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Hamilton Elks Golf Club – A Donald Ross Original

by   |   June 20, 2007

I was afforded an opportunity to play the Hamilton Elks Golf Club this afternoon. The Hamilton Elks Golf Club was designed by famed golf course designer Donald Ross in 1925. Mr. Ross is one of my all time favorite golf architects and his golf courses, although not long by today’s standards offer a lot more character and still demand good, well placed golf shots throughout your round.

According to the Donald Ross Society, Donald Ross was an actual visitor “on site” here. This is not the case for many Ross golf courses. This was mainly due to limited and slow travel back in the early 1900s. The Hamilton Elks Golf Club offers a Donald Ross 18 hole course, named the Red and White. This course plays to 6427 yards from the Championship tees. Don’t let the lack of yardage fool you. There is plenty of trouble lurking on this course and as Mr. Ross surely intended, “par is well defended at the green”. The course rating for the Red/White layout is 71.9 with a fairly healthy slope rating of 130. The greens were top notch here and were quite receptive to incoming shots. Many greens, if not all of them,  were designed with many difficult to discern contour subtleties that caused me (and probably many others as well) to miss many putts right near the hole.

As you can see, the sand traps are in need of an original restoration.

Go left and you are in the trees or sand. Go right and the ball runs right off into the woods. This is the shortest par 3 on the Red/White at 144 yards.

So where is the fairway? Great dog leg left hole here folks. Par 4, 4th hole, 365 tough yards.

The 515 yard, hard dog leg left, uphill par 5 6th hole.

Pin placements can be placed and neatly tucked nearby the numerous sand traps helping their defense as well. It is too bad the sand traps here are not in the original condition as they were intended to be. It looks as if Father Time has been rough on the many sand traps. Maybe the club will update them in the future during the next course renovation. This seems to be all the rage these days. There is a third 9 here at Hamilton Elks. It was designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, a fine modern era golf architect in his own right, but his courses are still not of the type designed like the beloved Donald Ross. Sorry Mike, no slight intended. I have always been “drawn in” by Donald Ross golf courses. We had our choice of nines, and of course we stuck with the original 18 hole Ross layout. The natural land contours are just easy on the eye here. You’ll use a variety of golf clubs and can even pretend to be Tiger Woods at last year’s Open Championship by hitting lots, but not all irons off the tee.

Hole #11, 544 yard par 5. Notice the typical Ross plateaued green that falls off to the left?

This green complex is a classic Donald Ross  design characteristic.

We are experiencing some tough drought conditions here in southern Ohio, the rough here was almost completely burned up. If it was green, I am sure my score could have been higher. In fact, all the courses around here are suffering this same fate. However, the tee boxes and fairways were quite plush. There are quite a few par 4 holes here that measure less than 400 yards and although not long, they appear longer to the eye as Ross contoured the fairways with skilled deceptiveness. These holes may offer a few opportunities for scoring, if you can putt well. The par threes here were all pretty tough to score on. The Elks boasts a very nice selection of par three holes. Not many courses today can boast this. Ross seems to set up his holes to persuade you to avoid one spot or another. Many times you are just “picking your poison”.

This is a great risk reward par 4 hole. There are many ways to score on #16. I did it with a 4 iron off the tee and a 175 yard 5 iron to the downhill sloping green.

Late afternoon shadows stretch across the par 4, 380 yard 18th hole at the Hamilton Elks Golf Club..

This course is one of only a few Donald Ross courses around Cincinnati, and even in the year 2007, it is well worth playing!

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