Review: Inverness Club

Information:

  • Toledo, Ohio
  • Private
  • Donald Ross (1916)
  • 88th in the US (Golf Digest)

There’s very few courses in the US that have as much history as Inverness Club. Four US Opens, 2 PGA Championships, numerous other high level golf tournaments including the 2021 Solheim Cup, and of course all the interesting tidbits like the Hinkle Tree and the Hogan walking paths (did you know they were invented at Inverness Club?).

But aside from the pedigree associated with Inverness Club, the golf course is back to its wonderful self after Andrew Green in 2018 blew up the Tom Fazio golf holes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Fazio, but his reputation amongst championship golf courses is… hmm… questionable, we’ll say.

So Andrew Green came in, blew up the Fazio golf holes, created new ones in the style to Donald Ross’ original Inverness Club, and added about 400 yards, having Inverness Club play 7730 yards, 78.4/151 rating as they target another US Open. Of course, they restored all the golf course back to Ross’ glory.


Starting off Inverness Club is a wonderful short par 4 a yard shy of 400.

One of the best features, well not best, but one of the little things Inverness Club does is have the 1st tee, 1st fairway, 10th tee, 10th fairway and a practice putting green all cut together. It looks fantastic.

The 1st is where you get a first introduction to Inverness Club’s burn, a stream running through the majority of the property. It’s not in play for the approach, but you do look down to the left and see is running through a lot of golf holes. It’s something you’ll get quite used to seeing here.

But the approach does deal with the depression area that the burn is in, making an aerial approach ideal.

After the relatively gentle opening hole, you’re greeted with a par 4 about 100 yards longer than the previous. The 487 yard par 4 2nd plays over some fairly flat land, with a few bunkers left to negotiate with.

The green is quite receptive, making this, in my opinion, one of the easier golf holes here. Some of the other par 4’s on this golf course demand a different iron approach, but you can run this one up if you so need to.

A look at the contouring on the new Andrew Green green complex, which was built last year about 100 yards behind the previous green.

The third is a monster par 3 at 274 yards. This is a new Andrew Green hole, but it was built in the style of Inverness Club’s original 8th, paying homage to Donald Ross.

The green narrows in the back slightly akin to Banff Springs, which Ross actually built the original 9 holes at (but had no influence on the Stanley Thompson green complexes). Just a funny connection I saw.

The 4th, I think, is by far the hardest golf hole I’ve ever seen. A different creek running up the left side cuts across the hole at about 100 yards shy of the green, but doesn’t come in play for the back tees as it’s a very stout 516 yard par 4. I was going to play the back tees at Inverness Club, just for the challenge and because I figured I could likely do it if I got past 3, 4 and 6 alright, but when I arrived at this tee playing into the wind, I moved up to the 7000 yard box.

What makes this hole so difficult, length aside, is the fact it requires an aerial approach to an elevated green complex. Anything short of this green rolls back about 50 yards to the base of the hill.

But man, the bunkering here is so good. A lot of the time you just admire the work done and how good Inverness Club really is.

I love the view looking back at 4 too, although the hole absolutely destroyed us!

The 5th is the shortest hole on the golf course at 172 yards. This is another new golf hole built in the style of one of the original Inverness Club holes, which I’m blanking on which one. Maybe if I remember I’ll come back to update this review. It’s flanked by bunkering short, left and right, so it demands your attention, but this is a nice break sandwiched between the 4th and 6th holes.

The longest par 4 on the course isn’t the 4th, but the 6th, which is about 20 yards further at 534 yards. A tough tee shot with three bunkers in the driving zone make this a really hard golf hole as well. From the back deck, a couple trees on the left force you to hit it at the right bunkers or hit a draw. Not a bad idea as this is the length of most mid-length par 5’s at any regular golf course.

Playing over the same creek from hole 4, your approach shot flies over it. However, it shouldn’t really be in play as it’s a ways back, and really just forces the player to hit a high ball approach in.

One of the best bunker-less par 4’s I’ve ever played (word to Jasper Park Lodge hole 8), the 7th at Inverness Club is a fantastic 481 yard par 4 going around the creek that was on holes 4 & 6. From the back tee, it’s about a 260 carry over the hazard on the right.

This hole has some incredible land movement, too, especially as you approach the elevated green complex.

The 8th is one of two par 5’s at this Donald Ross monster, and the only one on the front nine. 607 yards, this tee shot is fairly straight forward. You can hit it at the right bunker as it’s a very long ways to get to it, but the left bunker–on the inside corner of the dogleg–is for sure in play. This is also the hole with the Hinkle Tree, which is the only Evergreen tree left on property just to the left of the gold tee box.

The 8th then crosses over the burn from hole 1, not the creek from holes 4, 6, 7 (two different creeks I believe). Again, it’s not really in play unless you hit a really bad tee shot, but it does make the hole play harder, on paper.

Another well guarded green, there’s a bunker 40 yards in front of the green complex, and about 10 yards short on the left. A greenside bunker is also on the right.

The 9th finishes off Inverness Club on the outside of the property. 464 yards, the player from the back tee is pretty much there to hit it as hard as he can. The right bunker might come in play, but I think that’s it.

A centreline bunker is in play from every tee but the back deck off the tee, so it’s probably less than driver for a decent ball. Another well-guarded green, but plays much easier with wedge in your hand like most people will have, or at the very least a shorter club.

Coming back to the clubhouse, we start the back nine the same way we started the front nine; a short par 4. 387 yards, it plays similar off the tee to hole 1 where driver is questionable. 3 wood or iron is probably the play here to get it in play.

For scale of that dip in the fairway, my father is 6 foot 3″, in the blue shirt:

From the middle of the fairway, you play to the smallest green on the course. Inverness’ reputation is a tough championship course with some of the smallest greens. While I didn’t find that true (I thought the green sizes were appropriate for each shot being hit), I found the 10th to be quite small. But again, it was appropriate on a short hole.

As you can see above, we play over the burn, this time it is directly in play, fronting the green. Left of the green is some beautiful mounding that makes left a really tough miss as well.

While the 10th is fantastic, my favorite design feature of the hole was long and right, where it’s pushed up about a foot, making very difficult chips if you miss the green on those sides. Essentially, the 10th green is hit or miss, and can be very difficult. One of my favorite holes at Inverness Club.

The 11th is another short par 4, and is one of the best birdie looks here. 378 yards, you can hit a club shorter than driver to get it in play on a tight driving hole. There’s two bunkers, with the left one being about 260 off the tee, the longer hitters might hit iron.

Coming into the green, the 11th is guarded by bunkering left and right, and a bunker about 30 yards from the middle back a bit. Another well-guarded green.

The 12th is the only par 3 on the back nine, and the only still-standing Donald Ross par 3 on the golf course. At 229 yards to a smaller green site, this is a demanding long iron in.

The 13th is the last of the par 5’s or par 3’s before the closing 5 hole stretch of 5 really difficult par 4’s. 556 yards from the very back teeing ground, this is a very good birdie opportunity that plays over the burn yet again.

A bunker on the right is the main hazard in the driving zone, while a bunker down the left is a ways up. The landing area features some very good land movement.

The burn plays exactly where you’d wanna layup if you can’t get there in two, but I suspect that a lot of average players can get here in two because the ball lands pretty firm on a downslope.

Up the green plays slightly up the hill, fronted by a bunker short, and bunkering left and right. A lot of Inverness Club’s greens are guarded by a bunker 30-40 yards short of the green complex to either deceive or catch really poor shots, or in this case, catch the low, running shot going for the green in two.

The 14th starts a pretty difficult finish built for a major championship. I hope Inverness Club gets another major, as it’s a great course and really challenging, and would be a great event. Toledo isn’t exactly a big market, so we’ll see, but here’s hoping!

But anyways, the 14th is a 482 yard par 4 with bunkering all up the left. The play is at the farthest bunker right, which looks like it’s in the middle of the fairway. It’s very long to get it there.

After navigating the tee shot, bunkering left and right hug the green complex, with a fairly accessible green. Nothing short, letting the ground game come into play if you miss the fairway or have a really long approach.

The 15th is slightly shorter by 10 yards, playing at 472 yards.

Bunkering down the right is in play the entire tee shot, with the fairway sloping a bit that way as well. The hole falls down back into the valley to the green complex, over the burn.

This was one of my favorite green complexes because of the use of short grass around the left side of the green.

The 16th crosses the burn for the final time. One of the brilliant features of Ross’ routing here is the fact that it crosses that same burn so many times in such a small property, and it’s different every one. For the 16th, it’s not in play, but you’ve certainly picked up on the theme at Inverness by the time you stand on this tee: Ross was a genius.

At 451 yards, it’s a nice mid-length par 4 after a few long 4’s. The tee shot is still tough, however, with bunkering up the left and a single bunker up the right pinching the landing zone.

The approach plays slightly uphill to a bunker fronted by bunkering short left and short right. Part of Inverness Club’s brilliance is how each hole is hard. The longer holes are long, obviously, but they tend to be wider going into the greens, while the shorter the hole, the more difficult going into the green complex.

For the final long par 4 on the golf course, the 17th delivers. 481 yards, this is a monster with a really tough tee shot moving down into the valley with a bunker on the inside corner that you need to cut over if you don’t want 220 yards in.

The green is at the bottom of the valley yet again, with another stunning complex bunkering short left short right.

The 18th is a world class finishing hole on a championship golf course. 358 yards, with what seems like a thousand bunkers on the hole, less than driver is likely the play. Getting it in the fairway with a yardage that’s comfortable is the key here. For me personally, I liked at that left bunker you see in the landing zone, take about 2 clubs less and hit it hard at that should leave you with a good look in.

After navigating the tee shot, the entire green complex slopes pretty aggressively to the left, and bunkering is the main defence here. Right is death, chipping from a downslope to a green running severely away from you, and long is quite bad as well.

The green complex at the 18th was one of my favorites, and would certainly be a perfect place to finish off a major championship with the recent work at Inverness.


So there you have it: Donald Ross’ Inverness Club. A stunning day at a very good golf course, I was blown away by how playable the golf course was whilst challenging the low handicapper. It really is one of the world’s best championship courses, and I hope it hosts a major championship soon–it deserves it after the work done in 2018.

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2 Comments

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  1. Andrew,
    Great review of a Ross Masterpiece, our son played at the USGA Junior Amateur held at Inverness In July this year, your piece brings back the wonderful time we spent walking around the course. The boys played at 7300 yards and it was enthralling to see them take on this gem. The 2nd cut rough at 4 1/2 inches made errant tee shots difficult to salvage a par, is one of the best defences of the course.
    The whole property just oozes history and charm would love to see a US Open played here at 7700 yards, the rough and a little bit of afternoon wind that blew when we were there, magnificent!! The home of Byron Nelson is a fitting venue.

    Like

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