In an unassuming neighborhood on the western edge of Toledo sits one of the great country clubs of North America -- Inverness Club. Rich in history, having played host to four U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, two U.S. Senior Opens, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Junior Amateur, and -- most recently -- the 2021 Solheim Cup, Inverness Club has been the site of some of golf's grandest and most dramatic moments. Originally designed by Donald Ross, the course underwent a recent restoration by Andrew Green with modernized tee complexes and bunkering to better suit the modern game. Today, the course is ranked No. 65 on Golf Digest's list of the top 100 golf courses in America and is ranked 33rd on Golf Magazine's top 100. It has been selected to host the U.S. Women's Open in 2027 and the U.S. Amateur again in 2029, and it would not be surprising to see the USGA award another U.S. Open to the club some time thereafter.
The crest of Inverness Club includes the Latin words "Condordia et Fidelitas." My 7th and 8th grade Latin teacher at Carlynton Jr. High School would be proud to know I was able to translate that without the assistance of Google. It means "Harmony and Faithfulness," and is a fitting motto for a club that offers its members and guests such an idyllic retreat and a sense of close-knit community. (Full disclosure: I did double check my translation against Google because junior high school was a long time ago, and I did not pay nearly as much attention as I should have to Mr. Romano's teaching.)
So much golf history has been written on the fairways and greens at Inverness Club, and it's impressive to see how the club has chosen to honor that history throughout the grounds.
It's in the bricks ... where plaques dedicated to telling the story of the club's major championships line this wall near the practice green.
It's in the stones ... like this display dedicated to the winners of the major championships that Inverness Club has hosted.
And it's in the clubhouse -- from the men's locker room walls, which are lined with artifacts from championships past, to the grand trophy case built to encase replica trophies of the majors that have been contested here as well as a grand cathedral clock gifted to the club by the players who competed in the 1920 U.S. Open Championship at Inverness. Inverness Club was the first host site to allow professional golfers full access to the clubhouse. And in appreciation, the players presented the club with this clock, which includes the following inscription:
God measures men by what they are
Not by what they in wealth possess
This vibrant message chimes afar
The voice of Inverness
The Inverness Club website offers much more of the history of the club, and I highly encourage those who may be interested to spend some time taking in the story of the club, its founders, its place in the game -- including its important role in the westward expansion of golf in the United States in the early 20th century -- and more, especially if you ever receive an invitation to play at the club. I promise you'll appreciate your round more for having studied up a bit about the legacy of the club before you arrive.
I was fortunate to receive an invitation to play Inverness over the summer, and even more fortunate that my host invited me to bring along a couple of friends -- Dave and Jarad. We were blessed to have perfect weather for a midsummer round of golf in northwestern Ohio, and we had an absolutely wonderful experience exploring the club and testing our mettle on this major championship layout. If we thought from our first looks at the course that it might be easy, we were quickly disabused of that notion and found ourselves in for a challenge from the first hole to the last.
Inverness plays to a distance of more than 7,700 yards from the tips. We did not play the tips. The course offers five sets of tees to accommodate every skill level, with the shortest tees totaling just over 5,200 yards. Distances throughout this blog, unless otherwise noted, will be from the silver tees -- the middle tees -- which play to 6,588 yards.
Hole 1 - Par 4 - 387 Yards
Hole No. 1 plays to the right side of a wide fairway that actually serves both the first and 10th holes. The farther you hit it down the right side, the narrower the fairway becomes. As wide as the landing area might appear, it isn't immediately apparent that there is zero room to go right off the tee as the tees themselves are set against the right side of the fairway. Thick rough awaits a ball that slides even a little bit to the right, and more rough -- along with a series of bunkers -- stand ready to gobble up any tee shot hit too far to the left. For a mid-length par-4, the first hole is no pushover. The smart play for many golfers is likely something less than a driver off the tee on No. 1. Any ball hit more than about 260 yards runs the risk of running through the fairway into a valley that fronts the green, which could leave an awkward downhill lie from thick rough into a relatively shallow green.
The first green, which features a false front and is guarded by deep bunkers front left and right, is just 24 yards deep. The putting surface isn't particularly undulating, but the speed of these greens accentuates even the subtlest breaks. An approach shot into the middle of this green setting up the chance of a birdie and the likelihood for a two-putt par is an excellent start to scoring on this course.
Hole 2 - Par 4 - 394 Yards
The second hole is a great example of why the course plays more difficult than it appears. The flat terrain makes the hole appear much more wide-open than it really is. Bunkers pinch the landing area -- three on the left and one right inside the dogleg as the fairway bends to the right, all of which will make recovery and par very difficult.
The green on No. 2 is guarded by three deep bunkers and slopes across three tiers from back-left to front-right. The shorter the iron you can hit into this green, the better your chances of holding the putting surface. It is possible to run a low-ball up between the bunkers onto the front of the green, but it's just as easy to hit a low-runner through the green and into the thick rough beyond. And if you wind up back there, it may take a masterful flop shot just to keep your next ball from running off the front of the green.
Hole 3 - Par 3 - 197 Yards
The first one-shotter is not at all the time to try to regroup. The long par-3 third hole plays to a green that runs away from you, making it difficult to hold with a long-iron or hybrid. The bunkers on the right are shallower than the one left of the green and require a more deliberate effort to put some spin on the ball in order to hold the putting surface due to their relatively low faces. It's not enought to just blast out of these bunkers; you have to spin the ball enough to hold the green. And from the left bunker, the challenge may be getting enough height and distance on the ball to not only get out of the sand but carry far enough onto the green to have a reasonable shot at saving par. This green is one of the deeper greens on the course, extending more than 100 feet from front to back. And it can be easy to three putt (or worse) for the player who fails to properly judge the pace and the break of this undulating green.
Hole 4 - Par 4 - 385 Yards
No. 4 is a very cool, challenging mid-length par-4 and the first real taste of elevation change on the golf course. The tee shot plays to a fairway that angles away from right to left and must avoid a small stream that curls in from the right, just off the tee, meanders down the left side of the fairway and crosses back over to the right side of the hole. The ideal tee shot will be about 250 yards in order to stay short of the stream. Or, for really long hitters that can carry the ball 275 in the air, there is the option to aim a little bit left and let it fly. Just be careful to avoid the tall tree -- the only tree -- left of the fairway, as a ball that finds the tree is likely to wind up either in the stream or lost in the knee-high sea of golden fescue.
From the fairway short of the stream, the fourth hole plays uphill to a green protected by three deep bunkers. There is room to run a ball into the green on the ground, but don't come up short, as anything short of the putting surface runs the risk of rolling all the way down the hill into the fairway 30 yards or more short of the green.
The multi-tiered fourth green narrows from front to back and bends around the bunker front-left of the green, making a pin position in the back-left much more difficult to reach with your approach shot. Interesting note: From the tips, this hole plays 516 yards and is still a par-4.
Hole 5 - Par 3 - 141 Yards
The fifth hole is the first genuine opportunity at Inverness to take a breath. Despite four large bunkers that guard the left and right sides of the green, this hole is just a short-iron for most players. Find the heart of the green, and this should be a relatively easy par or possibly even a birdie. Unlike many Ross greens, known for their false fronts, crowns and shaved edges designed to reject marginal shots, the fifth green has more of a punch bowl feel and may hold such shots better than other greens on the course. Find the middle of this green, and you'll likely have a reasonable chance of rolling in a birdie putt.
Hole 6 - Par 4 - 430 Yards
The sixth hole is a long par-4 bending gently to the left. A well struck tee shot that flies the bunker on the left side of the fairway, carrying about 230 yards through the air, stands a good chance of finding the downslope as the fairway drops down toward a stream about 100 yards short of the green, affording players the opportunity to get some extra distance out of their drive.
From the fairway, the hole plays across a low valley and a narrow stream before rising up the hill again to an elevated green. There is only one greenside bunker, right of the green and deep, but the putting surface is also protected by two deep swales full of thick rough left of the green and a false front.
The green, itself, on No. 6 has a number of small knolls across the front and a larger one toward the back of the green that can wreak havoc with approach shots and putts, making this a difficult scoring hole.
Hole 7 - Par 4 - 434 Yards
No. 7 is probably the hole that convinced me I love this course. Ironic, considering how poorly I played it. Funny how often that seems to be the case. At my home course, Pete Dye Golf Club, the second hole is my favorite despite the fact that I seem to hook my tee shot into the creek more than half the time that I play it. Well I didn't fare much better on the seventh at Inverness. The hole is a long par-4 that plays to a tight fairway with a stream running in front of the tees and down the right side of the hole. A drive of 220 yards or so will fly the stream and provide the best opportunity to reach the wider part of the fairway inside 200 yards to the green. In my case, I cleared the stream with plenty of distance, but I picked the wrong time to hit a push. My ball headed for the trees, hit solidly, and we watched as it flew straight back at us, somehow avoiding the water and coming to rest in the rough on a small peninsula across the stream just right of the fairway and a long way from home.
For those who find the fairway, the second shot plays long and uphill to a green that is perched, seemingly defenseless, atop the hill. There are no greenside bunkers. In fact, this is the only hole on the course on which there are no bunkers at all. Rather, the challenge of the hole is in the difficulty of the tee shot, the presence of the stream, the topography and change in elevation, and the sheer length. Master all of that, and it's an easy par, maybe even a birdie hole. But I'd wager this hole yields more doubles than it does tweeters on any given day of play.
The view back from the green on No. 7 gives you a sense of how narrow the fairway is.
Hole 8 - Par 5 - 522 Yards
No. 8 is the only par-5 on the front nine and is the longest hole on the course. From the tips, it stretches to 607 yards. The hole is a near 90-degree dogleg left. Long hitters may choose to take a line over the fairway bunker on the left in order to cut a bit of distance off the tee, but it'll take a drive of 240 yards or more to clear the sand. And even a successful drive that flies the bunker and finds the fairway is still likely to leave the player with 250 yards or more to the green.
Left of the 8th tee is a stone and plaque that shares the story of The Hinkle Tree. During the first round fo the 1979 U.S. Open, competitor Lon Hinkle opted to aim a 1-iron through a narrow gap in the grees left of the tee, playing his opening shot down the heart of the 17th fairway and leaving himself an easy second shot into the eighth green instead of playing the hole as it was designed. Overnight, before the second round could begin, the USGA had a 25-foot-tall Blue Hills Spruce planted left of the tee to plug up the gap and ensure that the hole would play the way Donald Ross intended when the championship resumed.
For most of us, No. 8 is a no-doubt three-shot-hole. From the fairway short or right of the bunkers on top of the fairway off the tee, the green is still some 300 yards away.
For those who do carry the bunker and find the downslope of the fairway short of the stream, there is a possibility of reaching the green, perhaps with a well-struck 3-wood or even a driver from the deck. The shot plays uphill and may be more risk than reward considering the number of bunkers that dot the hole from about 110 yards in.
The green is surrounded by five deep bunkers. And Ross signature shaved edges and a false front work to further defend the putting surface, significantly shrinking the effective size of this green. Play your approach into the middle of this green, and be happy to walk away with a par if you can.
Hole 9 - Par 4 - 344 Yards
After the long march that is holes 6 through 8 -- where the shortest hole is 430 yards -- No. 9 is a welcome respite before making the turn. This par-4 heads out toward the clubhouse and turns gently right toward the parking lot. The fairway is wide but features two bunkers to the right, one left and a pot bunker 260 yards dead ahead. Players may want to lay back with a fairway wood or even a hybrid off the tee just to find the short stuff and take the sand out of play on this short par-4.
Even for those players who lay up off the tee, the approach to No. 9 is likely to be no more than a wedge or short-iron. Three bunkers around the front and along the entire right side of the green require a high-lofted shot landing soft on the putting surface in order to set up a potential birdie putt. A ridge that runs from front to back on the left side of the green threatens to throw balls hit to that side straight left into the deep rough along that side of the green, which can quickly turn a birdie opportunity into a challenging par.
Hole 10 - Par 4 - 345 Yards
The 10th hole plays parallel to the first but absolutely has its own identity. The short par-4 presents the player with a question -- whether to lay up to the top of the ridge in order to avoid the bunkers on either side of the fairway, or to attempt to drive the ball over the ridge and down into the lower fairway in order to set up a short pitch into the smallest green on the course.
For those who layup, a shot of about 180 yards is all it'll take to set up a mid-iron approach. But for those who take the riskier route and can find the lower fairway off the tee, the reward is a much better opportunity to turn this into a scoring hole. The approach to 10 plays across a creek to a tiny green surrounded by knolls, swales, thick rough and a healthy amount of fescue.
As if the size of the green weren't enough of a challenge, the putting surface on No. 10 featuers a raised middle tier that drops off and runs away from the fairway toward the back of the green. The higher, more lofted your approach, the better opportunity you'll have to land the ball softly, hold the green and set up a scoring putt.
Hole 11 - Par 4 - 368 Yards
No. 11 is a straightforward par-4. Bunkers left and right of the fairway squeeze the landing area and may cause some players to want to layup off the tee. The bunker on the right sits at about 255 yards out, but a drive down the left side can run out to nearly 275 yards before the sand on that side of the fairway becomes a danger.
The 11th hole offers players plenty of room to run a low ball into this green that slopes from back to front or the option to try to fly the ball all the way to the pin. Large bunkers right of the green stretch like lanky fingers away from the putting surface, while another bunker lurks low and left of the green, waiting to collect an errant approach.
Hole 12 - Par 3 - 152 Yards
No. 12 is another short par-3 that, like the fifth, is a birdie opportunity for the player whose short-iron tee shot finds the putting surface amid the four bunkers tucked tight around the green on three sides.
Apart from contours around the edges, the 12th features one of the flattest greens on the course and is possibly the best opportunity on the course to score a birdie.
Hole 13 - Par 5 - 495 Yards
The 13th hole is a reachable par-5 for those bold enough to play driver off the tee and skilled enough to find the fairway. A large bunker just right of the fairway stretches for about 50 yards, beginning about 225 yards off the tee. Another bunker left of the fairway is likely out of reach for all but the longest hitters. The fairway does get very tight, however, about 260 yards out from the tee, making the opening shot much more difficult than it appears.
Bobby Jones once said that "Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies." And that's certainly true on the 13th at Inverness. Players who hit good balls off the tee can find their drives tossed in the rough by the contours of the terrain, while others whose balls seem destined for the heavy grass or sand may find their drives redirected to the fairway. For those whose drives come up short of the fairway bunkers, the smart second shot may be to layup short of the creek that crosses the hole roughly 125 yards out from the green, setting up a short-iron approach and a possible birdie opportunity.
This shot, taken while we searched for a ball that trickled just into the heavy rough lining the creek, offers up some sense of the elevation change from the lower fairway to the green atop the hill approaching the clubhouse.
The putting surface on 13 is small and well-guarded with five bunkers protecting the green complex. For players who who find the green in regulation, there is a real chance to card a birdie. But for a short, reachable par-4, the 13th also presents plenty of challenge.
Hole 14 - Par 4 - 420 Yards
No. 14 is a long par-4 that plays out across a creek and over two large mounds of fescue to an elevated fairway. The tee boxes set up for a shot to the left side of the hole as it bends back to the right, which can cause some players to inadvertently hit into one of the two large bunkers on the left side of the fairway. The ideal tee shot is a fade that starts out at the second fairway bunker and peels right to the center of the fairway. This hole is long enough as it is; playing down the right side of the fairway offers the shortest, safest line to the hole, while players who go left -- even those who avoid the sand -- will find they have a much longer approach or that the green may even be unreachable in two.
From the right side of the fairway, there is ample room to run a low ball into this green in order to avoid the large bunkers right and left. Playing for the heart of this green is also ideal as the edges of the green fall off in just about all directions. Distance control is the real key to this approach with a green that is wide but measures less than 75 feet from front to back.
Hole 15 - Par 4 - 417 Yards
The tee shot on 15 plays out to a fairway that angles from left to right and begins to narrow significantly at about 250 yards off the tee. The bunker visible to the left is more of a hazard for players on No. 14 and shouldn't be in play for most on the 15th hole. There are two bunkers on the right side of the fairway, however, extending 240 yards to about 280 yards off the tee, that definitely are in play and need to be avoided for players who hope to avoid bogey or worse on this hole.
At about 250 yards from the tee, the fairway on 15 begins to slope downward and significantly fromm right to left. Balls played to the right side can easily find the left side of the fairway or even the left rough if they run too far. The creek that crosses the hole about 100 yards from the green shouldn't be cause for too much concern as it is out of reach from the tee and shouldn't be an issue on the approach unless a player badly mishits their second shot or is, perhaps, playing from one of the fairway bunkers and finds themselves unable to carry the ball to the green.
The green complex on 15 is one of the coolest on the course, with the putting surface resting low in a stadium-like setting with small hills that rise in all directions. The fairway from 15 flows around the green and becomes the fairway for No. 18. And from the green on 15, players are afforded an early look at the home hole and the stately clubhouse beyond. The green on 15 is tear-drop-shaped and guarded by three greenside bunkers. It's not a difficult green to putt, with only subtle contours, and may present a scoring opportunity for players who can find their way to the putting surface in regulation.
Hole 16 - Par 4 - 393 Yards
No. 16 calls for two precise shots to avoid the bunkers that make this hole a challenging par-4. From the tee, bunkers left and right of the fairway crowd the landing area. Players may want to take something less than driver off this tee in order to lay back of the sand. Doing so, however, means it'll be a longer iron or possibly hybrid into this green.
From the fairway on 16, it's important to have an angle from the left if you want to run a low ball into the putting surface. From the right side of the hole, greenside bunkers block out the right half of the green and require the player to fly the approach to the hole in order to set up a possible birdie putt. A large bunker left of the green also waits to collect balls that may be pulled or pushed to the left as players attempt to avoid the danger front-right of the green. If there's one thing that must be said for Donald Ross (and, later, for Andrew Green), it's that they intended the player to think his or her way around the course; par would be the result of a hole well played, and birdies would only be hard-earned.
Hole 17 - Par 4 - 411 Yards
The 17th hole is one of the few true doglegs on the course, turning sharply from right to left. Players long enough to challenge the fairway bunker at the bend, about 230 yards away, have a real advantage. Simply aim at the building in the distance beyond the bunker, and bombs away! Finding the fairway beyond the bunker, as the hole bends to the left and slopes downward toward the green can set up a mid-iron approach to the green. But be careful. Overcook your drive down the left side, and you could find your way into one of the tall trees, leaving you with a near-impossible second shot out of the thick rough and next to no chance of getting home in two.
Like the 15th green, the 17th rests low in a bit of a bowl surrounded by sand, and hills that rise up around the green. One can imagine the crowds that might gather along the hillsides watching players battle on the penultimate hole of the major championships that have been and will be contested here at Inverness. As for the approach shot, there is plenty of room for a low runner, but a high ball played with better distance control may be the best option to this multi-tiered green that slopes from back to front.
Hole 18 - Par 4 - 305 Yards
The last hole is an incredible hole for championship competition. With plenty of elevated space for galleries lining the hole, No. 18 is a drivable par-4 with plenty of risk to counterbalance the potential reward. Bunkers right and left of the narrow fairway begin just about 200 yards off the tee and are deep enough, with high faces, to make reaching the green in two difficult or even impossible. Another bunker, farther down the right side of the fairway, offers an ideal target line for players who choose to hit a 3-wood or hybrid off the tee in hopes of setting up an approach shot of maybe 75 or 100 yards from the fairway. But for big hitters who maybe need to pick up a stroke or two coming down the stretch on Sunday, the opportunity to carry a drive all the way to the green may be too tempting to ignore.
From most vantage points in the fairway, the approach to 18 is a relatively straightforward wedge or short-iron to set up a potential birdie. But for those who dare to go for the green from the tee, four deep bunkers guard the front, left and rear-left of the green. And deep rough beyond and right of the green threaten to make any drive that runs through the green a difficult recovery. As we played our way in, the veranda was full of members having dinner and watching the golf unfold. Some politely aplauded as we hit our approach shots into the green and putted out -- a nice touch as we ended our round on this incredible course.
Inverness Club was a fantastic test and a tremendous opportunity to immerse ourselves in the history of the game in America. I was especially delighted to have Jarad (left) and Dave (middle) along to enjoy the round and experience the club. And I'm particularly grateful to our host, Brent, for inviting us out. As someone with a particular affinity for Donald Ross designs, it was a special treat. I look forward to one day giving it another go and to watching the U.S. Women's Open at Inverness in 2027.