Review: The Country Club (Pepper Pike)


In Golf Club Atlas’ 147 Custodians, Ran Morrissett writes:

When I first played Flynn’s 2nd best design in 2009, I remember thinking I’d never trust any ranking where this course didn’t feature predominantly; celebrating this kind of ‘give & take’ architecture that a person would enjoy playing on a daily basis drove the creation of this list.

That’s high praise, and the reason I sought out The Country Club on a late October trip to the Rock & Roll city. Needless to say, I was not upset with my trip.

William Flynn flies under the radar, but he shouldn’t—his catalog includes Shinnecock Hills, Rolling Green, Lancaster, renovations at Merion and The Country Club at Brookline, Cherry Hills, Cascades and more. For Country to be his second best design, I was excited.

The opening hole is 355 yards a tad downhill. It’s a gentle opener that’s likely not driver for the majority of golfers .

The approach plays slightly up, but not enough to make a difference. Over the creek, Flynn’s green collects in the middle, with the front running away and the back acting as a backboard. Anything short will be collected up by the false front.

A view of what awaits the golfer short:

The 2nd hole is a massive dogleg right. Two bunkers cut into the hill don’t come in play. Rather, they act as good indicators on where to hit it. The answer? Inside them.

There is a bunker on the inside corner of the dogleg that is in the driving zone. The best play is to the left of the right bunker cut into the hill above.

The green complex slopes pretty hard to the front and right, but at only 495 yards, it provides a great birdie opportunity early in the round.

Another short hole, the par 4, 3rd is only 335 yards playing slightly up the hill.

Avoiding the two fairway bunkers on the right is key. Keeping it left actually gives you a slightly easier shot into the green. It’s a very shallow green that requires quite a bit of precision for a short hole.

Looking back really gives you a sense of how shallow this green complex is, and the rumpled land on the right side of the hole that’s probably best to avoid.

At 375 yards, the 4th is the fourth shot hole in a row. It plays uphill, however, so maybe add 20 yards to the scorecard yardage.

The genius of William Flynn is perfectly executed in the past two holes. While the 3rd wants the golfer to hit away from the bunkers for a better angle, the 4th wants the player to play closer to the bunkers for a better angle. It’s these intelligent decisions that make Flynn golf courses feel really fresh every time.

The approach to the par 4, 4th

After the opening four hole stretch, the 5th ramps up the difficulty. 205 yards, playing downhill to a small, devilish green, it’s a difficult one shotter.

Anything short is no bueno.

The 6th is a big, strong dogleg left par 4 at 450 yards. No bunkering in the fairway, but the closer you keep it to the left side the shorter the club in.

The green complex is raised ever-so-slightly, with the front and middle portions not visible from the fairway. It can be pretty difficult to see where your ball ends up, and judge where you should land the ball here. Excellent green complex!

The 7th is an excellent golf hole. at 505 yards, it’s a beast, but plays downhill. Two bunkers eat into the right side of the fairway that are certainly in play.

This is a very strong green complex too, running away from the player. It was hard enough at 505 yards, but with the green complex, it really gives you mental fits trying to figure out where to land it.

A closer look at the green complex:

The 8th is a swinging dogleg right par 5 at 565 yards. The tee shot bends down the hill without a bunker in play. Don’t try and cut the corner too much or you’ll be in the trees!

The second shot is very interesting, with what I’d say is a quasi-sahara/Great Hazard bunker complex. Golfers will have to navigate this, or go around, but there’s not much room left.

The green complex is also quite interesting here, as well. There is so much movement to the left that anything on the right above the hole is near impossible to get it up & down.

The 9th is a wonderful par 3. 190 yards, Anything short & right will likely roll back into the creek. The green features some wonderful movement to the right as well. It’s a devilish par 3!

The 395 yard par 4, 10th starts a really wonderful stretch of golf on the back. In reality, the 7th starts the middle portion of the golf course that’s strong, but the 10th is maybe all-world. A blind landing area, you play down to the bottom of the property once again with the creek meandering.

Flynn’s green site selection is very strong at Country, and the 10th is one of the better ones. Perfectly situated behind the creek, he didn’t need a bunker to make a great golf hole here.

The 11th, interestingly, has drawn comparisons to the 11th at Shinnecock Hills from members at both clubs. That’s what I was told by my caddy at least. There is similarities, I’d say, but the 11th here is stronger. It’s 21 yards longer at 180 yards, but a bigger green.

Anything short or left is dead, but the right side is actually a good bail out. It’s not that difficult of an up & down, although you can’t tell there’s a good bailout from the tee. It’s an intimidating par 3.

The 12th is a sidewinding par 5 playing long at 585 yards. The tee shot moves slightly to the left.

From there, the hole slams hard to the right around the bunker in the layup area.

The layup is really smart. If you take on the bunker, you’ll have an unobstructed view of the green:

But if you don’t take it on and layup on the left, this is your view for the third:

The 404 yard 13th, from photos, reminds me a lot of Lancaster’s 17th–another Flynn. A slew of bunkers awaits a pulled drive. They are carry-able for the Tiger golfer, but it’s a lot of stick.

This is a green that’s a little flatter (a rarity on Flynn designs it seems). A good birdie opportunity!

The 14th is a sneaky template from Flynn. It can be tough to tell, but it’s actually a Redan template! It’s quite long at 215 yards, with the green running away and to the left. A kicker slope short right is probably the best call.

There’s a bigger entry than you’d think from the tee:

The 15th was one of Bobby Jones favorite holes in golf. Who am I to disagree? It’s an exceptional 445 yard par 4. Bunkering that looks like it could potentially be in play becomes some good ‘ol fashion visual trickery. A drive of 340 or so yards would be needed to get to the right bunker alone. Set up and smash one here (keep it to the left if you can).

The approach is amazing. With the bunkers dissecting the fairway, it becomes awfully hard to judge the yardage. Before range finders, this would’ve been one of the most mentally taxing holes in the world!

Above the bunkering, there’s lots of room to bail out. The green is also difficult, sloping hard to the front right.

I imagine that the 16th hole is often forgot after the round. Not because it’s a poor hole, but because it’s sandwiched between the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th (all great holes). It’s another sweeping dogleg right par 5. At 540 yards, it’s gettable in two.

From there, the layup is pretty standard. The green complex is guarded by three bunkers short right and a bunker short left. About halfway through the green complex it starts to fall away from the golfer.

The 17th is my favorite hole at Country, and among the best holes I’ve seen. At 385 yards, it’s a shortie. Playing diagonally over a ridge, you don’t see where the balls land.

From the fairway, you’re met with one of the best looks on the entire golf course. Bunkering short, right and long left gaurd this green. There’s some good movement as well.

Another view, because it’s so beautiful.

And looking back at the topography you just played over.

The 18th comes back into contact with the creek that dominates holes 1, 9, and 10, but doesn’t come into play. 445 yards, par 4, it’s a stern finishing dogleg right.

Once again, Flynn asks the player to challenge the outside bunker to get a better angle into the green. Typically, the inside corner is the play for most architects. This is one of my favorite features from Flynn.

This is a course I’d recommend to anyone in the Cleveland area, or for that matter, the Northeast. I made the 5 hour drive for The Country Club and Kirtland and I’d happily do it again. The more Flynn’s I play (this was my third when I played), the more I fall in love with his style of architecture. I’d consider this a must play, and likely a top 100 golf course in the US.

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