NEWARK, Ohio — The third hole here at the Moundbuilders Country Club is a tricky par 4: The green is protected by a six-foot-high mound that almost completely encircles the hole and requires a deft chip shot to clear if your approach shot goes awry.
“It’s a blind shot,” said Randol Mitchell, the club’s head golf professional, after driving his ball a good chunk of the hole’s 435 yards. “You have to watch out for those mounds.”
The topography of the course is built around the mounds, which were prescribed by the cosmology of the Native Americans who created them approximately 2,000 years ago as a way to measure the movement of the sun and the moon through the heavens.
for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as part of a larger proposed bid to recognize some of the similar sites in Ohio, known as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.
Many of the golfers say they embrace that importance, too, even if they have indelicately nicknamed one eight-foot mound “Big Chief.” The club has a scrapbook that tracks the history of the earthworks, known as the Octagon Earthworks, back to their creation. The clubhouse features a painting and photographs of the mounds. Golfers are barred from driving carts over them except on paved paths.
Still, if one were to encounter a ball perched atop the ancient earthworks, there is no ban on whacking at it with a 3-iron.
Hopewell culture, which refers to the moundbuilding groups of Native Americans who lived in North America from about 100 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. But their value wasn’t recognized until recent years, and many were destroyed.
Created one basketful of earth at a time, using pointed sticks and clamshell hoes, the mounds at the golf course are part of the broader Newark Earthworks and widely embraced as an astronomical and geometric marvel.
Once every 18.6 years, if you stand atop the course’s observatory mound and look up the line of parallel mounds toward the octagonal area, something spectacular happens. When the rising moon reaches its northernmost position, it hovers above the octagon’s exact center, within one-half of a degree. The alignments are no less sophisticated than the arranged stones at Stonehenge, experts say.
Members of the Hopewell culture likely intended the earthworks, which can only be fully appreciated from above, to show their moon and sun gods that they understood their movements, said Ray Hively, a professor emeritus of astronomy and physics at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. The effort might have been an attempt to connect with or communicate with the powers which appeared to control the larger universe, said Hively, who discovered these alignments with a philosophy professor, Robert Horn, in the 1980s.