Back in college, I played in a tournament hosted by the Dayton Flyers at NCR Country Club. NCR had a rich history, and was an incredible piece of golf property. It was a tough golf course, and definitely took my lunch money that weekend.
Last year I started seeing photos of Moraine Country Club in Ohio. The place looked flawless and I found myself thinking, “why have I never heard of this place before?” This year when I was looking at qualifying sites of the U.S. Amateur, I found Moraine Country Club on the list, and I knew I might as well give it a shot there. Little did I know, until I went to Maps to look for directions to the course, that it was literally right next door to NCR Country Club. Needless to say, I felt like a big dummy.
I showed up for my practice round and we were in the middle of the peak July heat, but I couldn’t believe how lush the course was. I had seen all these photos on social media, and the course looked so green and pure, but on a few occasions, it was almost like you were looking at a flawless picture of the property and not out there playing.
In 2016, Moraine underwent a big restoration in an attempt to return the course to its Scottish links roots, with the help of architect Keith Foster. Trees came down, and heather went up. The original design by Alec Campbell had always been highly regarded and even played host to the 1945 PGA Championship, which was won by Byron Nelson.
I was so intrigued with the layout of Moraine. It seems like it’s just going to be a short little country club pitch and putt but it’s still so challenging, and in my opinion, a thinking man’s golf course. The front nine has a perfect combination of long and short holes, and besides holes 8 and 9, you can reasonably keep driver in the bag. The front nine you can play so risk reward. You can rip driver around, and you may go real low, but if you’re missing driver, then numbers can stack up real quick.
Make the turn and head to the back nine for the toughest stretch on the course between holes 10-14. These holes will easily make or break your round with a totally different feel than the front nine short placement holes. Long challenging par 4s, a 243 par 3, and another 600-yard par 5 easily make this stretch one of the toughest you’ll find. Get those drivers ready to roll on the back nine.
One thing I enjoyed about Moraine is that it demands accuracy on all shots. It’s so important to keep your ball in play, as well as missing in the right spots. The fairways aren’t generous, but will usually give you a spot to miss and keep it in play. Seemingly, each fairway is bunker guarded, and each green is well-protected as well. The deep bunkers and sharp edges around the greens will keep you honest with your approaches, and penalize you greatly with a miss.
Local legend talks about how fast they can make the greens at Moraine, and we saw shades of that before rains hindered the speeds in qualifying. Moraine will continue to stick out in my mind with the lush green grasses contrasting against the golden heather. The photos are great, and the views are picturesque, but they are all backed up with the golf from Moraine.