COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is one big benefit to playing golf in a city not known as a golf destination: Golfers aren't hit with inflated resort green fees.
Want to play three days of golf for less than $200? That's no problem in central Ohio. You don't need to worry about twilight rates or online discounts. Even the summer rack rates are relatively affordable for a long weekend of golf.
If you find yourself visiting Ohio's state capital, hanging out at the Ohio State University, or in town for The Memorial -- the PGA Tour event hosted by Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village -- there are plenty of places to play.
Some golfers might consider the long 70-mile trek from Columbus to Nashport to cross off Virtues Golf Club from their bucket list, but greens fees ranging from $79 in spring to $99 in summer keep Ohio's no. 1-rated public course out of our budget range. Other top-tier tracks -- New Albany Links in New Albany, The Links at Echo Springs in Johnstown, the Golf Club of Dublin, Bent Tree Golf Club in Sunbury and its sister course, Royal American Links in Galena –- must be played with an off-season or twilight rate to fit into our plans as well.
Our money will be well-spent for a 36-hole day south of the city. Raintree South Golf Club in Ashville costs $45 midweek. Bordered by the Little Walnut Creek and the Scioto River, This Dr. Michael Hurdzan/Dana Fry design got an assist from pro John Cook. Just eight miles away, The Players Club at Foxfire Golf Club in Lockbourne tortures players with a three-hole run beginning at no. 14 that members call "Hell's Half Acre," including back-to-back par 5s at holes 14 and 15 that add up to 1,525 yards of narrow alleys, foreboding trees, wetland and rolling hills. After 2 p.m., Foxfire costs just $39 to play. These courses are less than a half hour from the hotels, restaurants and shops of the Easton Town Center.
With more than $100 still in our pockets, it's still time to seek out more value. Cumberland Trail Golf Club, a Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry design in Pataskala, 22 miles southeast of the city, keeps its greens as slick as some of the famous local country clubs. This rural playground can almost always be had for less than $50.
Another affordable round comes courtesy of Darby Creek Golf Course in Marysville 35 miles northwest of Columbus. Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva transformed 204 acres of an old rolling orchard into a solid course in 1993. The $48 weekend summer rate includes complimentary use of the range.
That's a four-course meal over three days that every golfer would find satisfying.