Premier Golf Courses in Midwest: A Naples Golfers Journey

Golf has been an essential thread in my life. I learned the love of the game from my Dad who, when I was growing up, worked at the Olde Florida Golf Club. I spent as much as time as I could with him at the club when I wasn’t in school. Even today, golf is what really brings us together. My Dad is now nearly 70, and I have always wanted to take him on a bucket-list golf trip while he is healthy and can still enjoy playing.  I am lucky to call Naples, FL home and with its exclusive and and elite courses, I live in a literal golfer’s paradise, but there is something about the northern premier golf courses, specifically near Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana that are especially appealing. These exclusive courses are steeped in history and prestige and wanted to do everything in my power to make the trip happen for the both of us. So we did it. Earlier this year, over a span of 10 days, I took my Dad on a tour of elite courses and we played like golf royalty. 

A golfer following his shot after hitting his ball early in the morning

Premier Golf Courses in Midwest

The Golf Club

4522 Kitzmiller Rd, New Albany, OH 43054

The Golf Club in New Albany, Ohio, is probably the most similar course to the courses in Florida because of how quiet it was. We saw, at most, only three other groups during our round.  The club aspect takes a back seat to an absolutely gorgeous and rewarding course. While not as challenging as some of the other courses we played during this trip, it was the most peaceful. That isn’t to say that the course holds no challenge, as I did have a hole or two with 4+chip shots and another handful of 3+ putt greens. We maybe saw two or three other groups at this hidden gem during our round. 

Course Par: 72

Final Score: 79

Muirfield Village Golf Club

5750 Memorial Dr, Dublin, OH 43017

Muirfield Village Golf Club is one of the world’s most unique and elite golf courses. Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear himself, Muirfield was intended to be the fifth major course for the PGA. This course is home to the annual Memorial Tournament, also hosted and organized by Nicklaus, to benefit Greater Columbus Charities in alliance with the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation and numerous other local organizations. 

Jack Nicklaus has been a favorite for both my Dad and me, and starting at this course was something of a pilgrimage for both of us. Rolling hills and small, lush greens that demand careful accuracy make this beautiful course a unique challenge for even the most experienced golfers. 

This was, personally, my second favorite course we played over the course of our trip. I was hitting at One over par going through the first five holes into the green on the 6th before the challenge really hit. Our round was cut short at the 12th hole due to rain, but even that couldn’t put a damper on the day. 

Course Par: 72

Final Score: Rained out/ DNF 

Scioto Country Club

2196 Riverside Dr, Columbus, OH 43221

The Scioto County Club has a rich history spanning over 105 years. Located in the North Arlington neighborhood outside of Columbus, Ohio, it is easy to see why this course is a favorite to golfers worldwide. This club has been home to some of the most prestigious golf tournaments as early as 1926 and is the course where Jack Nicklaus was raised.

The Scioto Country Club is so much more for me, though. In 2003, I spent a summer interning at the club, which grew my love for the sport even more. Twenty years later, the course has evolved to be a more open, Augusta National-style course, meaning many of the trees have been removed, and the course has been curated to feel more open. While my putting was laughably bad for the round, our time spent will not soon be forgotten. 

Course Par:  70

Final Score: 86 

Bridgewater Golf Club

1818 Morningstar Rd, Auburn, IN 46706

With our courses in Ohio done and played, we made our way to Indiana, with our first stop being the Bridgewater Golf Club. We had the pleasure to meet with one of my business partners and his son, a Division One golfer currently attending and competing for the University of Cincinnati, which made this particular round even more rewarding. As we sat in the Clubhouse after the last hole, my father mentioned that while all the courses we had visited had been outstanding, the people we met along the way were really what made the trip so memorable. 

This course is probably the least known of the group of courses we played, but I could not recommend it more. Built-in 1999, Bridgewater incorporates unique water designs that push golfers’ physical skill as well as strategy prowess.

Course Par: 72

Final Score: 86 

Crooked Stick Golf Club

1964 Burning Tree Ln, Carmel, IN 46032

Crooked Stick Golf Club was my favorite course we played over the entire span of the trip. Which is saying something because it was also the worst I played. Every hole brought a new challenge that pushed you to really think and push strategy with every shot. 

Built in 1964, Crooked Stick has a storied history of the coming together of the original members to “build the best golf course the community has seen.” The mission was successful, with the first 9 holes being completed in 1964 and the back 9 opening a year later in 1965. Crooked Stick has since been the home to innumerable Majors’ Tournaments and has featured consistently in the Top 100 Course lists in publications such as Golf Week and Golf Magazine.

Course Par: 72

Final Score: 93

Northern Courses Vs. Southern Courses: A Reflection

At the end of our trip, I couldn’t help but reflect on the differences between the courses that golfers encounter ‘Up North’ versus the courses we have at home in Florida. The Naples area is absolutely full and brimming with different Clubs and Courses. The temperate weather and climate allow for perfect golfing conditions year-round for Florida courses. This could explain the difference in membership pricing in the North vs. South debate. The Southern courses also place a different emphasis on the Club aspect of membership, with luxurious amenities and an elite and exclusive community. 

Beautiful golf landscape with blue sky that is a part of one of the premier golf courses

The Must-Play Courses of Naples, Florida

Calusa Pines Golf Club

2000 Calusa Pines Dr, Naples, FL 34120

Calusa Pines in an ultra-exclusive, by-invite-only club membership. Recently topping Golf Digest’s Top Ten New Private Clubs, Calusa leans into the excess of luxury on a course that was not only built but curated and designed to be a golfer’s paradise. 

Olde Florida Golf Club

9393 Vanderbilt Beach Rd, Naples, FL 34120

The Olde Florida Golf Club is an exclusive membership club that limits itself to just 250 members. Built in 1992, this course is consistently featured in major golf publications ‘best of’ lists. 

Naples National Golf Club Inc. 

9325 Collier Blvd, Naples, FL 34114

The Naples National Golf Club features a low-key, laid-back atmosphere while still delivering essential Naples luxury. This members-only club highlights Floridian beauty with the natural, local environment being worked into the course rather than built over. Naples National is consistently featured in the Top 20 must-play lists in major golf publications such as Golf Digest. 

The Old Collier Golf Club

 790 Main House Dr, Naples, FL 34110

The Old Collier Golf Club is pure golf luxury. This championship course spans over 267 acres and acts not only as a premier course but also as a wildlife sanctuary. This hidden gem is tucked in natural beauty, just off the Gulf Coast. Membership is extremely limited and highly exclusive. 

Final Note: 

The perfect scenario is just this: A winter full of Florida golf with spring and summer months of northern golfing. 

Northern Courses

Pros

  • More Value for the Price
  • More Challenging
  • Less expensive Membership Fees
  • Diversity in composition (Lush grass vs. the dryer courses of Florida)

Cons

  • Restricted to Spring-Fall Months

Southern Courses

Pros

  • Not limited to seasonal play
  • Focus on Club Atmosphere & Amenities

Cons: 

  • More expensive Memberships
  • Dryer landscaping on courses
Drew Josephson
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