Once the warm weather hits, families begin to fill the grounds of Sluggers & Putters—a sprawling family fun park built into the natural landscape. Children and adults alike tear around two tracks in single or double-seat go-karts, follow a yellow-paved path through 18 holes of old-fashioned miniature golf, and race to scale a rock-climbing wall. While parents and children fill out insurance claims after playing double-seat bumper cars and water bumper boats, other visitors practice their swing in fast-pitch and softball batting cages. On a landscaped garden patio, staff helms an installment of the local Auntie Em's Ice Cream Co., where they serve frozen treats such as hand-dipped cones and old-fashioned sundaes.
The staff at The Golf Improvement Center knows that shaving strokes is all about getting the little things right. This precision is evident in the center’s facilities, from the 7,500 square-foot putting green modeled after the famous Himalayas putting course at St. Andrews to the seven target greens scattered around the 320-by-300-yard driving range and laser measured to every hitting station. Instead of the oversize range balls at the great majority of driving ranges, which get tired of flying after 100 yards, players hit real regulation golf balls that get recycled every year, which provides the invaluable feel and results of actual strokes. The center also recognizes that golfers committed to improvement can’t sacrifice practice time just because the course is full of rain, snow, or carnivorous fog. Thus, when the 24,000 square feet of grass tees aren’t available due to these or other concerns, players can continue to practicing their drives and chips on the 38 covered Fiberbuilt mats, some of which are also heated. At dusk, stadium-level lights flicker on to ensure the continuous bombardment of golf balls into the night sky.
Sculpted into the Ohio countryside in 1928, Maplecrest Golf Club’s course spans 6,312 yards of immaculate fairways that arch over gentle hilltops for a par 71 round. The club’s intrepid greenskeepers work hard to keep the course in pristine condition, including maintaining an onsite greenhouse where they grow all the course’s plants, trees, flowers, and sand-trap rakes before incorporating them into the layout. Throughout the course, fairways tunnel through imposing tree lines, so players should consider making a preround stop at the club’s driving range or bribing the oldest oak in their neighborhood for favorable treatment from its fellow timbers.
The first hole on the course at Rustic Hills Country Club carves an arc along the westerly banks of Rustic Hills Lake, a dramatic opening to the relatively short nine-hole track. With a par of 32, the course is dominated by four par 3s, yet makes up for its shorter layout with frequent hills that force swing adjustments and a steady diet of golf balls for the course's many water hazards—including one that almost entirely surrounds the island-like sixth green.
Just off the golf course, the stately grounds of Rustic Hills Country Club encompass a fine-dining restaurant, tennis courts, a heated swimming pool, fishing, and numerous winter sports.
The 9-hole, par-three course at Mulligan Springs, situated in Portage County, challenges, but also subdues, golfers with reflective ponds and mini waterfalls that ripple across rocky structures. Here, the casual, uncrowded atmosphere is especially inviting to novice golfers, who can avoid the air of intimidation and ball washers filled with molasses that come with playing on more difficult courses. As abundant as they are out on the links, Mulligan Springs' modest vibes stretch to its clubhouse area, which features an outdoor patio for relaxing after rounds.
Arching over the rolling hills of Seville, the fairways at Deer Pass Golf Course's 18-hole layout stretch across 6,012 yards of well-manicured terrain. Though scenic sights abound throughout the course, golfers will likely leave with the seventh hole most firmly etched in their memory, as the 155-yard par 3 requires players to launch tee shots onto a green surrounded entirely by water and populated by a wrinkly Gilligan. Before taking to the breezy links, clubbers can prep their short game at the practice green or fuel up with a snack and refreshments at the on-site snack bar. Visitors can also peruse the club's pro shop, which is filled with racks of stylish shirts and accessories from top brands, many of which are emblazoned with Deer Pass's logo or missing kitty flyers.
Course at a Glance: