For me, Stonelick Hills Golf Club in Batavia (Cincinnati) and Boulder Creek Golf Club in Streetsboro (Cleveland) are almost sister courses. Both were designed by owner/architects, rated in the top 10 of new public courses by Golf Digest in the year of their opening, both contain rolling terrain, and both contain some form of island green. Opening in 2003, Boulder Creek was the dream of Joe Salemi. He was first made aware of the original property in 1997 and later purchased additional property to complete the 200 acre course. He studied the likes of MacKenzie and Dye to come up with his own creation. For a first time through, not too shabby.
The course starts out with a looong par 5. This course is a brut from the tips, with all but one par 5 playing under 600 yards. There’s plenty of fairway to work with, although super long hitters may need to worry about running through the fairway. At the green, there are three bunkers in the back. The player will also get their first test of the fast and undulating set of greens at Boulder Creek.
The par 4 2nd is a downhill hole that doglegs to the left. There are bunkers protecting the tee shot. The aggressive player can attempt to carry the left bunker for a closer look at the pin. The narrow green is protected by water left and bunkers left and back. The player also gets their first look at the infamous island green 17th. More on that later…
3 is a tough par 4 that is all about target golf. The tee-shot is semi-blind, protected by bunkers to the right and runs out about 150 yards from the green. The green is plenty big, but misses to the left are more harshly punished than those to the right. Par is a good score here.
The first par 3 is the 232 yard 3rd. It’s all the par 3 you want from the tips. You’ll get your first view of a boulder garden set up in between the 4th green and 5th tee.
After my comments about Longaberger’s 8th hole, I think some would be expecting me to rip on the par 5 6th hole. Far from it. Easily one of my favorite holes on the course. One is given a decision off the tee: take the high/left side to a narrow fairway or go low/right and stay on the soft side. The former yields a better look at the green in 2, but is the more risky of the shots. Ending up in the middle isn’t very good with the number of trees to contend with.
The safe place also contains the more narrow approach, with a waste area in front and bunkers left to contend with. The green is protected by a decently sized bunker to the right, but will accept a running shot from the left fairway. I think this is an excellent risk reward hole because of the strategies must decide throughout the length of the hole.
7 is your prototypical “hero carry over water” par 3. I thought the waterfall affect on the right size was a bit gaudy personally. On the whole, I’m not a big fan of waterfalls on golf courses. The only exception to this is the 18th at Sultan’s Run, which I think does it in a very natural looking way.
The front 9 ends on holes that are polar opposites of one another. The short par 4 8th is a great opportunity for birdie. Although there are bunkers and water to contend with, the whole is drivable for the bombers without too much risk.
If you didn’t get your bird at 8, hang on for dear life at the long par 4 9th. Stretching at 492 from the tippy tips, this is all the par 4 you’ll ever want. A long drive will yield a long second shot that must carry water to directly attack the green. There is a small area to the right where the standard player can lay up to if they’re not feeling frisky.
The back 9 starts much like the front 9 did with a long, non-descript par 5.
11 is a short par 4 where the target golf concept is brought back. A long iron into the fairway should lead to a forced carry short iron. Bunkers short left and right may protect an errant shot from finding a watery grave. The green slopes from left to right, so a fade may be accentuated green side.
The beauty of a tool like Google Maps is you can see the evolution of a golf course. This is well apparent at the downhill par 3 12th. Apparently in between the time of the current (07 June 2010) satellite picture and my visit, a bunker was added to the right. Naturally, my tee ball found this new bunker, from which I was unable to get up and down for par.
I felt that the stretch from 13-15 was a pretty though one. If you can get through these three holes okay, you can probably get a bird or two out of 16-18 (assuming you hit the island green on 17). 13 is another one of those par 4s that is all that par 4 you’ll ever want. It’s 478 yards uphill (and into the wind the day I visited).
Needless to say, no one in my group hit the green in regulation. The tee shot is awkward because if you end up on the right side of the fairway, you’re contending with a blind second. Anything left will run down a hill and is no good.
14 is the calm in the storm. A down hill par 4 that doglegs to the right. It is also your first introduction to any housing on the property. Luckily, only 14 and 15 tee have any sight of housing and it doesn’t really come into play.
The par 4 15th might not seem that long at 406 yards. But as downhill as 14’s shot was, 15 goes back up the hill. This is where I think walkers would find difficulty in finishing the route. On the tee shot, anything right will kick down the hill. Good luck finding your ball. The green has many contours and ridges that make putts very interesting. An evil superintendent could have some fun with this one. Luckily for me, he was kind during my visit.
Skipping 16, the island green par 3 17th can make or break a round. I like how the architect teases you by making you pass it plenty of times through a round; as if an attempt to get in the golfers head. The same cannot be said of Sawgrass’ 17th which is only brought into view when playing 16. Back to the Boulder Creek version…
The hole plays at least 1-2 clubs downhill depending on which tee box you play from. If you can, play a ball from the top tee, which might be the highest point of the course. You can certainly feel the wind from there. From the whites, it’s a full sand wedge in; in other words, not that much of a challenge. The green pretty big and there are bunkers to protect some shots from finding the drink. Not all island greens do it for me, but this one did.
18 is another long, if uninteresting par 5 to end the round.
I thought overall, the course was excellently conditioned. However, there are a few bare spots on greens and tees that can’t be ignored. I wonder if the speed they keep the greens and the undulations are a part of that. I also wonder if they need more air circulation in places. Stonelick had these installed after their green problems in 2004 and haven’t looked back since. The course is an interesting design on the whole and it is TOUGH. Greens are undulating and fast and when I played, the rough was thick and over seeded. This may have contributed to the 5 hour round even though I had a 9:10 tee-time. There was a ranger on the course, but it didn’t improve my pace of play any (played as a threesome with 2 young men from the Cleveland area).
This is a country club for a day experience. Every one I encountered at the course was nice (especially one young man in particular who cleaned my clubs even after I confessed I only had enough cash to get back on the Ohio Turnpike, which was a stain on me). All that being said, I advise against coming to Boulder Creek as a single. Not only do they not take tee-times for single players, but the pro couldn’t even book me standing there before consulting with someone else (starter?) that it was okay to do so. I told them I would be driving 75 minutes and would be willing to play with a two-some, but they still wouldn’t book me. A good thing no one booked those times in the time I spent driving.
For you walkers, I would say it’s possible to walk, but you’d have to be in pretty good shape. A few hikes between tees and the hike from 13 green to 14 tee, then playing 15 might be a bit rough. They only charge $5 less to walk, so the incentive is certainly to ride. I paid $59.75 for prime rate, which I thought was fair for the package. Range balls on extra, but the range was in great shape, if a bit small.
Bottom line: If you’re in the Cleveland area, Boulder Creek is worth checking out.
OINK Rating – 7. But a high 7. I think the par 5s keep this one from being a solid 8.