Grey Hawk Golf Club (LaGrange, OH) Review

Grey Hawk will drop the jaws of the higher handicapper, but it fails to appeal to better players and fans of architecture.

Grey Hawk LogoGrey Hawk Golf Club in LaGrange, OH is a residential golf course built in 2004. 45 minutes from Cleveland, the course is a bit out of the way, but worth the trip if only to see what warranted its inclusion in Golf Digest’s “Best New Affordable Public Courses” list. A friend and I visited the course in late June, 2006 to give the course a look. Measuring anywhere between 7079 and 5091 yards, Grey Hawk offers a linksy Florida blend at reasonable prices.

Before we begin, we’d like to thank forum member Mark (aka “ezmoney5150“) for the invitation. If I’ve ever played with a more gregarious fellow, I can’t remember it. Mark’s company made what could have been a very dull round much more interesting.

As a relatively new course, I expected Grey Hawk to suffer from a few spots of burn-out (or failed grow-in), inconsistent bunkers, and varying consistency. I found very little of the latter two and only a few dry, brown areas in the usual areas – where carts congregate and on steep banks, most of which were well out of the line of play.

Grey Hawk Hole 3Grey Hawk Hole 3A
Two looks at Grey Hawk’s fourth hole, a 525-yard par 5 that plays gently uphill. After a horribly struck drive that rolled forever, I got home with a 3W and two putted for birdie. The first image is from the left side of the fairway, the second from the right.

The greens putted and rolled consistently (and were reasonably quick at about 10.5 on the Stimpmeter), the fairways were green without being overly lush and soft (both of which limit driver roll), and the rough was healthy enough to gobble up balls hit into them with surprising vigor. The grasses around the course were clearly given plenty of time to grow in and thicken up and are maintained quite nicely. That’s not something you always see on newly constructed courses who are eager to open for play.

Unfortunately, the health of the grass at Grey Hawk isn’t the primary concern. That distinction belongs to what’s beneath the grass. The greens at Grey Hawk were seemingly not built to USGA recommendations, which call for a large top layer of sandy turf. Instead, the top layer of Grey Hawk’s greens consists of firm, clay-laden dirt (despite rain earlier in the week) that kicked even the spinniest balls well away from their impact point. It may take a decade of aerating and topdressing before the soil conditions soften significantly.

Grey Hawk Layout
If you mentally replace all of the solid, light-green areas on this map with housing, you’ve got your typical housing complex with a golf course and a pretty good idea what you’ll see at Grey Hawk: lots of houses.

Design and Layout
A mid-handicap friend who spends five months per year in Florida and who accompanied me on my trip to Grey Hawk said “this reminds me of almost every course in Florida.” Grey Hawk, like many Floridian courses, was built with housing real estate in mind. It has wide fairways bordered by man-made mounds. It’s “linksy” in its general feel, yet has generally non-linksy attributes like the man-made hills, too much water, and soft run-up areas that do everything to taint or ruin any linksy feel. In fact, in the end, the only “linksy” attributes seem to be the general lack of trees and a steady wind.

As I started to discuss above, the greens simply didn’t hold. Balls – even those hit with full sand wedges from 100 yards, loaded with spin – bounced and skidded 20 to 25 feet from where they landed. I could have managed my game – bouncing balls onto greens and playing the slopes – but the course was devoid of such slopes and the fairways fronting greens were soft and lacked the same “bounce” shared by the greens. This led to an unappealing – and I would argue unfair – mix of bump-and-run greens with “fly it to the hole” fringes. Front pins were inaccessible via any route not involving blind luck and helpful squirrels while holes tucked just over water hazards or pot bunkers were completely out of play.

Grey Hawk Hole 7
The seventh requires a tee shot to a neck of fairway bordered on the left by water, which follows you to the green, and on the right by woods and bunkers. Most players are likely to lay up here, with 50 yards of bunkers fronting the green.

For example, a 7-iron played into a gentle wind on the ninth hole hit the front of the green (a few feet on) and bounced into the rough behind the green. The pin was in the back, leaving me very little room for recovery. Had the ball come up a few feet short and hit the fairway short of the green, there’s no doubt in my mind it would have stayed there. Results like this led me to care less and less about the golf being played as the round went on: poor shots weren’t rewarded, but neither were good ones. It mattered not from which side of the fairway you approached the greens as they accepted shots from either side equally as poorly, taking strategy out of the game from tee to green.

It’s true that this area of Ohio isn’t known for its real estate – it’s flat, flat, and flat. But I find the cookie-cutter style of golf course design that architects von Hagge, Smelek and Baril employed bland at best. A quick perusal of their site indicates that they’ve inflicted the same cookie cutter holes on golfers throughout the world – the false mounding, the unimaginative bunkers, the rock-walled over-water 190-yard par 3, etc.

Grey Hawk Hole 10
If you, like me, prefer to play courses on which you’re not always aiming at someone’s bedroom or kitchen window, Grey Hawk is not the course for you. Seen here, #10, a 549-yard uphill par 5 with 16 bunkers short of and surrounding the green.

If the fairways leading up to the greens were firmer and allowed run-up shots, the course would lack the creative mounding short of the greens to “play the slopes.” If the greens were softer and more receptive, the course would simply be bland. It’s neither, offering instead a course that looks a whole lot nicer than it plays.

The course, in large part due to the flat nature of the terrain and its surrounding area, features a steady wind that can be downright brutal at times. Fortunately, the houses and artificial mounds are close enough to play to block some of the wind at ground level, but it will take skill to navigate the course safely in the air when the winds are up. Many of the tougher holes play straight into the prevailing wind, adding more than a few clubs to approach shots.

Grey Hawk Hole 11
You won’t be bouncing a ball onto the 180-yard par 3 eleventh, one of many greens that touch water. This is an island green with a deceptively deep putting surface.

I haven’t talked much about the design because I found very little actual design on which to comment. There are some nice holes scattered throughout the course – the third is a nice short hole with an “island” green surrounded by sand, the seventh is a par five with a dramatic tee shot, the 11th plays 164 yards from the blues to an island green – but again the rock-hard greens and sticky fairways lead to unimaginative, unfair play. The many bodies of water scattered about the course exist only because the designers needed dirt to create the artificial mounding that surrounds every fairway and accentuates every bunker. Zzzzzzzz.

Bang for the Buck
At $48 to $55 for 18 holes (with a GPS-enabled cart included), Grey Hawk places itself squarely in the “middle class” of golf courses. Grey Hawk offers an all-inclusive $2495 Executive membership that costs less than just about every membership I’ve ever heard of by a wide margin, making it a seemingly good bargain if you live nearby.

Grey Hawk Hole 14
Sensing a theme? The 14th green, another slightly uphill par 5, is also bordered by a man-made pond with a rock wall.

Carts are mandatory (due to the housing through which you’re routed), but at least they’re comfortable carts. It is worth pointing out that the superintendent doesn’t seem to understand golf, as many of the “carts forbidden” areas are literally 150+ yards short of the greens. Mark commented that this was a regular occurrence and was done with seemingly no rationale – the grass was healthy, no health or safety hazards were present, etc.

I lived in Florida for 3½ years, so I know what my friend meant when he said Grey Hawk looks like almost every course in the sunshine state. It does, and its cookie-cutter style clashes with its linksy feel, as do the hard greens, soft fairways, and complete lack of mounding to roll balls to the hole.

Grey Hawk Hole 1
Several holes (like #1 here) at Grey Hawk feature “beach bunkers” that run right into the man-made water hazards.

Mark, our host, said that the designers “fixed” a lot of the mistakes they made at another course (Red Tail Golf Club) with Grey Hawk, but I’ve got a long list of new mistakes. Mark is sure that the greens will soften up by the beginning of next year, but I think it will take years and years of topdressing greens with sand to build up the necessary base. This area of Ohio, like my home course, has a lot of clay.

Grey Hawk isn’t golf at its worst. It’s a well conditioned course that’s reasonably priced. The average 15-handicap golfer looking to have a good time with his buddies will appreciate the bunker work, the dramatic views, and the golf. But the better player and the true fan of golf course architecture will be let down by the soft fairways, hard greens, and the bland cookie-cutter approach the architects took in designing the course.

Grey Hawk Clubhouse
Grey Hawk’s clubhouse is an impressive testament to the inexpensive building costs we enjoy in the northeastern United States.


Hole      1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9   Out
Par       4     3     4     4     5     4     4     4     4   36
Grey    429   224   357   525   189   411   578   412   416   3541
Blue    404   194   328   511   177   375   549   401   388   3327
Hdcp     11    17    13     7    15     9     1     5     3
Hole     10    11    12    13    14    15    16    17    18   In
Par       5     3     4     4     3     5     4     4     4   36
Grey    549   180   425   195   562   423   420   200   584   3538
Blue    535   164   404   167   532   405   391   193   539   3360
Hdcp      6    12     8    16     2    14    10     18    4
Grey    74.3   137   7,079 yards
Blue    72.3   132   6,687 yards
White   69.5   126   6,240 yards
Gold    66.9   119   5,711 yards

20 thoughts on “Grey Hawk Golf Club (LaGrange, OH) Review”

  1. We may not agree on alot of different things, but I will agree with you on this course.

    If it wasn’t for it being 15 minutes from my house and being able to play for free, I certainly wouldn’t being spending my $55 here.

    By the way, most courses in Ohio don’t lay this flat ;^) (ex-resident of Florida for 21 years)

    P.S. I wish I would have known you were coming, I would have loved to taken your $$.

  2. first of all. to all people who represent this course you represent yourself and everybody in it,including your fellow members. as for i think your rating on a young course of this caliper is false. the day you came this area encountered alot of rain that week and so on.i play here often and i tell you what. the price is great the people are great and the staff is wonderful. also the grounds crew is awesome. to keep this course the way it is and looks for being so young is do to the head greenskeeper and his crew. so for knocking him is not the right thing to do.this course is here to serve the public and for the public to have all the amentites as a country club. grey hawk was rated in 2005 #10 most affordable new golf course in the nation by golf digest.

  3. “guest,” I have a number of problems with your post.

    First, while I sign my name to what I write (almost literally if you look above), you hide behind an unimaginative moniker.

    Second, I don’t care what Golf Digest thinks. I likely played more golf at Grey Hawk than they did.

    Third, the superintendent sets barriers to carts 150+ yards from the green on 385-yard par 4s. That makes no sense, and deserves mentioning.

    Fourth, there was very, very little rain that week, and if there had been rain, the greens would have been softer. They were rock hard.

    Fifth, your IP address indicates that you posted your comment from Grey Hawk Golf Club. So…

  4. I would like to offer a rebuttal in response to your review of Grey Hawk Golf Club.

    First, the greens were constructed 100% in accordance to USGA specifications by West End Land Development, who Mr. von Hagge commented at the grand opening “builds golf courses as good as anyone in the country.” Some of the greens, as well as fairways, were seeded in as little as 4 months prior to opening. Judging by your comment, “The grasses around the course were clearly given plenty of time to grow,” I believe our green superintendent has shown he can do a fantastic job of growing in a golf course. Yes, the greens are firm but they will soften. With the short season we have in northern Ohio, it takes time for the greens to mature. However, I have been involved with three other start up golf courses and the quality of our putting surfaces for the age of the greens is second to none.

    Second, we have never claimed to be a links golf course. You are criticizing us for not having the characteristics for something we have never claimed to be. Again, yes, the wind can be strong here and there aren’t many trees, but I would think you would know that that doesn’t qualify you as a links course. Links courses are built on the coastal land that “links” the seaside to the soil. We are no more a links course than Pinehurst No. 2. The terrain the course was built on was flat and there are homes around the perimeter like most new Florida courses, so according to that rationale just about every course built within the last 15 years would qualify. And cookie cutter? The originality that a lot of the holes have for the terrain used are anything but cookie cutter. To use your words, “dramatic views” offer for most an enjoyable and interesting golf experience.

    Finally, what qualifies you to make critiques of architecture and agronomy? Your website profile only shows your handicap and the clubs you play. Do you have a degree or any experience working in either field that would warrant taking your comments seriously? I read everyday but I am by no means qualified to critique your use of grammar and syntax. If you would have taking the time to contact either myself or the green superintendent we would have been happy to tell you why we do things of which you were so critical. Then you would have informed opinions from someone who works in the golf industry, not the opinion of a golfer who clearly has cast judgment against some of the cart restrictions.

    For your information… The word bunker is used in the rules of golf to refer to the sand. Sand trap is a term used by hackers and recreational players who have no real knowledge of the game. I find it a fitting name for your website.

    Todd Casabella

    Head Golf Professional

    Grey Hawk Golf Club

  5. Todd, it doesn’t matter much to me what an architect who seems to build bland, cookie cutter courses thinks of the developer. The soils on your greens are not very sandy, balls don’t behave predictably, and from what I’ve heard, little aeration has been done to help speed up the softening process. The surface is fine, it’s what’s beneath the blades of grass that are cause for concern.

    I know what a links course is, and I never called Grey Hawk a links course. I specifically said “linksy” and “linksy feel” repeatedly. I’m sorry you failed to pick up on the difference.

    I did use the phrase “dramatic views,” but I said they’re really only available to the average golfer who has little idea where his tee shot will go. I’m not a fan of man-made drama, and that’s what golfers will find at Grey Hawk.

    As to what qualifies me, simply this: I’m a well-read, well-traveled, intelligent golfer. We’ve built such a large readership here at The Sand Trap by being golf fans, not magazine stiffs with political agendas. We play golf, we enjoy good golf courses, and our readership knows exactly who we are because we’re a lot like them. They know what we’re talking about.

    Perhaps it is because of that very reason that several Grey Hawk members have written in (and even commented above) to agree with this review, or to write privately to discuss the general poor treatment they’ve received when they’ve expressed concern or criticism about the club or the course.

    And there can be no valid reason to stop carts 150 yards from greens in the situations I observed several times. On a course where you’re basically forced to take a cart, you should be allowed to drive up to your drive on a mid-length par 4, not stop 40+ yards short of it.

    As for your final comment, Todd, I must simply wonder why you’ve chosen to behave in such an unprofessional manner when given a perfectly good opportunity to make a reasonable rebuttal without resorting to petty name-calling. Especially when you’re not even correct in all instances.

    Besides, “” wasn’t available.

  6. OK Mr. Barzeski, I understand that you don’t care for golf courses that appear “man-made”. During your critique of Grey Hawk, did you consider the original character of the property? Most of the great golf courses in the world are great because the architect started with a wonderful piece of property. Perhaps the greater architectural accomplishment occurs on properties that begin as flat, wide open, bean fields. How else would one create a golf course on such a property, that is tactically diverse and visually dramatic, without it appearing “man-made”?

    Golf course design is art. Some like certain styles of design and others don’t. It is much easier to criticise the art than it is to be the originator of the creation. Obviously by your comments you don’t care for my style of art. That’s fine. Since you are admittedly well read regarding the subject of golf course design I invite you to tell us how you might have designed Grey Hawk to be less “man-made” in appearance but still dramatic and interesting. While your at it, perhaps you could elaborate on the term “cookie cutter” as it specifically relates to Grey Hawk. I welcome your comments.

    Mike Smelek

    Golf Course Architect

  7. Yes, a good portion of the great golf courses in the world began with good property. But when presented with poor property, good architects still manage to create a course without making it quite so obvious that it was created.

    Your attempt to cast Grey Hawk as an “accomplishment” is weak at best. There are a lot of very good flat golf courses in the world (turn on ABC tomorrow morning and you’ll see one of ’em). You simply managed to turn naturally flat and boring into artificially man-made and boring.

    You can hide behind the “artist” label and claim that others are unable to understand your work, but we’re not talking paintings here – golf courses are meant to be played, and as such, golf courses are only “art” to a certain extent. Beyond that, they’ve gotta be playable.

    I have no doubt that someone could create a beautiful golf hole that better players would find absolutely boring to play. You’ve done that – 14 or so times – at Grey Hawk.

    As for your request that I tell you how I’d have done things, that’s simply not my job, nor am I being paid to do anything of the sort. But I’ll give you one freebie: I’d not have created mounds all over the place, instead opting for tall grasses, small shrubs or bushes, and uniquely shaped grass bunkers as well as roll-off areas. And you needn’t have cut down nearly every tree on the property, either. Two of the most interesting holes have trees on them (7 and 12).

  8. Let me start off by saying that I’m very familiar with the course, the people and the financial aspects that have been in and around both projects, the other being the Red Tail course in Avon…

    They should have learned their lessons from the “almost defunct” Red Tail fiasco.

    Everyone that plays golf would love to have a memorial built in their name – that also includes Mr. von Hagge… but if you’re going to build one, try making it a good one, and having the proper golf knowledge to do so.

    For starters… building $179,000 homes and then adding on the $590,000+ homes in Red Tail was a very novel touch – but not if you’re an investor… having a full blown Wal-Mart discount on membership was another nice touch… maybe Mr. von Hagge should have thought about that before he started the project.

    That brings us to Grey Hawk.

    Building a multi-million dollar shrine (oops, I meant clubhouse) was their first mistake – knocking down every tree between LaGrange and Cleveland was their second… trying to build an almost links style course with their very limited thought process, soil science and design knowledge was their third mistake – and not knowing and understanding the game was their fourth mistake.

    Now, let’s pull the lense back for a minute and look at the whole picture… up until just recently, you were lucky to find your ball on the 1st and 2nd fairway from any distance, thats because the practice range was plugged too close because of poor design… so, which one of those 50 balls out there are mine??

    Why even have carts at all? You can’t drive them, even on 8 straight days of sunny weather I’m sorry, but this isn’t the Vatican, it’s not hallowed ground, it’s a golf course that people spend their hard earned $$ playing… and having the starter dropping players every 200 yards is a joke – and they wonder why they have slow play? LOL

    Don’t Todd, Von Hagge, and his comatose designers get it yet? Some of the best courses in the country are in this area, like Elyria, Canterbury, Acacia, the new Herons complex. Heck, Sleepy Hollow is a superior course and it’s owned by the Metro Park system!

    For the last two years they were “voted” (????) in the top 5, it sure is funny that they received all fives in points, not anymore… maybe they need Todd to vote some more.

    Like my great Grand Daddy used to say: “don’t call a plumber when you need a painter.” Looks like they called the plumber in this case – oops!

  9. Club employees are welcome to comment, but should identify themselves as such when doing so.

    And this should go without saying, but keep it clean folks. No name-calling, no idle speculation about the sexual orientation or motives of myself or other commenters, etc.

  10. I am a proud member of Grey Hawk and as I have told Erik, I do disagree with some of his critique of this golf course. I also respect his opinions. Todd is a great Professional and I can understand why he would be offended by these remarks. He takes pride in the hard work that he puts in at Grey Hawk. He is also part of the heart and soul of that course. The staff there is for the most part very hospitible to me and my guests. No golf course is perfect and will make everyone happy and I understand that. I myself am biased being a member and like to talk the course up to other people. Not everyone thinks like me and I understand that.

    I invited Erik to play out there because I thought that he would share my thoughts on a great golf course. He didn’t agree with me and thats ok. difference of opinion is what makes this country so great. I’m a middle age truck driver who has very little experience with golf course design or turfs and soils. So to me this is a beautiful course with great people running it.

  11. GreyHawk May be a nice golf corse but the damn place sits 5 ft higher than everything else around it makeing it all flood and my property left a swamp so enjoy your golfing assholes wile im cleaning my basement and pumping water out. and keep your damn balls on the corse BITCHES

  12. I couldn’t disagree more with Mr. Barzeski’s assessment of Grey Hawk. I had the chance to play the course a couple of times last summer and can tell you that I had nothing short of a great experience. The staff(Todd especially) were inviting to this Southerner from Geaorgia and I found the course to be very enjoyable. From the tips with the way the wind blows it is quite a challenge. I also felt the greens were in line with the age of the course and the “linksy feel” that you talk about when you consider the flat terrain and the fact that this course is windy.

    From my point of view this is not cookie cutter for this area. The other semi-private and public courses I’ve played in Northeast Ohio are far more mundane and cookie cutter in comparison. The fact that the price was reasonable is only and added plus. In the Atlanta, GA area you could never experience this type of upscale daily fee environment for under $50.00.

    I will definitely return to Grey Hawk when I’m in Northeast Ohio.

  13. I also felt the greens were in line with the age of the course and the “linksy feel” that you talk about when you consider the flat terrain and the fact that this course is windy.

    From my point of view this is not cookie cutter for this area.

    I think Grey Hawk must be doing a little recruiting of responses and rebuttals. I could be wrong, but your comment seems a little unusual.

    I’ve played Grey Hawk, and Erik doesn’t talk about the greens being bad. He says they’re bad in combination with the fairways. I’ve seen it too – I’ve tried to run up a 5-iron that hits the soft fairway and doesn’t go, yet sand wedges that hit the middle of the green (and with plenty of spin) go off the back of the green or even into bunkers!

    Erik says – and I agree – that the run-up areas to greens should play about the same firmness as the greens. If the greens are hard, the run-up areas should be hard too to allow run-ups!

    Also, I too dislike the spectacularly unusual mounding. It looks out of place. It’s completely a “manufactured” look that isn’t appealing – to me – at all. That’s what I take “cookie cutter” to mean. It’s out of place for NE Ohio because it’s got (fake) mounds and it’s not a tree-lined course. But that doesn’t make it an un-cookie-cut course for the general country.

  14. I think Grey Hawk must be doing a little recruiting of responses and rebuttals. I could be wrong, but your comment seems a little unusual.

    I live in Atlanta and have nothing to gain from my comments. I was not recruited and in fact the breavity of your comments make me believe that you, my friend, were recruited.

    This golf course feels out of place because theres not much in your area to compare it with. I can tell you equivocally that I would much rather play this course because of it’s character than any other daily fee course in the Lorain County area.

    I am no expert and won’t pretend to be on golf in Northeast Ohio, but, for my money Grey Hawk wins out over Mallard Creek, Pheasant Run and the other area courses I’ve played.

  15. Just a few comments- the greens have already softened up. A better player who is able to stop his ball will find it not too difficult. Let’s remember, all the wind they get out there, that doesn’t really help balls sit. Even when the tour visits Pebble Beach (which has been around forever), pros find it difficult to keep the ball on the green where they like to. As far as cookie cutter goes, what kind of course are you going to build in Lorain County anyway that isn’t flat crap (except Elyria CC)? Do we want another Dorlon, Creekwood, Emerald Woods ect.? If you are not a fan of this type of arch., fine-but it is far from cookie cutter. NOPGA comes there for a section tourny. Rumor of a local US Open qualifier there is possible. You don’t hold events like this at a cookie cutter course. Man made-yes, different for Ohio-yes, fun to play-yes, worth the $-yes. It is in my opinion, from the tips, the toughest course on the westside of Cleveland. A course like Blue Heron in my mind is barely a golf course. At 7,079 yrds. from the tips, a slope of 137 and a rating of 74.3, maybe it’s too difficult for some to enjoy. This golf course makes you think. You have to hit every club in your bag, use course management, and know how to play in the wind. Grey Hawk is both a fair and very good test of golf. They are also letting up on the strict cart rules, which was only to get the root system in check in the first place. It’s too bad not all Supers care about their track as much as they do. Thank you.

  16. As an avid golfer with a 3 handicap I came across this review with all intent to play Grey Hawk but changed my mind after reading the review. It was not because of the review that Erik had written but because of Mr. Casabella and Mr. Smelek’s response. First off I truly believe that any publicity is good publicity because I am sure there are people out there who have never thought of playing Grey Hawk but because Erik took the time to play golf here and write about the accolades of the course good or bad it will have brought new golfers to the course. Back to the responses, I think the true character of people shine when they or something they strongly believe in is challenged and I believe that was very evident from Mr. Casabella and Mr. Smelek. Instead of bashing Erik why not state your reasons why you disagree with him or let us know what actions you are taking to fix some of these problems. I have played some amazing courses in the country but none of them were perfect, there is always something that could be better.

    Mr. Casabella and Mr. Smelek I am a person who is in marketing, why not take this free publicity and turn it into something positive. If you think that this review has hurt your business offer the readers of a discount to play your course but also allow that person to write a review good or bad about your facility?

  17. Mike –

    If you want a great golf experience I suggest you reconsider and give Grey Hawk a chance. I have no affiliation to this golf course other than I truly enjoy playing there when I come in from Atlanta. I was in Ohio two weeks ago and was able to sneak a round in at Grey Hawk and can tell you that it is in great shape and much more fun to play than the other daily fee courses in the area.

    I am sad to say that Mr. Casabella is no longer affiliated with Grey Hawk. Even though you may not have agreed with his rebuttal, he was very passionate about this course and is an excellent club pro.

  18. Just wondering…if you hit it into a beach bunker does it roll into the water or do they usually stick and it’s just like any other bunker?

    Very cool feature btw.

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