Ground game comes to the fore at Scioto Country Club

  • Scioto
    Brian Laurent

    Green has reconnected the putting surface on the par-five eighth to the water edge along the left side

  • Scioto
    Scioto Country Club

    A 1920s drawing by Dudley Fisher Jr proved to be a valuable resource for Andrew Green’s renovation

  • Scioto
    Brian Laurent

    Green slopes and contours now better reflect Ross’s original design intent

  • Scioto
    Brian Laurent

    Bunkering (as pictured at the sixteenth) has been renovated with one eye on history and the other on the modern game

  • Scioto
    Brian Laurent

    Bunkers short of the eighteenth green have been renovated

  • Scioto
    Brian Laurent

    Chris Brooks, Scioto’s project leader, says Green has recaptured “Donald Ross’s quirkiness and early architectural features while still being mindful of the modern game

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Andrew Green has completed work at Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington, Ohio, that focused on restoring the design intent and interest of the course that was originally designed by Donald Ross in 1916.

“The course has always held its original Donald Ross routing and hole sequence but lost a great deal of its uniqueness when Dick Wilson and his team renovated all the greens and bunkers in the early 1960s,” said Green. “In the process, a great amount of fill dirt was brought from the state house parking garage. This soil was used to elevate every putting surface and reshape a good deal of the natural topography. The results of this work reduced the elements of the ground game and transformed the course into a more modern presentation.”

Green’s goal was to bring back the originality and variety of the 1916 design, which played host to the 1926 US Open and the 1931 Ryder Cup.

“Every green has been lowered back closer to its original grade – where only soil from the immediate area was utilised to create the golfing elements,” said Green. “The relationship between the ground and golf has been reintroduced and now the golf course will ask the player to execute a range of shots – it also provides a wealth of options for all skill levels to enjoy the game.”

One primary resource for the renovation was a 1920s drawing by cartoonist Dudley Fisher Jr, titled ‘As the Dodo Bird Views the Scene of the National Open Championship 1926’.

“It is stunning in its detail and relevance,” said Green. “We know he utilised an aerial photo or an actual trip up in a plane to create the image. It does a great job of laying out the shapes and positions of the critical golf features. In overlaying the drawing on a modern aerial, we were able to confirm the work as authentic, as the spatial relationships worked out beautifully. This became our guiding document, as we did not have any drawings from the hand of Donald Ross. We paired this dodo bird drawing with photos from the air and ground.

“History was a primary focus of the green complexes – shapes, sizes and surrounding elements. Fairway bunkers and other features along the line of play were inspired by history but situated to make the modern player think. We had very few historic documents for the green contours. We used a few photos from the 1931 Ryder Cup programme to aid in the development of the green slopes and concepts, but a good portion of this work was interpreted and developed from what each hole was asking the player to accomplish.”

With contractor McDonald & Sons, all tees have been levelled or rebuilt using existing greens mix, while fairways were adjusted to widen landing zones. All bunkers were rebuilt with liners from Better Billy Bunker, and to ease access.

Approaches have been capped with greens mix and have internal drainage, while a new irrigation system, designed by Mike Kuhn, has been installed by Leibold Irrigation.

Green was also assisted by Scioto’s course superintendent Bob Becker and his staff throughout the project.

“The player will find the golf course to be a very interesting and dynamic golf experience,” said Green. “Each hole and green complex will ask a different golfing question and provide such a wealth of variety that was not part of the previous version. The reintroduction of unique elements on the par threes will make them stand out, including the restored version of the Postage Stamp seventeenth green. This hole was written about a great deal leading up to the 1926 National Open and was often considered a great part of the lore of the club.”

Chris Brooks, green committee chair and project leader for Scioto, said: “One of the things that stand out was Andrew’s ability to recapture some of Donald Ross’s quirkiness and early architectural features while still being mindful of the modern game as seen in the placement of remnant bunkers, cross bunkers and hummocks. I also feel like Scioto now has one of the strongest sets of par threes anywhere in the country.

“The reaction from the membership has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been especially interesting to see some of our members’ viewpoints and opinions change as the project progressed throughout the year. I feel confident that the level of excitement will continue to rise among our members and golfing community once we are open for play in 2022.”