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.
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.