Month: December 2022

The Grand Resort, Avalon Lakes, Squaw Creek, Ohio, USA

A lovey hotel and two great golf courses – nothing new about that – so bear with me whilst I try to explain why THIS particular golf resort is worth considering?

Playing part of the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, we were given the chance to stay at The Grand Resort in Warren, Ohio – given a rather grand name we are interested to see whether it lived up to its name.

White, sprawling and imposing – yep – Grand by title and Grand in statue.  The opulence continued into the reception area, through the cigar bar and out the back to the pool side restaurant with the golf course beyond, before continuing the circle back through reception with a restaurant off to the left.  A comprehensive wine cellar, tennis and a fitness centre is also available at The Grand.

The Golf

A clue in its name, Avalon Lakes golf course has, well, lots of water.  But not too much that it became a slog, more an eye-pleasing vista which the water helped shape.  Dating back to 1967, the course was redesigned and renovated by Pete Dye in 2001.  With Dye’s intervention the course changes were drastic, moving 300,000 yards of earth and changing a flat course into one with more interest with gradients and undulations.

The day we played it was wet underfoot, the ball didn’t roll well giving relief or extra yardage off the tee and the atmosphere was damp.  However, wet as it was, the greens held their own.  They were pure with gentle, in places unsubtle sways were there to conquer.  I guess the only niggle for me was the pin positions, with some being on top or part way up rises.  Not at all easy to stop on the top before it came rolling back down the other side, or worse still came rolling back towards you.  The greens were quite large though and getting to them was probably just as problematic that the actual putting.   With the Pete Dye earth movement came mounds. Singularly or sometimes feeding into each other like upturned ice cream domes melting into one.  Some mounds were a barrier for the approach to the green shot.  Clever in its design, the mounds undulations and slight twists all rolled this up into a good thinking course.  

Whilst there were many good holes, I would like to highlight a couple.

Hole 8, a par 3 of 129/244 yards SI 2/4, looked so innocuous off the tee.  The green looked like a nice big target, but water left encroached into the fairway for the approach, narrowing its entrance.  Going for the green was the only thing to do – hoping not to pull it left into the water.

I liked hole 11.  A par 5 with its tee positions taking on the stretch of water.  Standing on the tee, hitting it straight over the water along its shortest route is probably the most sensible thing to do, before dotting along the fairway and carefully plopping the ball on the green.  But once crossed over, the strip of water laid along the fairways length on the right, it was just so inviting to try and close that watery angle and land further up the fairway. A good risk and reward shot with so many connotations.

Strong closing holes in 17 in 18. My notes of the par 4 17th; water right to a hidden green below, behind some bumps.  The ball rolls towards the water once on the green too – pretty much sums it up.  I thought this was a great hole, despite being blind for it approach.

On hole 18, a par 4 measuring 295/502 yards, a gutsy tee shot is required through the narrowing of trees on both sides, before the fairway opens up.  The bunkers, water and the ever welcome clubhouse taunting you as crowds descend onto the green watching your near perfect approach shot land a foot from the pin – then you realise its just your golfing buddies watching and waiting to throw friendly banter.  Interestingly, 18 is my first mention of bunkers – and what a hole to mention them on – as they were plentiful along the right hand side. Despite there being a few to navigate or avoid, none of them were that big!  

Back to the hotel.  We had a large suite to sprawl out in.  Decorated in punchy browns with a back lit shimmer and accented with white woodwork to add contrast, made for a relaxing space.

Squaw Creek is the second course at The Grand Resort, only second in number though.  We were shuttled the short distance to the course.  With Avalon Lakes having the water, Squaw Creek has – you guessed it – creeks, like veins pulsing through the course.  That said, even creeks end somewhere – and here was no exception as they filter into the odd lake which comes into play on a couple of the holes.  The course opened in 1922 and is the oldest championship calibre course in the Mid West.  Designed by Stanley Thompson, this parkland course is a great compliment to the Grand offerings.

The ground was very wet underfoot and cart path play was in force.   An established true lined course has its disadvantages in the wet though.  With the ground being so soft, it wasn’t unusual to lose a plugged ball in the ground.  Large trees were a dominating feature of Squaw Creek, in fact so much so that on hole 7, a par 4 312/425 yards there was a large tree in the way of the optimum route of play from the forward tee, I noticed this on a couple of holes. 

The greens were in great condition and rolled really well with nice subtle breaks.  Again, as per Avalon Lakes, they too were not small.

In my opinion, the opening few holes were some of the best.  Elevated tees, dog legs and creeks dissecting the undulating fairways.   In contrast, whilst memorable, the 18th, a par 3 over water was, outside of the challenge of taking on the water, quite bland in appearance.   The green sloped towards the water, so the skill here was to get over the water but land it short of the pin for an uphill putt.

On any other day, with it being so wet underfoot, I think this course would rank much higher than the day we played.

One thing to note, the green keepers had done a great job in clearly challenging conditions and their attention to detail was noted by their desire to make things look nice as well as play well.  Careful considered planting was in place around the course which gave its overall appearance a softer appeal.

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Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland – may be best known as the medical capital of the world?  Well maybe, maybe not. But no injuries were sustained in the writing of this article or filming for our You Tube channel – so we honestly couldn’t tell you whether that is right or not!

Cleveland is in the North East of Ohio and sits on southern shores of Lake Erie.   Canada is just the other side of the lake – not that close really, as Lake Erie is huge!!

Driving to Cleveland, near Akron is the beautiful unspoilt Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  A welcome break on the short journey to Cleveland to refresh and align in nature.  Being on the Cuyahoga River, peace is personified as the water passes in and around the park being interrupted only by the train noisily chugging into various stations for visitors to disembark and explore the park.

Naturally there are historical places to visit, Hale Farm & Village is one such place where buildings have been preserved dating back to pioneers days. A vague familiarity ensued with visions you see on television.   Clapboard structures, and large porches wrapping around the house embracing its warmth in one big hug.  Being a living museum there were people spinning wool and guides dressed in period costume offering tales of the buildings, the living conditions and the families themselves.  Happily this wasn’t done to excess, just enough to give you a feel and appreciation. 

In stark contrast we have Stan Hywet Hall and Garden, a clear display of wealth and good fortune. Amusingly to us, parts of this brick built house was modelled on a house we used to visit with our children with a picnic on our bikes sitting in the ground of Ockwells Manor.  A predetermined route takes you on a journey around Stan Hywet making sure you see pretty much everything.  Another source of amusement was, on hearing our accents the discussion soon turned to … wait for it… Harry Potter! 

The gardens were a delight though clearly taking inspiration from Italy, England and of course adding their own personality too.

Arriving into Cleveland we checked into the Kimpton Schofield Hotel.  On the surface of it, this could have been any business mans hotel, with Betts bar and restaurant to the side.  Despite its small reception area, the rooms were comfortable and a good size and surprisingly not that noisy even though we were in the thick of things in Cleveland city!  We loved the bathroom with it dual access centred around a shower in the middle.  Two basins, one either side of the shower was good way to use up a long space.  But maybe not so great when you share a toothpaste giving two options – splash through the residual water from the shower, or go around through the bedroom to the other door to retrieve it.  Good fun though.

It seemed every type of museum is in Cleveland, making it a place to satisfy all family members. Our first stop was to the Baseball Heritage Museum. A quick interesting tour then out on to the field at League Park- not as big as it looks on television, but just as impressive in other ways.

Little Italy springs up in many towns and Cleveland is no exception.  Lunch was at Maxi’s Restaurant and to be honest some of the tastiest Italian food Ive ever eaten.  Like a veneer ending carousel the food kept appearing  through those kitchen doors, one tasty dish after another, until we were ready to walk it all back off again!

Then onto the Cleveland Museum of Art.  A big imposing white building and a wonderful way to pay homage to the variety and diversity of art – we didn’t really have enough time to take a good look around, but it seemed every category, age and type of art was available for the curious.

The Cleveland History Centre was next and again a bit of a whistle stop tour.  First appearance is of the life-size carousel in the window.   Notably the lower floor was home to a large display of cars little boys and girls dream about.  From Morgan to DeLorean – all polished up, ready to go.

Next up the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A building over multiple levels going through the history of rock and roll.  Themed music aiding the transportation from one era to the next as you were dazzled along its route.   Cleveland is a rock and roll place in many ways, there are even large guitars dotted around the city, all telling a story.

That evening was one to remember as Steve’s first baseball game and it was a biggie with the Cleveland Guardians playing against the Kansas Royals to reaffirm their place in the play-off’s.  The atmosphere was electric as one interval followed the next and concessions of every variety was on offer.  During one interval instructions were given to stand and stretch out- funny, but on reflection, quite sensible as you’re sat on hard seats in the cold for a time!  Even though we may not know the rules or intricacies of baseball, the atmosphere alone carried us along for an enjoyable evening as the sun set in a spectacular fashion over the stadium.

As the sun set in the distance you could make out the former Ohio Bell, now AT&T, building.  It is rumoured to be the inspiration of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who grew up in Cleveland as the iconic Daily Planet skyscraper in the famous Superman stories.

A great end to a long but enlightening day.  Being country folk, Cleveland was growing on us.

After a good nights sleep, day two yield a breakfast selection in Betts, the cafe/restaurant in the lobby of the Kimpton Schofield Hotel.   A quick walk across the road to the Heinen building was an easy start.  We could see this building from our room and it spiked interest with its imposing stone structure and domed roof.  The inside of the dome with its coloured glass and a balcony circumnavigating it came alive with the bright sunshine outside.   Off the circular balcony, like an octopuses tentacles reaching, out was a wine selection from all around the world.  Downstairs were up-market shopping stalls skilfully displaying all manor of treats and more.

A quick scout around the West Side market and city farm – enough time to buy some jerky and embrace the sights and sounds of this bustling indoor market, before a hearty lunch at Lakes Brewery, a modern gastro pub style restaurant with really nice food.

Sadly the Metropark sailing experience was abandoned due to the high winds, so no scheduled walk and no getting into the boats on Lake Erie.  Instead we were given a lecture about the history of the art deco building and the organisation, which in that cold building did seem to go on a bit – but was interesting – in small doses.

By now we were getting quite cold, so a quick and sensible change of plan took us to West Bank Golf Club, and indoor centre for some golf on the simulators.  As we were golfers, this suited us all very well, that and the accompanying doughnuts gave us some rest time to reflect on Cleveland.

Our final dinner was at Mabel’s BBQ.  Famed for its BBQ sauces, we relished the hosting and cocktails served alongside a hearty BBQ selection.  Such a great final night in a large, almost industrial, restaurant built to entertain with its shared trestle tables.

We took a divert to enjoy a weekend in Cleveland, but if you’re going for golf, there are around 60 in the area, and of course more on the end Ohio Golf Trail

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Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, USA

Firestone Country Club

Akron, Ohio

As we were in the area playing the Penn Ohio Golf Trail, we took an overnight diversion to Firestone.

Firestone is in Akron County and is very easy to factor in when playing the trail, although not part of it.  Arriving we were shown to our room – when I say room, it was one a few in a separate building – there were a number of these building dotted around the estate and each housed good quality, large rooms all within a short walk of the main clubhouse.

Our room overlook the North Golf Courses.  There are three 18 hole golf courses on site with building already underway to create a multi storey, Big Shots indoor fun driving range experience for all.  Arrival day was our main drone filming day.  Just as we finished filming the heavens opened – not just a gentle sprinkle but a torrent by the bucket load the water fell from the sky in a tropical rainstorm fashion.

Firestone golf as founded by Harvey Firestone of Firestone Tyres fame when he commissioned the park for employees.  The South Course was complete in the same year.  The Original Bert Way design was given a facelift by Robert Trent Jones in 1960 in readiness for the PGA Championship.  RTJ added a further 50 bunkers and 2 lakes and extended the course yardage to 7,400 yard, just as it is today.

We only played the South Course.

The iconic water tower, which itself resembles a golf ball on a tee, poked its head above the prolific trees as an omnipresent icon for all in the area.  In 1959 this 125 foot structure was completed – after the clubhouse was destroyed by fire.  Holding 50,000 gallons of water, the tower was drained in the 1990’s – however, the structure remains to this day as an iconic landmark and a nice reminder for Firestones groundbreaking history when bring golf alive on television.

It was an early start which exaggerated the cool morning dew as the sun reluctantly rose and eventually broke through the haze clinging to the ground, hanging over from the previous days rain.

Despite this atmospheric mist biting at our ankles, nothing else could dampen our spirits as we set off down the 10th hole.  It’s always a bit disconcerting when you start on the 10th, but fortunately, we had been able to do some filing the day before, so we’d got a good feel for the course layout.

Looking at the back of the score card, the course does look a bit ‘uppy downy’, but in reality when playing it, you really didn’t get that sense at all as the course guided you along its routing.  Slight dog legs left or right came into play but otherwise the course was reasonably straight – of course that didn’t mean we played it straight!


As the sky blued up and the sun started to lend some heat the course came alive.  Enhanced by the slight change in colour for the trees, this was fast becoming a course I could understand why it has such positive accolades.

Despite the wet ground underfoot, the greens rolled exceptionally well – and quick with just subtle, hard to read movements, they were in great condition. 

This course had the type of bunkers others would aspire to – nice soft sand of such good, easy to play quality.  An analogy that was shared by the fore caddy when questioned about the sand condition, he said, ‘the sand is less table salt and more Himalayan crystal salt’  Whichever way you look at it, the sand played consistently nicely.


The infamous16th hole, Firestones signature hole.  With the equally iconic Arnold Palmer bridge which crossed over the dark water to the green.  This par 5 measured 465/667 yards with a 12 handicap.   With the approach shot having the stretch of water in play, there was no option than to just go for it, so we did – with mixed results.  Steve stuck his approach next to the pin, I stuck mine in the water!  Understanding now how this hole has been nicknamed ‘The Monster’ by Palmer himself and three time winner in 1957, 1962 and 1967. 

As we reached our half way point, the water tower came back into sight, signifying an end, or in our case, half way round the game.

Playing 18, a small plaque reminds us of Tiger Woods ‘Shot in the Dark’ 167 yard 8 iron at 825pm… That superb shot straight at the pin and an easy tap in, brings him the win, 11 ahead of the rest of the field at the NEC Invitational.

The wide fairway theme continued into our second nine, wide fairways with trees embracing varying stages of autumn – large but not dense woodlands, the trees framed the fairways as if marking a landing strip.

The enthusiasm and knowledge of our fore caddy made the day special, he expertly divided his time between us, yet seemed to be on hand for each of us, despite the scatter gun approach of our differing playing abilities.  A quality player in every way.


Hole three, a relatively easy par 4 of 323/442 yards carried a 15 handicap.  With it came more water upon which slight ripples were starting to form.  But over the water you must go to reach the green and this time I triumphed over Steve.  An arch bridge traversed the expenses of water as the white fluffy clouds fringed with grey went shooting by.  Even stood onto 4th tee, a glance backward give its own rewards for golfers to treasure with the reflective water, the bridge, the lush green course and trees and the blue and dotted white sky.

As if entering a fire station, the big bold numbers framed in red stood by each tee, simple – yet elegant. In contrast the almost black in colour of the wet tree trunks stood out against the vivid blue and greens of the course.  A kaleidoscope of colour to tackle your senses.

Little history making stories bring Firestone alive, but more than that, it appeals to all golfers, old and new.

Firestone still lights the fire for many golfers and is set to continue to do so for many more years to come.

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