Each week this season, TravelGolf.com is highlighting a key college football matchup and looking at the golf around the home team's campus. This Saturday, the undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions square off against Big Ten foe, the Ohio State Buckeyes. Here's a look at the golf in Columbus, Ohio, including Virtues Golf Club, Tartan East and the Jack Nicklaus museum.
It isn't very often the Ohio State Buckeyes are an underdog against another Big Ten foe. But that's exactly the case this weekend as the undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions come into town.
So, perhaps coach Jim Tressel should unveil a new battle cry Saturday: "Do it for Joe the Plumber!"
By now, we've all heard about this blue collar, "everyday working man" from Toledo who, while proudly sporting his Buckeye sweatshirt, has become America's most famous voter in this crucial swing state - all for his unwillingness to pay a hypothetical tax increase on small business income he hasn't earned yet (and who reportedly owes back taxes).
For non-Ohioans, it makes about as much sense as his fellow Buckeye fans who traverse the four corners of America proclaiming their team is the best in the land - despite getting blown out of the stadium every time they play a non-conference opponent outside the Mid-American Conference.
So, this Saturday, Ohio State will hope to summon their inner Joe the Plumbers - and cleanse away a not-so-flavor-of-the-month Joe, Joe Paterno and Penn State's national championship hopes.
If you're a Nittany Lion fan coming to town, you'll probably want as little interaction as possible with Ohio State's famously crazed fan base. What better way to find some peace and quiet than four hours on an area golf course?
And, good news, unlike OSU's football team, Columbus' golf scene can actually stack up with any of America's best metropolitan areas.
If you've got a fat wad of cash like Joe the Plumber plans to one day, you can become a member of (or perhaps enjoy reciprocal play at) such storied Columbus-area private clubs as Muirfield Village Golf Club and Pete Dye's The Golf Club.
Or donate enough cash to earn playing privileges to Ohio State's 36-hole Golf Club, featuring the Alister Mackenzie-designed Scarlet Course.
But if you don't quite make that lucrative plumber cash, there are plenty of public options that are good plays and won't flush your money down the latrine. You can even play several golf courses designed by Arthur Hills, who heralds from Toledo, just like good ol' Joe the Plumber.
Just northeast of Columbus in New Albany is Tartan East Golf Club, which used to be a private club named Winding Hollow up until last year. An Arthur Hills design, it still has the feel and conditions of a secluded, old-school golf club, though, and features some very tight driving holes lined with tall trees. The green fees are $39-$49.
Arguably Ohio's best public golf club and a mainstay on most top 100 lists is another Hills design: Virtues Golf Club, originally known as Longaberger Golf Club. The Longaberger Company is known for its handcrafted baskets and home goods, though the club, which only opened a decade ago, makes it seem like they've been in the golf business just as long. It's player friendly off the tee with some wide fairways and five sets, and course conditions are PGA Tour-ready, every day. The green fees are $89.
Closer to the city, Robert Trent Jones built a muni, Raymond Memorial Golf Course, that still holds its own. It's vintage RTJ here with big sand traps and raised greens running from back to front, but you'll notice twin par-3 holes here, a gimmick of this 1954 design that was meant to allow faster groups to play through slower groups. It's also a steal at just $18 walking.
And while you can't get on Nicklaus' Memorial without a little pull, you can play another native Ohio golf star's course: John Cook's Cook's Creek Golf Club, south of Columbus in Asheville, a 4.5-star facility according to Golf Digest. Green fees are $44-$60.
Hang around OSU fans enough, and you might think that all there is to do in the entire state is eat, sleep and breathe football. Actually, Ohio's capital has loads to do.
For golfers, there's the Jack Nicklaus museum (www.nicklausmuseum.org), which pays homage to one of its greatest alums. It's expanded over the years to include a golf design wing, a Memorial Tournament wing and they've even recreated his old living room. The "Decades of Nicklaus" main gallery features an extraordinary amount of trophies and memorabilia.
Off the golf course, the world famous C.O.S.I. science museum (www.cosi.org) can easily keep you busy for an afternoon - or head to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (www.colszoo.org), which, in case your party is split, has a golf course adjacent to it, Safari Golf Club.
For nightlife, there are several different spots to live it up in Columbus. German Village, home to the "Brewery District," where you'll find the most local microbrews and some of the most historic buildings in the city, makes for a great atmosphere. It's also home to the town's best burgers at The Thurman Cafe (www.thethurmancafe.com). Short North is a more alternative area with boutiques and funky nightclubs and live bands, while the Arena District, on the other hand, is largely more upscale.
For Penn State fans, there's no escaping a packed house full of Buckeye fans no matter what neighborhood you head to on game night.
May we suggest Blockbuster Video. It has 15 Columbus-area locations.
October 20, 2008