After months of clubhouse permitting and construction approval delays by the City of Elyria, the Valley of the Eagles finally opened its golf course for public tee times on August 3rd, 2018. The Black River Tavern within that clubhouse opens today for food and beverage service. Valley of the Eagles is built on the old Spring Valley Golf Club property. The following is a review of the course played two weeks ago.
The old Spring Valley Golf Club in Elyria officially closed in 2013. But in reality that facility died years before, slowly, while it was still open.
The reason was simple: the design, construction and maintenance of the old golf course was always make-due.
Make-due construction with insufficient drainage that led to swampy conditions when it rained.
A make-due budget for maintenance that allowed overgrown trees and brush to constrict hole corridors and eventually caused spotty turf growth and a claustrophobic appearance.
And a make-due routing that was uninteresting and not all that much fun to play.
But the land on which Spring Valley sat has always been spectacular.
A new owner bought the property in early 2014 with promises of a grand revision. The course was renamed Valley of the Eagles. But the project sputtered to get started for nearly three years. Local newspaper articles pointed to problems and delays, often tinged with rumor and innuendo.
In 2015, some new financing finally kick-started the project. Jack Nicklaus Design was hired to completely rework the golf course. It was a huge step in the right direction.
Nicklaus Design’s routing and construction created the type of golf course that showcases the land features of the property, which are unique: a wide, winding section of the Black River in play on a number of holes; a 100-foot shale cliff that surrounds the back half of the property; hills and valleys that could never be created with a bulldozer.
The new layout utilizes about half of the hole corridors from the previous golf course. But those corridors can be hard to recognize because of the deconstruction done before construction, with thousands of trees removed from the property. All of that overgrown underbrush is gone.
Left in place are the specimen trees from those handful of old hole routings, framed by newly-exposed rock outcroppings, contoured bunkers and native grasses.
Further, the tees have been re-positioned slightly on most of these “old” holes. Multiple new tee boxes now exist in their place. And the green complexes look nothing like their previous renditions. So all of these “old” holes are completely new.
The other difference noticed immediately is the expansive views the new design offers. Playing the old Spring Valley, you knew there was a river on the property. You knew there were shale cliffs. You knew you were going up and down hills. But with trees and brush everywhere – especially along the banks of the river – these features were nearly impossible to see.
Now they are just that: features. Open views of the river and the cliffs let the player take in these natural elements. And the clearing of trees and brush on the highest hills of the property let you enjoy long, sweeping views across the entire valley.
It’s just flat-out beautiful.
The new turfgrass is almost two years old now, grown in fully. The fairways are well formed. The rough is still a bit patchy on some of the very outer edges where construction took longest, but seed and straw is down to grow it in.
The greens are full, smooth and a healthy green. But they are still young, so the speed is subdued.
The bunkers are filled with perfect golf course sand, tournament ready.
The little details are right, too: the hole signs are all giant quarry rocks with the hole number carved into them. The tee markers are of that same quarry rock with little color-capped pegs tapped into the ground next to them showing their position.
Most importantly, the layout is pure fun with a fantastic mix of short and long holes. Yes, the back tees stretch out to 7,000 yards. But there are five par-4 holes that come in under 385 yards, each with twists and turns. The par-5s are all easily reachable except for the finishing par-5 (which you can still take on if you don’t mind two forced carries over water). There is a downhill par-3 with a giant green that is a mere 120 yards from the back tees.
On the flip side, the rest of the par-3 holes on the course are brutes: all 200+ yards from the back tees to sliver greens surrounded by deep bunkers or fall-offs. In fact, the par-3 fifth hole has a tee tucked on the other side of the river from the rest of the boxes that can be stretched into a 276-yard monster. Uphill. Raised green. Fronting bunkers. Into the prevailing wind.
Some of the iconic holes include the sweeping dogleg right first hole with a narrow green that looks like it’s hanging in the air as it falls off on the right into boulders and a lake below; the par-3 seventh hole that sits at the highest point of the property looking down on the rest of the course; and the par-4 14th hole that features a tee in the middle of the river, a narrow fairway back on land to the right, then a green that resides back in that same river.
Troon Golf is managing the property, led by General Manager Ray Metz and Golf Professional Barry Friedman.
Troon offered a couple months of preview play tee times last fall to let players see the roughed-in golf course. The clubhouse was still under construction, so it was just golf. The plan was to open fully in Spring 2018.
But permitting and approval delays by the City of Elyria pushed back the opening of the clubhouse, which has undergone a complete make-over. So the golf course and clubhouse have remained closed to the public right up to August. Only a few small, previously-scheduled outings have been hosted so far this year.
While those delays are frustrating and bad for business, they have allowed the golf course to grow in fully without traffic. Perhaps an expensive blessing in disguise.
The final product is a beautiful pro shop, the wood-and-stone Black River Tavern that will serve food and beverages (including their own Valley of the Eagles Pilsner from Sibling Revelry Brewing!), a cool sportsbar in that clubhouse with indoor golf simulators, and a huge outdoor second-story patio that overlooks the golf course. There is also significant banquet space for events and weddings.
Valley of the Eagles is now fully open for play; you can get more info regarding tee times and outings on their website.
Later this fall, Northeast Ohio Golf will host an NEOHgolf.com 3-Man Scramble at Valley of the Eagles on Sunday, October 21st as part of its Tournament Series.
By then, the fall foliage across the valley should be spectacular. The turf conditions should be amazing. And a full field is expected…