In this weekly series, we profile a college football town with tips on where to play golf, eat and drink.
This big-time Big 10 match-up at the Horseshoe has Rose Bowl and BCS implications written all over it. The 9th-ranked Buckeyes come in angry, having been leapfrogged in the AP polls by Cincinnati for in-state bragging rights, but before they make a statement, they'll have to contain John Clay and the bruising Badger rushing attack. If you're looking to play, eat and drink in Columbus, rush to these superb spots.
You'll have to beg, borrow or deal to score a tee time at Columbus' bevy of outstanding private clubs, Scioto, Muirfield Village and The Golf Club among them. Even Ohio State's two university courses are closed to the general public. Nevertheless, there are plenty of top tracks that will take your money and deliver on value. Start with Longaberger Golf Club (740-763-1100, longabergergolfclub.com; $89-$99), a 1999 Arthur Hills design that ranks as Ohio's best public course as well as No. 57 in GOLF Magazine's 2008-09 Top 100 Courses You Can Play. This sturdy 7,243-yarder is flawlessly conditioned, boasts tremendous practice facilities and a collection of diverse holes, some open, some wooded. Standouts include the 563-yard, par-5 5th that plunges 150 feet from tee to green and the 444-yard, par-4 8th that's backdropped by a lake. It's worth the 50-mile drive east from downtown Columbus.
Closer to the University is another Arthur Hills creation called East Golf Club (614-855-8600, eastgolfclub.com; $29-$59) that looks and plays like a private club probably because that's what it used to be until 2007. Don't let the current dishwater-dull name fool you this heavily wooded track once went by Winding Hollow Country Club, then briefly Tartan East. Whatever it's called these days, it's a terrific value on a secluded, rolling plot, conveniently located seven miles outside the I-270 loop, off Rte. 161, in suburban New Albany.
Two other "worthies" come to mind, one old, and one new. Granville Golf Course (740-587-4653, granvillegolf.com; $26-$54) is a 1924 Donald Ross effort situated 30 miles east of town. Despite a recent real estate project that marred the aesthetics a bit on the back nine, plenty of the master's classic touches remain. The 12-story drop from the 18th tee to the fairway will linger long in memory. If you prefer the newer breed, check out Eaglesticks in Zanesville (800-782-4493, eaglesticks.com; $39) a short but hilly target track from Columbus native Michael Hurdzan. If you like waterfalls, elevation changes and undulating greens, take flight to Eaglesticks.
Columbus is a Midwestern stronghold, so it's no surprise that it's a steakhouse stronghold as well. Mitchell's, the top steak house and The Clarmont are all acknowledged classics, but for location, ambiance and food quality, Hyde Park's Upper Arlington establishment (614-442-3310, hydeparkrestaurants.com) can't be beat. There are four Hyde Park Prime Steakhouses in the area, including a downtown location, but the one we've picked is five minutes from the Ohio State campus, just off Rte. 315.
Football fans might just blow off the game once they start devouring the savory smoked meats selection at Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus (614-444-6808, schmidthaus.com) in historic German Village just south of downtown. A mainstay since 1886, Schmidt's is housed in a brick livery stable, the perfect rustic setting to chow down on knockwurst, bratwurst, and their famous Bahama Mamas, a spicy, hickory-smoked beef and pork concoction that will leave you sweating and pleading for more. Finish with Schmidt's signature half-pound jumbo cream puff and you'll be stuffed for a week.
Sadly, Dave Thomas' original Wendy's restaurant in downtown Columbus closed in 2007, but meat-eaters with massive appetites needn't worry. Thurman CafÃƒÂ¨ (614-443-1570, thethurmancafe.com), situated five miles south of campus near Schiller Park, has offered the biggest and best burgers in town since 1942. The Thurman Burger is topped with slices of ham, mozzarella and American cheese-plus condiments. Good luck.
No trip to an Ohio State football game is complete without a trip to the Varsity Club (614-299-6269, theoriginalvarsityclub.com), a 50-year-old legend that still acts like a teenager. It's parked 500 yards from the stadium, so on football Saturdays, folks spill out of its confines like it's a tailgate party. Expect the beer to spill as well the place is notoriously jam-packed, with many overserved patrons but following a win, this is the most joyous party in town.
Testosterone-fueled young men and wanna-bes are drawn to Dub Pub (614-761-2728, dub-pub.com), in suburban Dublin, not far from Muirfield Village, where the wait staff serves up curves a-plenty as well as Budweiser specials and cheap hot dogs.
Eddie George's Grille 27 (614-421-2727, eddiegeorgesgrille27.com) is named for the former Ohio State star running back, who captured the Heisman trophy while a Buckeye and who enjoyed a stellar pro career with the Tennessee Titans. Fifty high-def flat screens, superior food and 27 varieties of beer will put you in the Scarlet-and-Gray spirit in no time.
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