The Phoenix Golf Links in Columbus, Ohio: Removing an eyesore
The Phoenix Golf Links are not the eyesore; let us clarify that point! The eyesore was a landfill that many travelers from the south met as their introduction to Columbus, Ohio, along Interstates 71 and 270. A decade or so past, Chicago-based architect Tim Nugent outlined a golf course over a capped landfill that came to fruition. After a few lean conditioning years, the Phoenix Golf Links is open for play and a match for most golfers.
Phoenix is modeled on links courses from the British isles. According to architect Nugent, “everything is fairly low profile due to the wind. Due to the lean soils we had to work with, it was apparent that the course would play firm and fast - which is an ideal way to offset the winds. So, I tried to keep the golfer down - in contact with the holes, rather than set up high - over looking them.” Despite being built in an era when the Augusta National model of lush and slow still held influence, the fast and firm concept affords lower conditioning costs and less maintenance time and requirements.
Knowing the tendencies of soil to settle, Nugent continued, “So the holes were routed relatively parallel with the contours, rather than perpendicular to them. I’d be interested in seeing how the greens have reacted to the loading of the soils needed for construction (just to flatten out the green sites). I anticipated some settling and took pre-emptive action but it’s always just an educated guesstamation.” For those golfers who expect perfectly manicured conditions or identical topography from year to year, welcome to the New Deal!
Golf holes on Phoenix Golf Links trundle and stumble down ripples and around faux-dunes to fairways set at tricky angles to both tee and green. Nugent eschews the constant use of sand bunkers, opting on multiple occasions to utilize grassy hollows to protect a fairway or putting surface. If a golfer strays too far from the promised land, shin-high grasses will extract a fair penalty from his scorecard.
One thing that Nugent does very well is establish an encouraged shot and entry. If a hole features side hazards, the direct route is deep and open. If front hazards impede approach, the target is wider from side to side…equal parts direction and depth are demanded on consecutive holes…the golfer simply must decide which is needed.
The majority of the course (holes 1-16) sits on the landfill and plays fast and firm. The final pair of holes takes the golfer into a glade for two unforgettable journeys. #17 is a downhill par three, playing from a pitch to a hybrid. It has the feel of a drop-shot, but Nugent imagined something else: “That par 3, I envisioned a knock-down or punch shot but expected most golfers would foolishly put a high iron up in the air and the back/quartering wind would cause it to drift towards the creek. The angle and narrowness of the green are it’s primary defenses. And flying it in to a rear pin is tougher than landing short and chasing it back there - but most golfers will take dead-aim - no matter what logic dictates.” Thus proving that there is more than one way to skin a cat, consider the punch or knock-down when standing on this elevated tee.
Number 18 requires a sizeable carry over a pond to a sneaky-wide and deep fairway. The green is located across a creek, tucked in a corner of the glade. Although spiritually different from their sixteen predecessors, this final pair stands out as two incredibly creative holes.
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