Located in a leafy suburb of Columbus, Ohio, the Scioto Country Club was established with the 1916 opening of its Donald Ross golf course, but made famous decades later when a young Jack Nicklaus decided to take up the game here.
Despite its rich golfing heritage, Scioto has suffered considerable change during the years, and unfortunately the current layout barely resembles the original Donald Ross plans. Virtually all of his bunkers have been moved, removed, enlarged or simply converted to a more modern style while his putting contours were lost during a redesign by Dick Wilson in the 1960s. Wilson is also responsible for a divisive change made to the 8th, a par five over beautiful rolling ground that plays to a target now resting on an island surrounded by a mote.
The routing itself remains almost intact and is the strength of the course, Ross using the trickling stream and the site’s natural ground movement to great effect within his design. Interesting fairway contours and elevated green sites are especially effective on holes like the 2nd, 5th, 13th and 16th. The par four 10th is also very strong, the drive played toward a crested fairway and the downhill, side-hill approach into a large green set beyond the creek and flanked by sand. The other notable holes here are the front nine par threes, the 4th a long shot into a tightly bunkered plateau and the 9th an excellent mid-iron across sand into a green perched atop a ridge.
Although recent attempts have been made to restore some lost Ross elements, the renovations have not been wide-reaching and seem more focused on retaining championship pedigree than returning clever design elements. The Nicklaus legacy has all but ensured Scioto of a special place in the annals of American golf, and it continues to do very well on various ranking lists. In truth, however, the present layout is a considerable distance behind the quality of Ross’s best-preserved classics.
Designed by legendary architect Donald Ross and one of the few clubs to have hosted each of the US Open, the Ryder Cup, the PGA Championship, the US Amateur and the US Senior Open, Scioto Country Club is nonetheless a heritage venue because of its role nurturing a precociously talented youngster named Jack Nicklaus into the game. Nicklaus first played golf here and for decades was taught by the club’s legendary teaching professional Jack Grout.