Fowler’s Mill is one of Ohio’s best public golf courses. In 2010, there was a proposed real estate deal that would have closed the course. Thankfully, the deal was rejected and Fowlers Mill remains open.
It’s an early Pete Dye design, and I believe it’s the only public Pete Dye course in Ohio**. There are 27 holes of golf, but the reason to play are the River and Lakes 9s. I had the intention of playing all 27 during my visit, but an unfortunate pace of play* prevented this. Therefore, my review will be of the Lakes/River 9s.
The yardage book, available for purchase in the pro shop, gives an interesting history about the course. Did you know that Fowler’s Mill was originally planned to be a 54 hole layout?
Hole 4 is the “signature hole”, and really the only hole where the lake, of which the 9 is named after, comes into play. From the further point on the back tee (461 yards), it’s over 300 yards to carry the lake, and another 20 yards to the green. Unless you’re Bubba Watson, you’ll lay out to the fairway on the left. For those who don’t want to tempt the lake with their second, there’s a fairway by the green for a bailout. Green is protected by two bunkers. They shouldn’t be in play if you go conservative, but may save you from a ball in the water otherwise.
The par 5s at Fowler’s Mill are very good. Perhaps the best is the par 5 8th. At 588, most people won’t get there in two. For the very best players, there’s a potential to launch one out to the fairway, then hit a second shot between a line of trees and over a very long bunker. For the duffers, you’ll need to get the layup out far enough that the other set of trees don’t get in the way. Green is well protected with bunkers left and right.
The front 9 ends with an interesting, split fairway hole. It is the first of three holes where the River comes into play. The bailout is left, but a better approach option is towards the right.
Fowler’s Mill has not one, but TWO split fairway holes. Great use of the land by Pete Dye. The scale of the 350 yard par 4 12th was impossible for me to capture on film. There are two sets of tee boxes, which can dictate which fairway you go for. The left fairway is narrower, but doesn’t require a forced carry and gets wider in the driving area. The right fairway has more water in play and narrows in the driving area, but presents the clearest path to the green. The green is well protected by the river, two bunkers left, and two bunkers back right.
The green at the penultimate hole reminded me of a less extreme version of the green at Crooked Stick’s 15th. The 191 yard par 3 has a green in a reverse C shape. There is a potential where a back left pin placement could cause a golfer who hits it short to putt around the left bunker. 5 other bunkers protect the green front and right.
While Ohio as a whole doesn’t have the collection of high quality public golf that Indiana and Kentucky have, Northern Ohio is certainly the place for Ohio public golf. Of that list, Fowler’s Mill must certainly be at the top. It would have been a damn shame to lose not just a fine public course, but a great example of one of Pete Dye’s earlier works.
Normal prime rates are over $50 for 18 with cart, but the rates are cheaper in early spring and late fall. I would say the course is very walkable, though there is a bit more elevation on the back/River 9. Driving range was closed when I went due to recent rain; it sits very low on the property.
If you’re visiting the Cleveland area, and don’t have access to one of the area’s fine private courses, Fowler’s Mill should be a stop.
OINK Rating: 8
* Note: As I stated above, during my visit, the pace of play was awful. It took close to 6 hours for 18 holes, with a group 3-4 groups ahead of us as the sole cause of the problem; cart path only certainly not helping. Needless to say, my group, and the two groups ahead of us were not happy. That being said, the manager of the course came around to each group and offered a free play coupon for the 2012 season. This recognition of the situation and how it was handled was much appreciated by me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the coupon and gave it away to a colleague of mine who lives in the area.
** I know Avalon Lakes was public at one point. According to their web site now, it appears to be private. I’m sure someone closer to the course could confirm one way or another.