INVERNESS GOLF CLUB:
GOLF’S HISTORIC NATIONAL TREASURE

Story by: Mike May

When you think about golf courses in Ohio, the destinations that immediately come to mind are Muirfield Village in Dublin; the Canterbury Club in Cleveland; Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington (just outside Columbus); and the Firestone Country Club in Akron.  One golf course that deserves to be added to the list of the best of the Buckeye state is Inverness Club, which is located in Toledo.  Inverness Club (www.invernessclub.com) is very special, filled with history, and is a true national treasure.

Inverness Club -- the site of four U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, two U.S. Senior Opens, two NCAA Men’s Championships, and one U.S. Junior Amateur – is steeped in so much tradition and golf history that the many memorable images, pictures, clubs, scorecards, and newspaper clippings associated with past events are decoratively displayed on the interior walls of the clubhouse and in the pro shop.  While it’s a private club, Inverness Club’s history is fascinating and worth sharing with the general public.  Inverness Club (4601 Dorr Street in Toledo) is as enlightening to visit as it is enjoyable to play.  While some tweaks and changes have been made to the course over the years, Inverness Club has stood the test of time and remains as relevant and competitive today as it was when it hosted its first major championship – the 1920 U.S. Open.  That 1920 national championship of American golf was won by England’s Ted Ray, who bested a field that included an aging Harry Vardon (who finished in a second-place tie), the pre-tournament favorite Walter Hagen, a young Gene Sarazen, and an 18-year-old college student from Georgia Tech who was making his U.S. Open debut, Bobby Jones, who finished the event in 8th place.

When the 1957 U.S. Open was held at Inverness Club and won by Dick Mayer, it marked the U.S. Open debut for Jack Nicklaus.

When Hale Irwin won the 1979 U.S. Open at Inverness Club, it marked the U.S. Open debut for Australian Greg Norman.  Future Masters champion Fred Couples was the low amateur that year.

The most recent national championship to be held at Inverness Club was the 2011 U.S. Senior Open -- won by Olin Browne.  The next major event scheduled for Inverness Club is the LPGA’s Solheim Cup in 2021.  It will be the 17th edition of the Solheim Cup.

It seems that golf’s best players have come to Inverness Club at least once in their playing careers.  The many pictures hanging on the interior walls of the clubhouse provide the proof of visits to Inverness Club by the game’s greatest players, some of whom have also emerged victorious.

As a course, Inverness Club demands the best and it rewards the best, thanks to efforts of legendary golf course architects Donald Ross (from 1916-1919), Tom Fazio (in 1977), and Andrew Green (in 2017).  Very few golf courses offer as many tees as Inverness – white, blue, silver, gold, and black.  The most forward tees are white (5,205 yards) while the championship tees are black (7,730 yards).

Inverness Club is a paradise for par fours, as it opens with a quartet of par fours in the first five holes and closes with five consecutive par fours.  There are only two par-five holes on the course – one on the front nine and one on the back nine -- and just a trio of par threes.  For the most part, Inverness is a fader’s paradise.  Case in point, Paul Azinger (1993 PGA Championship winner at Inverness) and Brue Lietzke (2003 U.S. Senior Open winner at Inverness) are well-known faders of the golf ball.  The course has a handful of blind shots, but for the most part, your next destination is always within the range of your eyesight.  While the greens may be a touch on the small side, that provides ample opportunities for players to get up and down in two from any greenside location. 

To add to the Inverness Club experience, the club hired a new superintendent in March 2017 to help take a great golf course and make it better.  Enter John Zimmers, formerly the superintendent at Oakmont CC in Pennsylvania, which hosted the U.S. Open in 2016.  Zimmers is now in the process of building a staff that will implement his ideas and the big-picture vision of the leadership team at Inverness Club.  It’s also great for Inverness Club to have a superintendent on staff who knows what it’s like to host a major championship.

“You want to preserve the history of this great club while implementing new ideas,” says Zimmers. “This is a spectacular property with rolling hills and greens with lots of undulations.  As a superintendent, my goal is to look at old photos of the course and restore it to its original Ross design.”

As for why he decided to leave Oakmont, one of America’s finest country clubs, it was a simple decision.

“After 18 years at Oakmont, it was time for a change,” admits Zimmers.  “Inverness is a great club and this is a great opportunity.”

Solheim Cup merchandise is now on sale inside the pro shop at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio
 
This clock is positioned on the grounds of Inverness, halfway between the 1st and 10th tees which are adjacent to one another.
 

Three of the game’s more memorable major championship moments have taken place at Inverness Club and two of them involved Norman.  At the 1979 U.S. Open, competitors Lon Hinkle and Chi Chi Rodriguez took a shortcut with their tee shots on the par-five 8th hole by playing up the 17th fairway in order to reduce the length of the 8th hole.  By the beginning of the second round, USGA officials had spent roughly $500 to plant a spruce tree – dubbed The Hinkle Tree -- to the left of the tee in the gap where Hinkle and Rodriguez were hitting their tee shots.  The USGA’s tree-planting effort failed, as both players were able to continue to thread the needle and continue to hit their tee shots around the tree and up the 17th fairway.  The tree is now roughly 40 feet high and the shortcut gap has been filled with tree branches and foliage:  mission accomplished, albeit more than 40 years later.  And, in the 1986 PGA Championship, Bob Tway defeated Norman in a playoff when he holed a bunker shot from one of the front greenside bunkers at the 18th hole.  A worldwide television audience witnessed the elation of Tway and the despair of Norman when Tway’s ball fell into the cup.  Norman’s long effort from just off the green to tie Tway was unsuccessful, giving Tway the Wanamaker Trophy.  In 1993, Paul Azinger won the Wanamaker Trophy on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff when Norman bogeyed the par-four 10th after Azinger secured a par on the hole.

Mike May standing next to the grandfather clock which was a gift to the club from the players who competed in the 1920 U.S. Open, which was held at Inverness Club.  The clock sits inside the clubhouse....and is a popular location for selfies and photo opportunities!

One of the special photo hot-spots at Inverness Club is inside the clubhouse – in the entryway, next to Hagen’s Clock, which has been inside the clubhouse since 1920.  Back in 1920, Walter Hagen passed the hat amongst his golfing peers in order to raise enough money to pay for a big grandfather/cathedral clock which was presented to the membership of Inverness Club as a thank you for allowing the professionals to use the locker room inside the clubhouse to get ready for tournament play.  Prior to that, golf professionals were never allowed inside the clubhouse locker rooms at major golf tournaments.

One of the biggest stories at Inverness Club is its caddie program.  It’s second to none.  When you play golf at Inverness Club, you must use a club caddie who has been thoroughly trained in golf etiquette, rules, and decorum.  The caddies are teenagers who live in the greater Toledo area.  The majority of the caddies are not the children of members of the club.  And, not all of the caddies are golfers, but they are interested in being a part of the overall caddy program.

Another cool aspect of the Inverness Club is that the 1st and 10th tees are located side by side.  And, in between both tee boxes is a small, rectangular putting green which allows players a chance to practice their putting strokes before hitting their opening tee shots of the day.  There’s also a historic-looking clock that sits between the 1st and 10th tees, which is a constant reminder to the players to be on time for their tee time.  The combination of the two tees, the putting green, and the clock create a powerful visual that’s unique to this club.

At Inverness Club, the pro shop is located a few steps away from the 1st tee, which is convenient for the head golf professional and his staff to step outside and greet the members each day as they embark upon another round of golf at one of America’s true national treasures – Inverness Club.

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