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Longaberger Golf Club (Nashport, OH) Review

Aug. 24, 2007     By     Comments (12)

Longaberger is one of the most expensive courses we've ever reviewed, but it's worth it.

Longaberger LogoRegardless of your location in the country or perhaps even around the globe, you may have heard the name Longaberger. The Longaberger company has been turning out world-famous baskets for 70+ years. Their office is even shaped like a basket.

In 1998, Longaberger commissioned a golf course from renowned architect Arthur Hills. The Longaberger Golf Club traverses up and down unusually hilly terrain and offers breathtaking vistas, huge elevation changes, and a challenge to golfers of all skill levels. And from a few locations on the course, you can even see the building shaped like a giant basket!

Longaberger Golf Club is not about the baskets. The owners didn't copy Merion's wicker basket flags nor are the tee markers little baskets. The golf course may have been funded by money earned from making baskets, but the golf course is all about golf.

Course Conditions
Golf courses that charge upwards of $100 or so must provide three things to golfers, and all must be good to great: amenities (practice/warmup areas), course design and layout, and conditioning.

Longaberger 1st
Longaberger's first hole is a tad quirky: there's a giant tree in the middle of the fairway! Aim for it, I say.

If you can find a nit to pick in Longaberger's conditioning, sir, please invite me down to play your home club in Augusta, GA sometime soon. Longaberger is in immaculate shape. The fairways are lush, the rough is juicy, and the greens are smooth. The bunkers are raked, the water hazards and course boundaries clearly marked, and the tees are flat.

Longaberger is one of the best maintained courses I've seen. During my round, I found a lone groundskeeper working near the second green. "On what?" I inquired. Turns out some of the regular guests were complaining that the run-up area just short of the green was playing softer than on other holes, so he was taking measurements and adjusting the sprinkler nearby to supply a tad less water to the area.

Longaberger 3rd
The third at Longaberger plays 362 yards to a small, undulating green. Sure, you can bail right, but you'll have a longer approach.

That sort of attention may have earned Longaberger their world-class reputation in basket making, and it goes a long way on the golf course as well.

Beyond the course itself, the golf club has a short game practice area, a large, triple-tiered driving range, and two practice putting greens, all in excellent shape.

Normally I try to find at least something negative to say in order to provide a sense of balance, but I draw a blank when the topic is "Longaberger conditioning negatives." Sorry. <grin>

Longaberger 4th
If you don't get excited on the tee of a dramatically downhill tee shot on a par five, you're just not human. This is the fourth.

Layout and Design
Arthur Hills has always impressed me more than architects like Pete Dye or Tom Fazio ever will. His designs, more so than the over-the-top courses by the admittedly more famous designers, strike me as more sensible, more enjoyable, and more equitable. It's no easy trick to build a truly playable golf course: everyone is awed by a Pete Dye course, but a high-handicap golfer hasn't got much of a chance enjoying himself with Dye's standard forced carries, awesome and penal hazards, and tricked-up putting surfaces.

In contrast, an Arthur Hills course is playable for golfers of all skill levels. Hills typically builds enjoyable, beautiful golf courses that manage to test both the beginning and advanced golfers. Hill's designs are more about the golf course and the golfer than the guy that built it - a feeling you don't often get on the courses of the big-name designers. Hills tracks are traditional in that they're not pure target golf - a Hills course lends itself to strategic play more so than a Dye course where you're simply trying to connect the dots.

Longaberger 6th
The sixth is a short uphill par four a green fronted by a bunker 15 feet below the green's surface. Be accurate.

Longaberger is a good example of this. From the Black tees, the course measures measures 7,243 yards. Move one up to the Gold tees and you're still tested over 6,856 yards. Most golfers will be happy from the Blue tees (6,498 yards). Every tee box tests the golfer who chooses correctly.

Longaberger rests on some of the hilliest terrain Ohio has to offer and makes the most of it. The routing wanders up and down every slope on the property without getting tedious (admittedly, the mandatory carts help). Despite the massive elevation changes, the course features very few if any blind shots.

Longaberger 9th
The ninth plays only 169 yards, but I hit a solid 3-iron. Where the wind comes from I have no idea, but it does.

Though Longaberger has a few weaker holes, they're weak only in comparison to their fellow holes. From the Gold tees, Longaberger's par fives measure 530 yards (downhill), 546 yards (uphill), 510 yards (slightly downhill), and 484 yards (flat). The shorter par fives are each protected by water short of and/or right of the greens, while the uphill hole plays to a meandering fairway that requires three solid shots.

The par threes are similarly very different. The fifth (188 yards) plays across a large gorge to a plateau green. The ninth plays only 169 yards across a pond to a tilted, peanut-shaped green. The 12th measures 181 yards and the 14th, set against another gorge, 187 yards. The yardages may seem roughly the same, but I hit the following clubs to each of these holes: 6-iron (188 yards), 4-iron (169 yards), 3-wood (181 yards), and 7-iron (187 yards). The reason? The prevailing wind - a stiff westerly wind - dramatically changes the nature of each of the holes, and each green and the surrounding area is suited for the shot asked of the golfer.

Longaberger 13th
The 13th, with the prevailing wind, is pretty much unreachable at 461 yards. Good luck!

As with virtually every course, the par fours at Longaberger are the strongest holes. With the sheer numbers advantage, the ten par fours are able to display a much deeper variety. Longaberger's two-shot holes range in length from 329 yards (the uphill sixth) to 461 and 454 yards. The former is the 13th and is likely unreachable for all but the longest of hitters. The 18th is the 454-yard hole, and it too plays uphill.

Longaberger 18th
The ideal tee shot at the par-four 18th will draw over and between the bunkers, leaving 180 to 200 yards to the green, all uphill. If you come here needing a birdie, well… you didn't plan very well.

The course begins with a unique par four (a shortish 389 yards, uphill) that has a large tree right where you'd like to land the golf ball and a deep, narrow green for your short pitch. Subsequent holes ask for draws and fades, long-iron approaches to large greens and flip wedges to smaller, undulating greens.

The tee shot at the 429-yard eighth (below) plays uphill to a fairway that is slanted nearly 30 degrees to the left, then downhill to a peninsula green. Clearly the safe play is up the right-hand side, but that makes the hole longer, and it's already into the wind. The temptation to find the left side of the fairway - or, on calmer days, to aim across the field and left of the trees at a strip of fairway there - is strong.

Longaberger 8th
On a calm day, a 260-yard carry downhill will get you to the perfect spot: a strip of fairway left of the trees, leaving only a short pitch to the peninsula green at the 429-yard eighth.

Longaberger's par fours and fives feature wide fairways that don't dictate any particular strategy off the tee, leaving that up to the golfer. They'll receive fades or draws equally as well, though many times one shot shape is preferred. The wide fairways can be rather deceiving as the green complexes are contoured so as to prefer one shot shape from one side of the fairway.

I could gush on and on about Longaberger's diversity of holes. Each of the 18 holes here truly offers a unique challenge, appearance, and test of your golf game. I'll try to reign it in here to talk about something I mentioned briefly before: the wind. Longaberger's first five or six holes may trick you, but the remaining twelve holes are exposed to the wind. A calm day in southeastern Ohio is a two-club wind, so on days when the wind is actually blowing, Longaberger offers a stiff challenge. Again, I don't often hit 181-yard 3-woods and 187-yard ¾ 7-irons in a span of three holes, but I did at Longaberger.

Longaberger 15th
The 15th plays 428 yards, uphill, and has a grassy gorge in front of the green. It's the start of a difficult finish at Longaberger.

Bang for the Buck
Longaberger's rate structure is among the simplest I've seen, so this won't take too long. Golfers can play March 30 to May 10 for $79, which includes all-day play Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. May 11 through October 2 the fee is $99. In late fall, October 3 to November 4, the cost is $89. A $50 replay rate is available and juniors 17 and under can play for only $35.

All fees include a GPS-equipped cart, a sack of range balls, and a personalized bag tag at the completion of your round.

Longaberger 16th
One of the best par fives on the course, the 16th plays only 484 yards but wanders gently to the right, where water hugs the fairway.

As I said earlier, a course that costs about a hundred bucks needs to meet three criteria to be worth the greenbacks. It must have great golf amenities and extras, a great course, and great conditions. Longaberger meets all the expectations in this range. It's a classic, playable, and enjoyable golf course in tip-top shape and with excellent practice facilities, a well-stocked pro shop, and courteous staff.

Conclusion
Longaberger is a joy to play. As I said, I'm a big fan of golf courses built in the classic style: find good land, find the good holes among them, allow the player to play his game, and make the course as enjoyable as possible for golfers of all skill levels.

Longaberger Clubhouse
The clubhouse, seen here overlooking the 18th green, isn't shaped like a basket, but it's certainly large.

Arthur Hills and Longaberger have succeeded in spades (and baskets).

Discussion

  1. Chris says:

    good review and a track to keep in mind if i find myself in ohio.

    i'm not sure the early comparisons to pete dye courses are entirely accurate or a fair barometer of what makes a course playable by the masses.

    the argument basically relies on one assumption that an arthur hills course and a pete dye course play to the same audience and are built for the same purposes which isn't quite accurate.

    in maryland for example, we have two arthur hills courses nearby: waverly woods outside of columbia and blue mash outside rockville, and both courses are high-end daily fee tracks that have decent club houses, practice facilities and are a great changeup from the howard and montgomery county munies that are all chewed up and only charge a few dollars less. the pete dye course in the area? the LPGA championship host Bulle Rock and a premier golf destination in the mid-atlantic. dye's other big name courses open to the public? kiawah ocean, straits course in kohler, tpc sawgrass, etc.

    while the premier public arthur hills tracks aren't in that company, they're certainly nice too, but 5 to 6 strategically placed tee boxes on a pete dye course certainly take the responsibility off dye to make the course playable by a high-handicapper. However, some egos get in the way and players tee it up where they shouldn't and end up cursing a dye course as unplayable, when in fact in can be just as playable as a non-championship-host daily fee course like those by Mr. Hills.

  2. Matt M says:

    Great review I'm a huge fan of Mr. Hills design's. One of my all time favorite cousres is Half Moon Bay, I rate that over Spyglass in my book. Also as a member of a club with a Pete Dye course I can appreciate what you mean in their differences. I'm a huge Pete Dye fan, I like all of his work that I've played. His style is completely different than Arthur Hills. Where Mr. Dye will move tons and tons of land to create a course, Mr. Hills will move very little. It is always a treat to play a course where for lack of better words god made it. That is what Arthur Hills does, he is a minimalist and in my book a very good one. He seems to take a plot of land and massage it into a course not build it into a course. Truely a great architect.

  3. William M says:

    Very nice review, this is the first I've read on the site and it was great! I'm about 2.5 hours away from Longaberger (clevelan) and played this course for the first time last summer. This immediatley became my favorite public/semi private course in Ohio that I have played. I got there late do unfortunatley didnt get to use the facilities all that much. I called them to let them know and they were more than understanding and did an excellent job of letting me off as soon as possible. I wish I could play there more but the distance + price makes it hard for me. Highly recommended to anybody comming to Ohio or into the area.

  4. Troy says:

    Played Longaberger a few weeks ago and I agree - it's a very, very good course. One of the things I noticed not already touched on is how spread out the course is. Playing one hole, it's as if that is the nly hole on the course. Plenty of wide open spaces between holes so you don't feel stacked on top of other holes.

    And #18 is just fun.

    One of the largest, if not the largest, clubhouses I've ever seen.

  5. Brad says:

    Great review. I play Longaberger 2 or 3 times a year and choosing the correct tee box is a must. It can play very long and by the time you finish with #13, you wish you were done. It can eat you up if your game is suffering a little.
    Prices have come down as play as slowed on the course. Waiting periods were long a few years ago, but I guess the newness has worn off.
    If ever in central Ohio, give it go!

  6. Bart says:

    Played a few years ago when the towel was part of the green fee (? if it still is?). Agree with above for the most part but I found myself very frustrated on many holes (15 hdcp). I would hit a nice drive/ middle of the fairway) and have a very low percentage second shot over water or waste. Not just a one time thing and not because I placed the ball badly. I don't mind a tough or challenging shot but these were so tight that any miss or near miss was fatal. I think I enjoyed Cooks Creek more. Loved the towel...on my bag today.

  7. Chris says:

    I played Longaberger last weekend and I have to say it is a beatiful course. Not some where you want to play if your game is off though. The greens were extremely fast compaired to what Im use to. Im still having nightmares about 3 foot putts missing on the high side and rolling 15 feet past. Its a great course but if you play your short game and putting better be on!

  8. Mac says:

    This course is truly excellent for the price paid to play. I've played many of the world's best...and this is BY FAR the best value (or bang for the buck) out there.

    The 8th hole is flat out cool and fun to play.

    I recommend this course to any and everyone!

  9. Terry says:

    I have played the course every year since it has been open. It just is not the same as it once was. They switched tee times from every 15 minutes to 10 minutes. They now have slow play on the course. The staff are not as professional as they were a few years ago. It has gone from a great experience, to something you can get at any nice public golf course--but at a much higher price. There are too many other nice courses in central Ohio to play Longaberger any more.

  10. Tom says:

    I had high expectations going into my first round at Longaberger and have to say that I was not all that impressed. It's a nice course, but probably not worth the $100 price tag. My biggest problem was with the consistency of the greens. Some greens were very receptive and slow while others were hard as rocks and fast. I don't mind one or the other as long as they are all the same way. While there are a few very dramatic holes (#3 and #8) the majority of the holes are pretty standard. I was expecting more woods and water but there was much more heather.

    I will say that the fairways were in perfect shape. The bunkers were washed out, but probably due to a lot of rain. It's one of those courses that you need to play 2-3 times to be able to score well. I'm a scratch golfer and I shot 81 the first time I played it. I could easily chalk up 6-7 strokes for lack of course knowledge though. In my opinion, Shaker Run should still be the #1 public course in Ohio...both are Arthur Hills courses but I like the layout of Shaker better. Longaberger has a nice clubhouse and excellent practice facility though.

  11. Westbrook says:

    I have played Longaberger about 15 times since it opened. It is not what it used to be. The greens and condition of the course are good...but not as good as they were 5 years ago. I like the layout, and yes...it can be a unique experience. Recently, they have pushed the tee times together and slow play becomes a problem. Some of the proshop staff are actually rude now, but the restaurant staff and food are still great. There are at least 50 other public golf courses that I would rather play. I only live 40 minutes away, but it is not worth the drive or price. They need to change things up there: bring back the towels, speed up the greens, change pros, different staff, more golf equipment, lower prices, anything.

  12. jlt1971 says:

    Played the course a couple of weeks ago and was very impressed. Maybe it was better 5-10 years ago, but for me right now, it's one of the top tracks I've played; public or private.

    I would put Longaberger in same class as Kohler, Harbor Town, etc. I suppose $99 is a lot of money in comparison to other courses in rural Ohio, but compared to other top public courses in the U.S. it's an absolute steal.

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