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.
Helmed by Russian-trained ballet greats Inna Stabrova and Dmitriy Tuboltsev, the staff of talented and credentialed teachers helps students develop first-rate skills in the elegant art of ballet. Students may choose to hone the basic positions and movements of beginner coursework or challenge themselves with the impressive footwork and Kafkaesque swan metamorphoses of advanced courses. After training under the watchful eyes of these professional instructors, many alumni of the conservatory have moved on to enjoy rewarding and prestigious careers in dance companies and life-size music boxes throughout the country.
Neon streaks fly over and, occasionally, into the four nets at Green Tennis Club, a sign of players taking vigorous whacks with their tennis rackets during casual play and lessons. Certified USPTA professionals lead the lessons, imparting advice for smashing powerful ground strokes and developing a serve in both private and group settings. The teachers also organize weekly group drills, which invite players of similar skill level to practice different aspects of the game.
When students enter White Tiger Martial Art Fitness, they enter a world of meditative calm and constant physical improvement. Instructors specialize in three fitness classes: Pilates, Zumba, and Tae Kwon Do. Tae Kwon Do combines combat and self-defense techniques, teaching strong kicks, blocks, and open-hand strikes, which students practice in groups on red and blue mats. During Pilates classes, an instructor leads poses that tone core muscles as well as obscure muscles added in expansion packs, and Zumba classes crank up the volume with Latin beats.
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.
A tricky aspect of the game of golf – and one that amateurs are often slow to recognize – is the notion that all misses aren’t created equal. This becomes starkly apparent with shots into the green, from mid-iron approaches down to greenside chips. Often, beginners give in to the temptation to hit directly at the hole, thinking that it will leave them with the shortest possible putt. While there are certainly situations when going directly at the flagstick is the right decision, they’d be much better off remembering to take into account the other factors at play, such as the layout of the green, where the pin is positioned upon it, and whether or not a lemur’s head is sticking out of the cup. With a little forethought and execution, they should be able to set themselves up perfectly for the next shot – usually a short uphill putt. Versus a downhill putt, uphill putts can be struck harder with little risk, making them less susceptible to lateral movement, more forgiving, and less likely to fly past the hole and settle on the opposite fringe.
Golfers will find themselves embroiled in this decision-making process numerous times throughout a round at Green Valley Golf Club, a rolling course tucked into the hills of Tuscarawas County. On just about all of the 18 undulating greens, stopping the ball on the downhill side of the pin is the correct move. If they succeed and sink their putts, players give themselves a good shot of posting a good score against the par of 72. And if they don’t, they can always eat away their post-round regrets with a hamburger, coney dog, or smoked sausage at the 19th Hole.
Course at a Glance: