‘Inverness is a fine championship layout’ Donald Ross
The Inverness Club was formed in 1903, when a number of Toledo’s prominent businessman financed the purchase of 80 acres of farmland a few miles west of the city. They began by golfing on a nine-hole course, which was later expanded to eighteen and then redesigned by the great Donald Ross in 1919.
The Ross course was noted for its brutal green complexes and a compact routing arranged around a series of ridges and two key ravines that cut across the site. Perhaps due to the initial confines of the property, Ross built some of his smallest greens here, although they lack none of the creative contouring. The elevated targets are especially nasty, their crowned shapes and falling fronts placing an even greater premium on precise iron play.
Despite its design pedigree, Inverness has been altered continually since completion, first by A.W. Tillinghast, and then by Dick Wilson during the mid-1950s, both men lengthening holes, rebuilding some greens and adding bunkers in preparation for major tournaments. The most significant change came in 1976, when George and Tom Fazio were hired to make revisions to the 17th green. The pair felt areas of the course were too cramped and suggested part of the front nine be rerouted to assist spectator circulation for big events. The club agreed and converted three holes into the long par five 8th, removed the short 13th and then added the 3rd, 5th and 6th on adjacent land it owned.
Regrettably, these changes did little to enhance the golfing experience but fortunately there are still enough high-class originals on the main property to more than compensate for any disappointments within the newer section. Sharing a crested ridge and central fairway bunkers, the adjacent 1st and 10th holes both head across a brook into excellent green sites, the 1st located atop a ridge and the 10th set down into the ravine. Rousing long par fours across bold ground contours at the 4th and 7th are also magnificent. Initially played back-to-back and among the toughest two-shotters Ross ever built, a combined score of nine on these adjoining holes was generally considered about par. Routed back and forth across the primary ravine, a five-hole stretch from the 13th is equally impressive. Again the strong fours dominate, the 15th narrowing through a falling valley and then heading toward a small green beyond the creek and the 17th featuring a small, steeply angled target set into the base of a hill. The heavily bunkered 18th is a famous finisher that is best played with a fairway wood and a wedge, the severity of the traps and the fast, contoured green site making par on this mid-length hole more than acceptable.
Inverness isn’t a goliath of world golf by any means, but it is one of the better parkland clubs in the Midwest and does command respect from all who play it. Major men’s championships have probably moved beyond the layout, but there is no doubt that were top-line professionals to return someday they would find the green contours, together with the high-lipped bunkers and thick roughs, a more than adequate examination of their skills.