The Links at Ivy Ridge opened its tees to the public in July of 2005. The course was a collaboration between the two owners and a number of area golf architects and shapers. The golf course has hosted US Amateur qualifiers and a number of area events. Set back from Main Street in Akron, LAIR emits a serenity and a solitude not normally associated with courses that adjoin principal thoroughfares.
Holes 1-3: 362, 412 & 478
The first three holes at Ivy Ridge betray all that defines the course: brawn, strategy and execution. The first hole rises up from clubhouse level to the first of 18 enormous putting surfaces. A fairway bunker on the left forces one’s gaze to the right, away from the ideal approach line. The green sits between guardian fairway bunkers, confessing that the run-up approach, presuming fast and firm conditions, will usually be an option. The second hole was once the eleventh and comes, in my estimation, far too soon in the round. The
fairway descends as abruptly as any across this terrain, then curves left and gently rises to a profoundly-deep putting surface. A solitary fairway bunker stands sentinel on the left (inward) side of the fairway. Farther up yet still some 50 yards shy of the green, another fairway bunker awaits. Avoid the bunker and dry wash on the left, elude the pond on the far right, and your approach should be straight up the fall line, lickety-split. The third hole, the first of the par fives, may be the most enjoyable. Simple and reachable, there is no element of risk-reward, so fire all your guns. The fairway is accessible and forgiving, with a bunker-clean center line all the way from the landing zone to the green.
Holes 4-6: 360, 194 & 568
The fourth hole calls for less than driver off the tee, unless a southerly wind is blowing in your face. The reason is, sand and trees right and more sand left strangle the fairway landing zone. Lay back, come in with 6 or 7; don’t worry, the green (remember, they are enormous here) can handle it. Be cautious of a back-right pin position, as that particular ledge is tucked behind the solitary greenside bunker, just inside the collar of rough. The fifth is the first par three on the course and plays at a southeast diagonal, across a wide
meadow punctuated by a recessed bunker (that really doesn’t come into play.) More fearsome is the right-front bunker that protects 1/4 of the putting surface. This is the second consecutive hole where an approach moving left to right works best. The sixth is the second par five (and the one I despise the most) and again moves substantially from left to right. Unless, that is, you are in the habit of hitting a cloud-scraping tee ball with a slight draw~then you can mock the treetops as you swing that hook from right to left. The second shot is easily the most challenging, single shot on the course. The problem is, the 150 yard stake, a typical layup target, sits precisely between two encroaching ponds, on the narrowest strip of fairway on the course. Your choices are three: play cautiously short of both ponds and leave hybrid in; play brazenly into the neck with all the accuracy you possess, leaving short iron in; execute heroically past both ponds with three-metal, granting a wedge or less for a third shot to a flat, seduceable green.
Holes 7-9: 368, 144 & 388
The 7th hole at LAIR begins a three-hole run of brain over brawn. You won’t be hitting war clubs over the next three holes. What you will do here is put a 215 yard shot out, just past the rightside fairway bunker, but not so deep that you run into the swamp wood beyond the fairway turn. From position A, a short iron or wedge remains, so take dead aim into a fairly flat, receptive green. The eighth hole is the second one-shotter on the front and is
quite visually attractive and memorable. If the hole is toward the back, one hardly takes notice of the first tier of green, mistaking it for fronting fairway. The bi-tiered putting surface is set at an angle to the tee and is a two-club green. While 6 might get you to the back, 8 is all that is needed to reach the front edge. The outward closer, number nine, is one of two parallel par fours with drives that crest a fairway rise to settle in a blind landing area. You might really bust one and reach the pond that fronts the 9th and 18th greens, but hey, so what? Those are the ones you brag about! Your job here is to find the fairway (you get some help,, as the the sides of the fairway tend to rebound your ball back toward center, like a half-pipe.) If I could add one bit of turf to this fine layout, it would be to raise the right portion of the greenside fairway, so that shots might be run up the safe side of the hole and boomerang onto the green. After all, not everyone can carry water and/or sand to reach a putting surface.
Holes 10-12: 364, 308 & 182
The getaway hole on the back nine is as Irish as number two on the front. From the tee, you play up and into a dell, situated between two massive dunes. The approach continues
up the hill, 2 clubs more than normal, over a centerline bunker in front to a green with no fewer than ten potential hole locations. In case you lost a stroke or two on ten, eleven allows you to steal it back. This short par four begs you to unload with your driver. Even a mishit will get you within 100 yards of the green. The green itself has some undulation, may be the smallest on the course, and still gives up its share of one-putts. Twelve is a downhill par three, the only non-flat one on the course. Shots that land short, on a fast and firm day, will bound onto the aircraft carrier green that awaits. Long first putt? Possible to probable. As always, three is cause to celebrate and move on.
Holes 13-15: 516, 482 & 174
Consecutive par fives and a remarkable par three make up the most enjoyable stretch of holes at LAIR. The thirteenth is an uphill all the way hole, although mild in its ascent. The fairway moves rightward as it climbs, maneuvering through bunkers and fescue-lined rough. Similar to number three, this is a hole that can be had, so take your best crack at making 4. Number fourteen is the little brother of the sixth hole and is much less intimidating. Here, your second shot (yup, same left to right drive, albeit not as severe) can be laid up before the water, yet only leave 140 yards to the green. As before, you may also
play the role of hero and bomb a metal toward the green. The fourteenth has the coolest bail-out area to the left of the putting surface, if you feel like avoiding the water altogether. Fifteen is the final par three hole, one that plays across a smallish pond to an ample putting surface. You know, it’s late in the round and this is glory’s last shot, so go pin hunting, come hell or high water.
Holes 16-18: 396, 400 & 366
The home stretch closes with three consecutive two-shotters. Fortunately, each is unique, so boredom does not assume the throne. The 16th plays uphill ‘twixt bunker on each side of the fairway, symmetrically followed by bunkers on either side of the green front. A straightforward hole that simply requests that you hit it here, hit it here, then putt it there and move on. The 17th plays back down the hill, offering one final opportunity to launch it high and watch it fly. The approach comes in at one or two clubs less than normal, but don’t
back off and leave a weak shot off to the right. The putting green is well segmented and will provide a challenge. The home hole moves from left to right, over the same ridge that obscured the fairway on number nine. The pond fronting the green extends much deeper up the 18th fairway and will snare a well-struck driver that moves beyond 275 yards from the tee. The approach is played off a downhill lie, over the pond, onto one more mammoth green. Know your distance, flush your approach, sink your putt and head off to The Famous Dukes for a bite and a beverage.