Golf in Cleveland is some of the cheapest and highest quality golf to be had anywhere in the world. No joke. Golf courses are everywhere, and if they were on the east coast, you'd pay at least three times as much and wait 5 times as long for a tee time. Getting a tee time at the best courses is usually a cinch, and at the others you can pretty much show up and play anytime you want. The only place I know of with better access for equal value is the home of golf itself, Scotland, where golf courses are part of the landscape, and greens fees are often no more than the cost of a couple pints of beer.
Like Scotland, however, Cleveland golf is subject to a miserable winter. But for the most part, you can play golf in Cleveland well into November, and most courses stay open all winter, so if the weather cooperates, you're in. Here's a quick list of six top notch courses, and six great values for the dollar, all in the Northeast Ohio area. It's not exhaustive by any meansjust one golfer's opinion. For more ratings on just about every course in the area, go to GolfClevelandOhio.com, which is regularly updated, with lots of reviews, and has pictures of many holes at some courses.
6 of the Best Courses
Greens fees over $40
Fowler's Mill, Chesterland, OH
A work of art. A Pete Dye course, with legitimate par 5's, brutal greens, and impeccably maintained. It's hosted US Open qualifying rounds. The fairways are immaculate and carpet like. The rough is punishing. The signature par 4 hole, #4 on the Lake 9 will test your game thoroughly. Beautiful club house with a real restaurant menu. Not cheap. I paid $68 for fees and a cart on a weekday. If this course were in Arizona, you'd pay double, maybe triple.
Sleepy Hollow, Brecksville, OH
An older course, built in 1925, which has settled very nicely into it's surrounding landscape. Beautiful views. It's a great value, too, as is every course in the Metroparks system. Play can be slow due to its popularity. Bring lots of extra golf balls. You'll need em.
Deer Ridge, Belleville, OH
A bit of a drive from Cleveland (an hour south on I-71), but well worth it, which makes it equally accessible from Columbus. Stunning layout, lots of hills, some of the long rough makes it look like you're in Ireland. The greens are great and don't like to hold, no matter how much rain they've taken. A couple of the par 4's are drivable, but if you miss, you're gonna pay. They're building a new clubhouse for next year, which should be magnificent.
Bunker Hill, Medina, OH
Plenty of blind tee shots, with an emphasis on accuracy. Take a deep breath at 18, where your entire game could be destroyedI speak from experience. You'll be tempted to reach the 507 yard par 5 in two, but the second shot is straight uphill to the green, and you're best advised to leave the driver in the bag at the tee. Very nice clubhouse, the fairways are nice, and the greens reward a good shot.
Pine Hills, Hinckley, OH
Emphasis on "hills". Miss hit a shot and you'd better have your hiking boots on. A pretty course to look at throughout the entire 18. A new clubhouse recently opened.
Grey Hawk, Lagrange, OH
You're not going to find many links courses in the area, but this is one of them. Wind plays a role in every shot. It's in a new housing development, which sort of takes away from the whole idea of a links course, but the course itself makes up for that. Long. If you can't shoot a fairway wood on the par 5's, you'll pay on the scorecard. Beautifully maintained.
6 of the Best Values
Greens fees under $40
Manakiki, Willoughby Hills, OH
A grand dame of Cleveland golf, Donald Ross designed it in 1929, and the decades since have aged it beautifully. It's a great mix of Scottish design and the land on which it sits - rolling hills. Many greens slope on the sides, so even a good shot needs to be well placed. The price is so ridiculously cheap for the quality and pedigree of the course, you almost feel as if you're getting the golf for free.
Mallard Creek, Columbia Township, OH
A relatively new course, with 36 holes on mostly flat land. Well-maintained, and when they let the rough grow long, it can be very difficult. Plenty of water hazards, a very nice clubhouse, and easy to get onto no matter how crowded it gets. Holds up particularly well in winter.
Big Met, Fairview Park, OH
Another older course, built in 1926 next to the Rocky River, which means when it rains, it can get soggy. It's a bit short, but well designed par 5's make it seem longer. They're building a new clubhouse for 2006. Regularly cited as the most played course in Ohio, so it can be crowded and features slow play a bit too often, but still a value at less than $30 for 18 and a cart.
Royal Crest, Columbia Station, OH
Easy course, mostly flat and straight. Par 5's are easily reachable in two, except for the mammoth dogleg on #4. Used to be a lot easier to get out on the course, but it's gotten a lot more popular recently. Pretty well-maintained. Price has gone up a bit, but still a good value.
Berkshire Hills, Chesterland, OH
Lots of hills and nice views, very well maintained. It's a bit shortthe par 5's are reachable in two, and a couple of the par 4's are drivable, but be careful. Many holes fall off into a no man's land filled with trees.
Orchard Hills, Chesterland, OH
Tougher than it looks. It's pretty wide open, with little to keep you from using driver on the tee, but the greens are slick. Hilly, with a couple steep drop/uphill par 3's. Semi-private, so get a tee time. Nice views.