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|Longaberger -- now known as Virtues Golf Club -- is one of Ohio's best public courses. (Brandon Tucker/TravelGolf)|
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This course is now known as Virtues Golf Club.]
NASHPORT, Ohio -- The tie-in between handcrafted wooden baskets and Longaberger Golf Club, a top Ohio golf course, is blatantly obvious -- even if at first it draws a blank.
Consider the Longaberger Company in Nashport, about an hour east of Columbus. Founded by Dave Longaberger in the 1970s, they built a national reputation for handmade baskets and other home wares to which women especially took a liking.
In fact, they had developed such a cult following over the years, more and more women began showing up at Longaberger headquarters requesting tours of the factory and show room. The numbers continued to grow into the hundreds of thousands, and by 1998, Dave decided to build a golf course, completed shortly after his passing in 1999.
So, why golf?
"There was always a method to his madness," said his daughter and now CEO Tami Longaberger. "He saw the course as a way to give men something to do while the women were on the tour."
So, suddenly all these husbands aren't scoffing at being dragged along with the misses to basket-ville. In fact, they're looking forward to the yearly pilgrimage. Because the golf course is worth the trip.
Longaberger Golf Club is unquestionably one of the top public golf courses in Ohio, built by Toledo-based architect Arthur Hills. Hills had plenty of acreage to work with on expansive terrain that presents a lot of different looks and demands a full set of shots. The first hole plays on high ground, and you can see miles in each direction from the first tee. Others play on lowland tucked away from the outside world entirely, and some more play around large water hazards and marshland. You never know what you're going to come across when you get to the next tee.
The first knock-your-socks-off tee shot is the fourth hole, a par 5 from an elevated tee that will have your driver jumping out of the bag.
In fact, there are a lot of player-friendly components to Longaberger. Legend has it, after a frustrated round years ago, Dave Longaberger threw his clubs into a pond and walked away from golf. Rather than building a wicked course that might inflict similar pain to his patrons, Longaberger is a course that will surely leave players coming back, thanks to wide fairway landing zones and slopes along some sides that generate some favorable kicks, like to the right of the par-5 10th fairway.
Or on the par-4 eighth hole, you can swing away at a fairway that is enormous, wrapping around an island of trees to the right side, or take a shortcut to the left of them for a shorter shot into a green surrounded on three sides by water. Or just aim straight at the row of pines and hope the ball finds some air between them.
On other tee shots, however, you have to be a bit more nimble. The par-3 ninth hole features a very shallow green tucked above a pond and little waterfall to the right. The hole is mostly encircled by trees, aside from an opening to the left, so the wind can sneak up on you. It's Longaberger's scenic-but-devilish homage akin to the famous 12th at Augusta National.
Longaberger hasn't been in the golf business long, but it's hard to believe the company's main business isn't golf, because they score aces on what matters to golfers most.
Course conditions are PGA Tour-ready, featuring slick and smooth bent grass greens that require some serious touch (staying below the hole is paramount on practically every green). It's also a walker-friendly course and receives a lot of play from the local high school golf teams.
It's also a course that, while plenty challenging from the back tees at 7,243 yards, isn't going to break your back - at least until you've got a downhill putt on these slick greens. The par 5s, in particular, are all very manageable, and most moderately long mid-handicappers will likely have a shot at reaching at least one of the four in two shots.
The course is in both Golf Magazine and Golf Digest's respective Top 100 public courses lists, and Golfweek rated it Ohio's best public offering. But national lists aside, the clubhouse is stately and comfortable, the grill room pours a good beer and the restaurant serves delicious grub.
October 15, 2008
Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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