As the brilliant greens of summer began to give way to the hues of fall, I returned to the Midwest for more rounds of golf. On this beautiful Saturday morning I was making the drive from Detroit to Toledo after flying in on the night before. During the drive I confirmed that the rumors of the death of manufacturing in the U.S. are greatly exaggerated. They must have hidden all the rust in the rust belt from me, because what I saw were several expansive morden structures stretched along interstate 75. America still produces a lot of cars. I also noticed that there were a lot more Ford, Chrysler, and GM cars alongside me as on the freeway. I was glad that I’d chosen the Jeep Grand Cherokee as my vehicle of choice during my Quest. I decided that I needed to try to rent the same vehicle during my quest. I knew I would be driving thousands of miles on unfamiliar roads. It would be a lot safer to drive a vehicle that I could become very familiar with. It’s been great that National Car Rental is very customer focused. Every time I arrived at a location that didn’t have one already on the Emerald Aisle, they’ve been able to find one somewhere on the facility or in the service center that they could get for me. I don’t know if anyone from National will ever read one of my blogs, but if someone does, thanks for making my journeys across this beautiful country safe and comfortable. We live in a beautiful and great country filled with extraordinary people. I encourage everyone of you to take a road trip and take in what is uniquely America. I assure you that it will swell your heart with pride.
Upon arriving in Toledo, I met Ron for breakfast at the Original Pancake House. Speaking of Pax Americana, this quaint and charming restaurant wreaked up it. Ron and I had met several years earlier when he started to play in the annual Black Jacket Tournament that I’ve mentioned several times before. Back at the beginning of my quest, Ron said he'd loved to join me for a round or two anytime I played within a 200 mile radius of his home in Toledo. I invited him to join me for my round at Oakland Hills in Bloomfield, Michigan (I will cover this in my next blog). He then offered to arrange for us to play at the Inverness Club on the same weekend. The Head Professional from his club in Toledo was able to get access at Inverness for us. In discussions during the week leading up to our round, Ron and I agreed to meet for breakfast before heading to course.
After breakfast, we made our way through the charming Toledo neighborhoods to the Inverness Club. Ron and I had taken separate cars from the restaurant. We met in the parking lot and then went to the men’s locker room to change our shoes. The club house and the locker room were nice, but what I was most impressed by was the bulletin board. It had several pictures of the Chick Evans scholars from Inverness. I learned about the Chip Evans Scholars when I played at Bandon Dunes. My caddie for my four rounds on the Oregon coast was a young kid named Thomas. Thomas was not a golfer. He had begun caddying so that he could become an Evans Scholar. He succeeded. Since those rounds at Bandon Dunes, I’d played at several clubs that participated in the program, but none seemed to have had more scholars in the program than Inverness. I take my hat off to the members and the staff at Inverness for their commitment to the program and to the education of so many young men and women.
After we changed our shoes, Ron and I headed to the Pro Shop which is in a separate building from the clubhouse. At the pro shop, I met Derek Brody the Head Golf Professional at Inverness. I told Derek about my quest to in one year play the top 100 Golf Courses in the country as rated by Golf Digest for 2017-18. We had a good chat about the courses I’d already played, and I learned that Derek had worked as an assistant pro at Augusta National. I told Derek that I’d be playing Oakland Hills on the next day. He pointed out that both Inverness and Oakland Hills were Donald Ross courses. He also mentioned that Inverness was undergoing a renovation. At some point, the course had been modified by George Fazio. They were now removing the Fazio holes and replacing them with the original Donald Ross holes. They were also rerouting to the course to the original layout. Derek asked that I give him my impressions on how the courses compared following my round at Oakland Hills.
Following the chat with Derek, I joined Ron on the practice range. We had very little time before we were to be on the first tee. I rushed through my warm up and forgot the head cover for my Epic Driver. Perhaps I will get back to Inverness one day and it will still be in the lost and found there. I have noticed that I’ve seen more Epic Drivers during my Quest than any other drivers. It is not surprising. My opinion is the Epic is a driver that delivers.
Inverness is another of the historic clubs that is in the Golf Digest top 100. It has hosted several U.S. Opens and PGA Championships along with numerous other championships. Ron and I chose to play from the blue tees. They measure just over 6000 yards, this is the shortest distance that I’ve played during my quest. The course had a rating of 69.7 with a slope of 138.
I am going to provide a preemptive disclaimer regarding the summary of my round at Inverness. With the course not following its normal flow, I am not certain that the pictures of holes are consistent with the hole we were playing. I’m sure I got it right at least 90 percent of the time, but there may be a misplaced picture or two that I couldn’t confirm.
The first hole is 385 yard par four. The fairway is wide and undulated. There are normally several bunkers to the left of the fairway, but with the renovation underway at the course, that area was under construction. The fairway ends short of the green. There is a slight gully between the end of the fairway and the green. The elevated green is small and round, typical of a Donald Ross design. There are green side bunkers on the left and the right.
I hit my drive just 200 yards to the ground under repair off the left side of the fairway.
I got a free drop from the ground under repair at 180 yards from the flag. My approach shot landed right of the green.
I pitched on to 18 inches from the cup.
I made the putt to open the round with a par.
The second hole plays just 335 yards. The fairway however is narrow and has several bunkers off the left side and one on each side that cuts into the fairway at about 100 yards from the small round well bunkered green. I hit my three wood off the tee to the right fairway short of where the bunker cut into it.
My approach shot landed in the right greenside bunker. My first sand shot hit at the top of the bunker and rolled back in. I hit my second sand shot onto the green and two putted for a double bogey.
It took a moment for Ron and me to find the third hole. The third hole is normally a par three, but that hole was not being play during the renovation. The hole we played has a fairway that starts with a width that is about the same as the second hole. It then widens after it passes a fairway bunker on the left but narrows significantly after it passes the second of two fairway bunkers on the right. The fairway ends at a creek that runs across the course. This creek comes into play on several holes. An interesting feature about the course is that on the holes where the fairway ends before the creek, there is usually a small circular section of fairway that starts on the other side of the creek but ends before the green. I hit my drive to the right fairway.
I shanked my second shot and it went into the creek at the end of the fairway. I took a drop, hit a pitch shot to the green, and two putted for another double bogey.
Our next hole was the 380 yard par four. It had a long sweeping fairway with that followed the contour of the creek that ran along the right side. There were several trees that line the ridge that runs along the left side of the fairway. The fairway starts out narrow and gets even more narrow as it makes its sweeping turn to the left between the creek and the ridge. I pulled my drive, the ball landed on the slope of the hill along the left side of the green. I drew my second shot around the trees. My ball landed short of the green. I chipped on to six feet below the flag.
My par putt stopped two inches short of the cup. I tapped in for a bogey.
Following what we played as our fourth hole, we drove around in the cart until we found a par three of roughly 165 yards. The hole we found was a beautiful par three with a green framed by bunkers and trees.
I missed the green to the left with my tee shot and then left my pitch in the rough just short of the green. I chipped on to three feet but couldn’t make the short putt. I made a double on the hole.
Our next hole was a 385 yard par four. This hole is also wide open. There are very few trees on front nine. A few of the holes on the back nine have more trees. I hit my drive to the right rough leaving 180 yards to the hole.
I caught a flyer of the rough on my approach shot. My ball landed on the back of the green and rolled downed the slope. I chipped on and two putted for a bogey.
Our seventh hole was a 500 yards par five. We first mistakenly played the 17th hole. After our tee shots left us within 200 yards of the green, we realized that we were playing the wrong hole. We drove around again until we found the tee box for what is normally the eighth hole. Once we found the hole, I thought it was one of the best golf holes on the course. The fairway bends right to left with a cluster of bunkers inside the turn. After it makes its turn, the fairway slopes down to the creek that I’ve mentioned before. It picks up again on the other side of the creek and slopes back up until it levels out. There are bunkers on each side of the fairway as it approaches the green. The green has a large bunker off the front right of the green and two bunkers on the left side of the green. It’s a beautiful golf hole.
I hit a strong drive, that I’d started down the left side of the fairway. The ball drew slightly and landed in the last of the bunkers in the cluster on the inside of the turn. Had the ball landed just a few feet to the right, it would have been perfect. It would have caught the speed chute and rolled to just short of the creek.
Worst than having hit my drive to the bunker is that I caught too much sand on my bunker shot and hit my ball into the creek. I took a drop and hit my fourth shot to just short of the green, chunked my next shot, then chipped on to 20 feet. Fortunately, I made the 20 foot putt to avoid a triple bogey.
The next hole which played as the eight hole or 8A on the scorecard, is a 130 yard par three. I hit my tee shot to 12 feet left of the pin.
I got a little excited about the prospect of making a birdie to help clean up my scorecard. I hit the birdie putt much too hard. The ball rolled 12 feet past the hole, leaving the same distance for my par putt as I had for my birdie putt. The good thing though is that when a ball rolls past the hole, you see the break. I made the 12 foot come back putt for par. This was the only time on the front time that both Ron and I made a par on the same hole.
The ninth hole is short 340 yard par four. There are two fairway bunkers on the left and two very large ones on the right around midway to the green. I missed the fairway to the right. I cleared the first fairway bunker and landed to the right of the second one, but I had two problems.
The first problem was a tree with limbs that blocked my line to the green. I needed to fade my ball around the tree to get to the green. The second problem was the bunker on the front left of the green. I didn’t want to aim at the bunker just in case the ball didn’t fade. I lined up in text book fashion for my shot. I aimed the club face at my target and aligned my body just off the left edge of the overhanging branches. My ball caught a single one-inch thick branch and dropped to the ground. I hit my third shot to the front of the green.
Ron hit his second shot to the green. We both two putted, but his two putt was for a par and mine was for a bogey.
The back nine at Inverness has just one par three and one par five. The remaining holes are all par fours. The 10th hole is the first of the par fours. It’s a short hole which plays just 330 yards from the blue tees. An interesting feature about the hole is that the first part of the fairway connects to the first part of the fairway for the first hole. The fairways separate at an area that contains bunkers that are in play on the left for the first hole and on the right for the second hole. It is almost like the church pew bunkers at Oakmont which come into play on the third and fourth holes. The differences are the third and fourth holes at Oakmont play in opposite directions and the churches pew bunker is one very large bunker with successive long mounds covered in grass that break up the bunker.
The area that separates the fairways at Inverness is normally filled with several small bunkers. That is the area that I mentioned was under construction on the first hole. I hit my drive to the right side of the fairway. The ball rolled into the first cut of rough short of the mounds of dirt from the course construction.
My approach shot missed the green to the left of the greenside bunker. The ball was pin high, so I had to pitch over the bunker to get to the flag. My pitch cleared the bunker and rolled to eight feet short of the cup. I left my par putt one revolution from the edge of the cup.
The 11th hole is a 365 yard par four. The fairway was similar to the ninth fairway, but with more fairway bunkers. There is a bunker on the left and one on the right side of the fairway at about 80 yards from the green. There is also massive on the right side of the fairway about 50 yards farther up. I topped my drive to the right rough. My approach shot landed short of the green and left of the fairway.
It took two pitches to get to the green. I then took two putts to get to the bottom of the cup resulting in my only double bogey on a par four on the back nine.
I think the next hole we played as the par three 12th hole was formerly played as the par three third hole. The hole was playing just 130 yards. There was no water carry nor trees to worry about. The only danger on the hole was the bunkers that protected the green. There was one large one on the front of the green and two bunkers on each side of the green.
I topped my tee shot. Such an easy hole, I just looked up too soon. The ball stopped short of the front bunker. My pitch went over the green. I chipped back on and two putted for my only other double bogey on the back nine.
The thirteenth hole which I think was formerly the sixth hole, is a 490 yard par five. Its fairway ends as it narrows significantly and flows down hill to end at the same creek that the eighth hole ended at. The only fairway bunkers are on the right side of the fairway about 80 yards short of the creek. I hit my drive to the left side of the fairway. It rolled just into the first cut of rough. I laid up short of the creek on my second shot. The ball rolled into the rough and stopped so close to the creek that I didn’t have a stance.
My only shot was a chip over the creek. I hit my fourth shot over the green. I chipped onto the green within 8 feet of the cup. I made the putt for bogey.
On the hole we played as the fourteenth hole, I hit my drive to the left rough leaving 105 yards to the hole. There was a tree block my approach shot. I clubbed up and cut my approach shot around the tree. It was too much club. The ball landed just of the back of the green. I chipped on and two putted for a bogey.
On the fifteenth hole, I hit my drive down the middle of the fairway. The ball ran through the fairway and rolled into the rough short of the creek that crossed at the end of the fairway.
I hit my approach shot into the left greenside bunker. My bunker shot landed in the rough. I chipped on to three feet and made the putt for a bogey.
On the sixteenth hole I continued blowing my par opportunities in favor of easy bogeys (I say this in frustration). I hit my drive to the right fairway leaving 170 yards to the pin.
My approach shot missed the green to the right. I chipped on. My par putt slide by the hole. I tapped in for a yet another bogey.
On the 17th hole I missed the fairway to the right. I left my approach shot short, but made up for it by hitting my pitch shot long and through the green. I chipped on to three feet and made the putt for bogey.
With the construction and rerouting, I’m not sure whether Ron and I played the holes in the right order and I don’t know whether I got them right in my blog. What I am certain of is that the eighteenth hole is the eighteenth hole. It is a 300-yard par four with a wide open fairway with no trees to be concerned about. There are however a lot of bunkers starting at about 200 yards from the tee. There are three in series on the right side of the fairway with another on the right corner at the end of the fairway and yet another at the end of the fairway. There are also two more on the left side of the fairway.
Despite the trouble around the end of the fairway, I still decided to hit my driver off the tee. It was my straightest drive of the day. The ball traveled 240 yards down the middle of the fairway leaving just 60 yards to the flag.
I was too busy licking my chops rather than focusing on my shot. I hit the ball fat and it traveled about 20 yards. I pitched my next shot to 8 feet. Ron had also hit a good drive. He put his approach shot close and birdied the final hole.
I missed my putt and bogeyed the final hole for a 47 on the back nine. I blew several par opportunities throughout the round. While my wasn’t driving the ball well, I drove the ball in most cases to places that I should have been able to recover from. My short came was disgusting. I missed so many greens from the fairway or from just off the fairway and then couldn’t get up and down from around the green. As a result, I ended up with a poor score on a short course with several scoring opportunities. I shot a 93 on the course.
I was starting to get a little frustrated with my game. I was going through my longest stretch of 90+ scores during my quest. My last score in the 80’s was five courses ago at Plainfield Country Club. I was playing so much that I didn’t have much time for practicing and my game was struggling because of it.
It is unfortunate that we played the course so late in the season after the renovations and rerouting were underway. It was clear from the holes that were not impacted by the construction that Inverness is a well maintained course. The fairways and greens were in excellent condition. However, I never really got into a rhythm on the course. I need a mulligan! I think I will try to play the course again after the renovations are completed.
I’d like to thank Ron for working with his club to arrange for us to play at Inverness. I’d also like to thank him and Cynthia for hosting me in their home on the Saturday night following our round.