Avalon Lakes was a diamond before its recent renovation

By Jason Stahl, Contributor

WARREN, Ohio - In 2000, Pete Dye, the original architect of Avalon Lakes Golf Club, came back at the request of owner Ron Klingle to renovate the course.

Basically, he was simply polishing up a diamond.

Prior to the renovation, the course was recognized by some national golf magazines as one of the best in the country and was thought of highly enough by the LPGA to host the Giant Eagle Classic.

Nearly $8 million later, that diamond is nearly blinding people. The new 7,571-yard layout that now has hills and undulations was recently recognized again by Golf Digest as the eighth best new upscale golf course and 44th greatest public course in the country.

Really, how much adulation can one course take? The grand place even draws visitors from Colorado like Rick and Pat Jonson. The pair was there for a scholarship tournament but previewed the course early and gushed about what they saw.

"It's very nice, as nice a course as I've ever played, and it's very, very tough," said Rick, a 13-handicapper who usually plays 50 rounds a year. "The greens are really hard to read."

Never mind that they roll 11 on the stimpmeter.

Pat, a 21-handicapper, ranked the course in her personal top five for beauty. "And the ladies get lots of advantages," she said.

As spectacular as this course is, some might squawk at the $150 prime season rate. But they shouldn't. The golf alone is probably worth the bucks, but then there's the other amenities. Nearly $4 million in additions and renovations to the clubhouse and dining facilities in 2002 have produced a heavenly 19th hole.

Joe Divot will feel like a king prancing through the castle-sized locker room with sauna. And wait until he sees what lies behind door No. 2: a men's lounge that Homer Simpson would be proud of. Leather chairs, pool tables, big-screen TVs and…a Playboy pinball machine.

Hopefully, you won't see this pleasure palace before you play because you won't want to leave.

The course has its own seductive qualities. Each hole is so captivating that you'd almost get as much satisfaction just looking at it than playing it. And you'd be better off sticking to ogling on some. Take No. 8, a par 3 that plays (this is not a typo) 260 yards from the tips. And if the pin is tucked in the left back corner of the green, you'll be forced to carry water, too. One wonders if Dye had an evil grin on his face when he worked on this one.

No. 8 is just one of 12 holes that now have water that comes into play from the championship tees. The reason is because over 300,000 cubic feet of earth was excavated during the renovation, creating either new or greatly expanded lakes. One of those lakes shows its intimidating face on No. 11, a par 5 that plays 508 yards from the mortal tees. The lake starts in front of the tee and veers to the right, following the hole all the way to the green. The hard part is deciding how much of the lake to bite off from the tee, but keep in mind that if you're an average hitter and don't choose to fly the fat part of the water, you most likely won't run through the fairway.

Lest this course seem too difficult for beginners, take comfort in knowing there are five tee positions on each hole, with the bulk of the 150 bunkers and other hazards coming more into play for the pros. The most forward tees play 4,904 yards. Most men will probably choose position No. 3 at 6,491 yards. It's the Neanderthals who will play the course at 7,571 yards.

Superintendent Bob Mizicko keeps the course in the kind of shape that will bring golf purists to tears. Anybody who doesn't fix their ballmarks on these rolled, pristine greens should be drawn and quartered. Additional note: practice putting on your kitchen floor for the best preparation.

Even the sand in the traps has bragging rights - it's from the Best Sand Corp. in Chardon and is recognized as one of the best golf course sands available.

What does this mean? That the surface structure characteristics of the sand significantly reduce the number of "fried egg" lies that commonly occur with other sands. Not that getting out of these bunkers will be a piece of pancake, but…

The verdict

If you visit Ohio, this course is a must-play. Stay at the quaint Avalon Inn and get a significant discount on greens fees. Off-season rates are $85. After the golf, treat yourself to a 5-star meal in the dining room and a spell in the sauna. Even though Avalon Lakes is semi-private, the starter assures that you'll have no problem getting the tee time you want.

Places to stay

The Avalon Inn
9519 East Market St.
Warren, Ohio 44484
(800) 828-2566

Fairfield Inn Marriott
1860 Niles Cortland Road SE
Niles, Ohio 44484
(330) 544-5774

Holiday Inn Express
135 Highland Terrace Blvd.
Niles, Ohio 44484
(330) 544-8807

Places to eat

Chop House
One American Way
Warren, Ohio 44484
(330) 856-2121

Leo's Ristorante
7042 East Market St.
Warren, Ohio 44484
(330) 856-5291

2610 Elm Road
Warren, Ohio 44483
(330) 372-3813

Fast fact

The course used to host the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic.

Jason StahlJason Stahl, Contributor

Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Lakes present day

    Brad Lebo wrote on: Jul 15, 2010

    Too bad Avalon Lakes isn't a diamond any more. It is lucky to roll at a 9 and that is breifly in the morning before all the footprints arrive due to the greens being to watered. Your ball marks explode because of the shorten roots on the green. WIsh the could do some work to it becuase it is the best course in ohio.


    • RE: Lakes present day

      NAT SICURO wrote on: Jul 5, 2016