July 25, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Hinckley Hills Golf Course turns 50

Hinckley Hills Golf Course club house from the 18th fairway. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)

Hinckley Hills Golf Course club house from the 18th fairway. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)


Dan Brown

The Gazette

HINCKLEY TWP. — Hinckley Hills Golf Course has come a long way in 50 years.

From a Donald Krush idea in the early 1960s to the present-day 23-hole layout in the wooded countryside and rolling hills of northeast MedinaCounty, the course has become one of the most scenic and challenging around.

Keeping their father’s vision a reality have been Susan Smith and Jean Esposito. The two have worked to maintain and improve a course that will be celebrating its golden anniversary throughout August.

“I don’t do philosophy, but it’s amazing how 50 years have gone by so fast,” said Esposito, who serves as course superintendent. “I didn’t even realize it. When you’ve always done it, you don’t know the other side of it. It’s something we like to do.”

On any given day, you can find Esposito on the course checking on conditions, while Smith, who serves as general manager, is in the clubhouse meeting golfers at the front counter and handling the behind-the-scenes things that have kept the course a local mainstay.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Smith said of the anniversary. “It was handed down to us, so it was something we’ve just always done. Our father had the vision to have a golf course, but he was a non-golfer.

“It’s been a struggle at times because of the economy, but we have a lot of regulars along with some new faces. You need those new guys to keep this going.”

Despite the highs and lows, Hinckley Hills has kept golfers coming in to take a crack at a course that plays at about 6,500 yards with a rolling terrain outlined by woods and views typically seen on postcards.

“It’s long and challenging with a lot of up-and-down hills,” Smith said. “The seniors don’t like it as much because you can’t score, but it’s a challenging course for everyone. There are a lot of sideway lies and there’s not a flat place on the course.”

Planning for Hinckley Hills started in 1962 and two years later the first nine holes were opened to the public. By the spring of 1965, the back nine was complete, along with a clubhouse. The front and back nines were switched around in 1974

The championship layout has been host to numerous events and tournaments, including the Open Heart Open to benefit University Hospitals from 1980-96 and various high school sectionals.

In 2000, the course began construction on a nine-hole addition. But after a deal to buy additional land didn’t get completed, the project was halted dead in its tracks. The other problem was the fact that construction had already started on the first two holes.

Smith and Esposito came up with a unique idea. Create a five-hole course for the busy player or beginner. In 2004, the Buzzard Nest course was born.

“It’s something different,” Esposito said of the five par-4 holes. “You can bring children to it and see if they want to play golf. It’s a great place for guys who are too busy to golf nine or 18 holes.”

Along with three separate layouts to choose from, golfers can utilize the four practice greens and chipping area to loosen up. A floating island green and pavilion are used for outings and fundraisers.

Golfers can also take advantage of private instruction with head pro Michael Smith, while various junior clinics are held on the layout.

To celebrate the 50th year, Smith said golfers can get involved in various raffles at the end of the month to commemorate the course’s start. While she wouldn’t give away what might be in the prize bag, she said there will be something for everybody to remember Hinckley Hills.

But for Smith and Esposito, it’s not just a job. It’s a labor of love and something they look to keep going for years to come.

“When you have what my father used to say sweat equity in, we’ve put a lot of time into it,” Esposito said. “Just the other day, I was looking at some of the trees on the course and you can see how much larger and how much they’ve changed over time.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.