Arthur Hills is the designer of Longaberger Golf Club in Nashport Ohio. It has received praise ever since it opened in 1999. Golf Digest named it the best new public course in America in 2000, in between a couple of the great courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (Bandon Dunes 1999, Pacific Dunes 2001). Events such as the PGA Club Professionals Championship and an episode of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf were filmed here. The course has been ranked as one of Golf Digest’s top 100 public courses and is currently ranked as Ohio’s #1 public course.
When you cross the railroad tracks and drive up the big hill to the clubhouse, you get a feel for the grand feel of the place. The clubhouse is large, there’s PLENTY of parking, and the practice facility is just enormous. Built over 850 acres, not an inch of land was spared in building this facility.
When I visited in early April, I played in about 40 degrees with considerable wind. Needless to say, it wasn’t the most fun round I’ve had on a golf course. I will give the grounds crew credit as the course, especially the greens, were in terrific shape and rolling quickly.
Does the course match the accolades? Stay tuned…
The fun begins at the uphill, dogleg right par 4 first. A giant tree sits in the middle of the fairway about 125 from the hole. Your tee shot will ideally be about 140 out. When you reach the green, you get your first taste of Longaberger’s impeccable, but lightning fast greens. My visit had a questionable pin position where anything above the hole meant sure three putt – that is, if you could keep the putt on the green.
Hole 3 (par 4, 388 yards) is a good risk reward hole. The player can play safe out to the right, or challenge the bunkers on the left for a closer approach. The bunkers on the left are very deep, so one will have to note the uphill tee shot and any wind when choosing which option to take.
Lots of photos are taken on 4 (par 5, 565 yards). There’s a 150 foot drop in elevation from tee to fairway, so go ahead and let it rip.
The green has a tiny opening in the front and drops off to the back, meaning this is a 3 shot par 5 for pretty much everyone but the best of the best.
My favorite hole on this course is the short par 4 sixth, and I really wish I took more pictures of this hole when I played. At 338 from the tips and 275 from the front tees, there are lots of options here. One can play it safe with a 200 yard tee shot, leaving about 130 out for the second. Or, the golfer can challenge the green. Bunkers in front and hazards to the right make this a challenging shot, but the reward is a chance at eagle.
The 8th hole, in my mind, is a joke. There’s some element of risk reward, but the entire hole reeks of over-abundance. One can bail out to the right, leaving a long second shot to a green protected by water. The left side, in my view, is the play. The second shot will need to carry water, but it leaves a much closer second shot than the right side.
The 9th is a fine par 3. The hole reminds me a bit of the 12th at Augusta National and closer to home, the 12th at Muirfield Village. A mid-length par 3 over water with bunkers and a very narrow green.
Since the 9th hole is no where near the clubhouse, Longaberger has a halfway house for food and drinks. Unfortunately, it was not open on my visit, so I can’t comment on the quality of the food.
10 and 11 are two of the best holes on the golf course. 10 (par 5, 537 yards) is a reachable par 5. The driving area is pretty open, with only a bunker on the right to contend with. The player who decides to layup will have a pretty easy layup, but the gutsy player going for two will have to contend with a creek that runs front and right of the green.
11 (par 4, 364) is pure target golf. The player must contend with a creek on the right side of the fairway that runs in front of the green. A fairway wood and short iron should get the player on the green.
14 (par 4, 457) is brutal par 4. Normally, it plays into the wind. On the day I played, it was at least a 3 club wind. With bunkers guarding both sides of the tee shot and the left side of the green. Par here is a great score.
I didn’t think 16 (par 5, 527 yards) was that bad of a hole until I reached the green. Water guards the entire hole to the right and bunkers left guard the tee shot and layup. There is a severe ridge in the middle-back of this green that makes getting it close to any pin position in the back nearly impossible. I watched my fellow playing partners four and five putt this green. As one of those playing partners said, “It’s typical Arthur Hills bullsh-t”.
17 (par 4, 435 yards) is another good hole and more like one you would see on a “normal” golf course. The hole doglegs from left to right and has three bunkers on the left fairway and two front left.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that 18 (par 4, 466 yards) tries too hard. It’s another tough par four, dogleg left (almost a double dogleg) and very up hill. Seven bunkers guard the hole and the green has some slope to it. A very tough way to end the round indeed. Some may like it more than me, but this hole just didn’t do it for me.
Longaberger is a very fine course and the conditions are excellent. I paid $59 to play an off-season and it was worth every cent. Prime rates will probably push over $100, and I’m not sure the course is worth that much. But do I think this is the best public course in Ohio? Probably not. The course has a couple of goofy holes and the par 3s are okay, but not completely inspiring (save the 9th) While I haven’t played all of the best that Ohio has to offer, I think this course is on par with a course like Stonelick Hills in Cincinnati.
Forget about walking. Distances between tees as well as elevation changes make this a cart-only course.
OINK Rating: 7