John McConnell believes in doing things right. That’s how this Columbus, Ohio, resident brought Worthington Industries from an $1,800 start-up operation in his basement to a Fortune 500 company with more than $1 billion in sales and 7,000 employees. His philosophy: Work hard, know exactly where you’re going and surround yourself with the best possible people.
These same rules apply to his dream course – the Double Eagle Club. In the ’80s McConnell took Columbus native and longtime friend Tom Weiskopf aside during the Memorial tournament at and asked him to look at a 220-acre tract (since expanded to 340 acres) some 20 miles north in Galena. Weiskopf was still playing on the PGA Tour regularly at the time, but thoughts of becoming a course designer were not far off. With its open, flat terrain, the site would require considerable imagination to accommodate a golf course. Weiskopf’s parting comment was, “When you decide to build your course, please give me a call.”
The phone call came in October 1989. By then, Weiskopf had teamed with course architect Jay Morrish on several renowned projects, including Troon North in Scottsdale. In spite of its openness the site offered enough transitional ground to create shifting rhythms and looks. A 30-foot ravine is incorporated into seven holes on the front side, while the back nine culminates in holes routed adjacent to a huge natural lake. Stands of mature hardwood trees—oak, hickory, maple, elm and beech—provide a sense of isolation on each hole without creating a closed-in feeling, and split fairways on four holes take advantage of the open expanses of land.
While landing areas off the tee tend to be generous, approach shots require precise placement. Every green offers an open entrance for traditional low-running shots, but the green complexes also contain some devilish pin positions that can only be attacked from the proper side of the fairway.
The four finishing holes offer remarkable variety. The par-4 15th is a 470-yard Cape hole that wraps around a lake on the left. No. 16 is a 190-yard par 3 to a green perched on a plateau over water with a deadly pin position to the right. Morrish and Weiskopf always build a mini par 4, but the 17th is a model for a flexible two-shotter. The double fairway is split by a stand of trees and a massive bunker complex. The result is three distinct paths: Go for broke, lay up straight or bail out left and approach the green diagonally.
Double Eagle ends in frenzied fashion, with a class risk-reward par 5 stretching to 560 yards. A marshy hazard traverses the second landing area, just where the hole turns left. The green is set diagonally over a steep bunker left and falls away to the back right. It’s hard to imagine a better finish for match play competition.
The Double Eagle Club’s low-key approach extends to its clubhouse, a building of stone walls and slate roof. Nothing resembling a banquet hall here. It’s more like a country lodge. In short, McConnell got it right.
Year founded: 1992
Architect: Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf