ELYRIA — It was in July 2017 when the Valley of the Eagles Golf Club previewed its public course to area golfers, giving them a taste of what was to come from the course that is bookended by the winding Black River.
The response was overwhelming, with golfers from Lorain County and beyond snatching up tee times and playing well into the fall months — a brave foursome even took to the course on Black Friday to get in a round before the club closed the first week of December. The clubhouse and restaurant were not open then, but playing golf on the historic course was enough for some people.
As such, Wednesday’s opening-day crowd was far from sparse as the clubhouse’s Black River Tavern did a steady business and golf carts zipped around the course. The weather meant actual golf was on the mind of many, but when the weather changes, four Full Swing Golf simulators featuring 66 courses will allow golfers to practice year-round.
General manager Ray Metz has just two words he wants to say to those who have called, emailed or wondered as they drove down Gulf Road if the course would ever open: “We’re open.”
Many will remember the course and area. It stands on the footprints of the old Spring Valley Country Club, which closed in 2013. Situated in a wooded valley with river views throughout, golfers once hailed the course as one of the most beautiful they ever played.
A new ownership group came into play in 2014 and the Valley of the Eagles was born. Two big names are now attached to the project.
“It is designed by Nicklaus Design and it’s managed by Troon Golf,” Metz said. “Those two names are the leading industry leaders in their respective fields. Nicklaus Design is obviously nationally known and Troon Golf is the largest golf management firm in the world, so those two have teamed up for the first time in the Cleveland market.”
Nicklaus Design, founded and run by PGA golfer Jack Nicklaus, designs and constructs golf courses around the world.
This is Nicklaus’ first designed public course in northern Ohio and Troon’s first public managed facility in Ohio.
Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka called the golf course project a key development for the city, one city officials helped usher along with monthly meetings that brought the developers and city officials to the table to iron out issues. City Council also elected early on to authorize $100,000 toward a water main redundancy on the property.
“It was kind of a win-win for both of us because they needed the water main and we needed the redundancy loop in the area,” Siwierka said. “We have worked with them through a lot of ups and downs and are happy to see the project near completion.”
Metz said a four-year lag in construction is not typical, but bulldozing, rebuilding and changing nearly every hole into something fresh and new while staying true to the familiar backdrop took some time. Not to mention, the codes and building requirements of today did not exist a century ago, giving the project more hurdles to jump than a traditional build-from-the-ground-up plan.
“The time that it took was not the norm truly, but Nicklaus had to come in, bulldoze the old piece of property to build the new,” Metz said.
The new course gives golfers something unique to not just the area, but the region, said golf professional Barry Friedman, who went to Vermilion High School and was an assistant pro at the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links. He returned to Lorain County more than a year ago to be part of the project knowing the Nicklaus name would carry the course.
But don’t think playing here will be a piece of cake, he said, a hint to the seasoned golfer who has played the same area courses to perfect their game.
“We do have five sets of tee boxes so depending on the golfing level of the golfer, each tee box can kind of change the course for you,” he said. “You can play further back or closer up, but the really big thing about this place is the land it is on. We have real nice topography with elevated tees that sit way up. We have a par 3 that sits 100 feet up and the views you get from that are just awesome. With the Black River coming into play on more than half the holes, so it’s definitely unique.”
No. 14 has an island tee in the river. You hit to the river bank and then hit to an island green downstream.
“Our finishing hole — No. 18 — is the hardest hole out here and longest hole,” Friedman said. “Your third shot you have to go over the Black River as well to a real challenging green.”
Foodies looking for a good meal and not a game will find comfort at the Black River Tavern, said Rob Dunham, food and bar manager. With a tavern-style menu designed by Chef John Cafarelli, who is the former executive chef at the now-closed Cork and Stubby’s, the restaurant offers a full dining experience. Diners will be able to enjoy a special private-label pilsner from Westlake-based Sibling Revelry Brewing. (Just keep in mind the restaurant is about a week or so away from getting its state liquor license so the alcohol is on hold until that is secured.)
The restaurant’s table and bar tops are wooden slabs from trees that were on the property, slices of preserved history from the course’s back nine where crews removed thousands of trees to give the course a cleaner look.
It is one of two restaurants in the more than 80-year-old clubhouse developers gutted and renovated since 2014. An upscale restaurant and banquet facility will open later in the year.
The final phase of the project includes a housing development that will overlook the golf course.
Often seen by many as a pie-in-the-sky idea, a plan to build homes in the area was first floated to Elyria city officials years ago by developer Bob Corna. He is not actively with the project today, but the plan to build homes has not been abandoned, Metz said.
Until then, golfers can enjoy the course seven days a week with tee times and dining. To book a tee time, call (440) 365-1411.
- Valley of the Eagles Golf Club brings new, interesting layout to familiar setting, set to open Aug. 5
- Valley of the Eagles owner says property overvalued by county
- Owner of old Spring Valley Golf Club owes $445K in back taxes
- Developer of old Spring Valley Golf Club says he has financing for new projects