkers that are not too penal but will test your bunker play. Most greens have a lot of undulation and present some challenges; especially if you’re looking to recover from an errant approach.
Virtues Golf Club was once the namesake club for the Longaberger Basket Company, a now defunct business based out of a seven-story building, shaped like a basket. That sort of eccentricity is reflected in the Longaberger's (now the Virtues after an ownership change) golf course as well.
Sometimes hills simply force exotic design, in the sense of the property's high foothills. Such is the case with No. 4, a lengthy Par 5 that drops 150 feet from tee-to-green...making green-in-two a possibility despite the distance. Notably, the curves, placement of hazards, and reverse-redan provide a challenge for even the longest hitter trying to reach.
Sometimes Hills simply forces exotic design, in the sense that Arthur Hills often expresses himself as somewhat Dye-lite. Such is the case in the Par 4 No. 8, offering a drastically contrasting pair of options from the tee: Carry a (shorter-than-it-looks) natural area on the left to a lower plateau, or take the seemingly safer route to the higher fairway right. From the left, you'll be forced to carry an inlet from the lake, and from the right you'll have an open run-up to green...if you can control your approach from probably 50 feet up. To look at the shape of a hole on a yardage guide is to understand how far Hills will push the envelope. Many will salivate, and just as many will cringe.
Of course, both sets of Hills will crimp the round at points as well. The geologic variety make holes that would function well on flat ground—No. 3, for example—a slugfest they were never intended to be. The designer's own creativity seems to putter a tad when dramatic altitude change disappears on the back nine. No. 11 is a fine short Par 4, and No. 18 a fine long one, but everything in between leaves something to be desired. The cape at No. 16 seems more thirsty (youth slang translation = "desperate") than inspired.
Routinely ranked the top public route in Ohio, Virtues is not overpriced for its standing, and is worth a trip within reasonable distance. Whether it is a Top 100 American public? That is a whole other hill to climb.