The dynamite Aston Oaks Golf Club near Cincinnati getting plenty of TLC after 'setback'

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

NORTH BEND, Ohio -- Aston Oaks Golf Club sometimes looks like a supermodel without her makeup.

Aston Oaks golf course - hole 4
Danger lurks left of the 176-yard fourth green at Aston Oaks.
Aston Oaks golf course - hole 4Aston Oaks Golf Club - hole 8Aston Oaks golf course - hole 16
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Aston Oaks Golf Club

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Situated on the former estate of President William Henry Harrison, Aston Oaks Golf Club is closely tied to his legacy in Ohio. On the 13th and 16th holes, golfers will find the creek that was home to the first mill in southern Ohio. The foundations of the mill can still be seen on the left side of the fairway on the 16th hole.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6908 yards | ... details »

Aston Oaks co-owner Drew Macke, who purchased the 6,908-yard course in 2005, gets defensive when golfers pester him about the perceived conditioning problems at the club.

Macke said shortcuts in construction of the Jack Nicklaus course, which opened the front nine in 1999, have hindered his efforts to keep the course in tip-top shape.

Over the years, he’s groomed the place one step at a time. He’s tripled the size of the tees at No. 4, a par 3 where players once hit off of range mats. During bunker renovations this winter, his staff found some traps didn’t have any drainage at all.

"People think I don’t spend any money on the course. It’s just not true," he said, noting he has a large staff of 20 maintenance workers addressing the issues.

Aston Oaks Golf Club: The course

Macke thought Aston Oaks was on track for great things until an act of God derailed the progress in 2011. A lightning strike last summer crippled the irrigation system for nearly two months, causing the course to lose 40 percent of its fairways, a "major setback."

The course superintendent spent the night 28 times last year, Macke said, to hand-water fairways, tees and greens to try to save them in drought-like conditions that plagued the region.

"The biggest battle out here, the course has no topsoil," Macke said. "When it is hot, the fairways suffer. The greens are small, and we get a ton of play. A lot of corners were cut (in construction)."

The two fairways that suffered the most damage -- No. 7 and No. 14 -- were sodded with new Zoysia grass this spring. If this change takes root, Macke hopes to eventually convert all the fairways over to Zoysia. Making the greens the best they’ve ever been remains a top priority this summer.

"Once the zoysia comes through, this place will really shine," Macke said.

The layout sprawls out across 258 acres with several holes overlooking the Ohio River. Blockbuster par 5s at No. 8 and No. 16 are the two "oh wow!" holes, but there are a handful of other strong candidates: the par 3s at No. 4 and No. 17 and the par 4s at No. 3 and No. 9. Once this rose flowers, it will be truly special.

"It’s very scenic, especially on the back nine," said Todd Hogel, of Bellevue, Ky.

Aston Oaks Golf Club: The verdict

Aston Oaks is one of the best public golf courses in Ohio, layout-wise.

It’s a $70 course that is a bargain at $45. Would you rather pay $70 for spotless conditioning or $45 for a few rough spots? I think I know the answer to that question already.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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