Reeves Golf Course: Fairways as Wide as Texas

By John Eckberg, Contributor

CINCINNATI, OH -- The planes glide into their landings over Reeves Golf Course like great white birds, some with roaring jet engines, others strangely silent but still swift. They fly with great regularity - it seems like one a minute at times - over dozens of golfers splayed out on the course below.

Many of the golfers will be poised over putts or chip shots while others in the same foursome are doing everything they can not to watch that second chili-dip chip for fear that the flaw might be something that is contagious like a shank or yipped putt.

That's when the planes come in handy: something to look at, a convenient attention-diverter from a golfer with an offending swing.

And because the course is right smack on the glide path to Lunken Airport, a small municipal airport next to the flat but lengthy 18 holes along the Little Miami River valley, the planes are all but impossible to ignore. When they are not landing, they are taking off.

Since golf is ultimately about flight - some balls have flights that are more marvelous than others, but all, even the worst shank, has a strange appeal - then what better place to plunk down a golf course than here, alongside Lunken? This square mile or so of urban greenery at the Reeves complex is a homage, of sorts, to flight.

Reeves is a sprawling, flat golf course with broad fairways built in the historic floodplain where pioneers first landed in their flatboats but today is half airport and half public park/golf course. On some holes - many in fact - a built-in mobile gallery of bikers, hikers, roller-bladers and runners parade past.

They are here to use the nearby jogging path, the most popular hiking trail in the city. On other holes there is seclusion and quiet.

Like all good golf courses, this stretch of 18 holes was meant to be walked, though through this August, golf carts for any round played in the afternoon Monday through Thursday come free of charge in a noon-to-3 p.m. package offered by the city of Cincinnati to encourage tee-times in a heat that can rival Burma at high noon.

It is perfect use of land, really, and having the planes around and flying by keeps it interesting from the first tee clear on through to the eighteenth, though not all the holes are near the runways. On lucky weekends, too, the airport is flush with classic planes of the Cincinnati Warbirds and you might see a sleek two-man T-34A Mentor or old bi-plane.

On August 12, the thunder from a B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator WWII bombers will echo across Reeves Golf Course for three days with tours daily. See for more information or for other noteworthy planes.

Everyday jets are Cessna CitationXs, Gulfstreams and Dassault Falcons and they are all spontaneous studies in the wonder of flight: like a crushed one-iron drawing into the green. Sometimes they coast in quietly. Other times they roar off at the Northern Kentucky hills in a savage blast of sound, the plane ripping on a diagonal to the clouds until there is only quiet and a plane rising in the distance.

The course, managed by KemperSports, is long and some of the small bent grass greens are best approached on the second or third bump Scottish style, if only to take the wind out of play. Though the course is in the Little Miami River valley, the valley walls are miles apart. So while it may seem relatively calm at eye-level, above the course the wind can have power, much like Caribbean golf.

Greens are elevated, and it's worth repeating: some fairways are wide as Texas. Because the course is municipally-owned, one of seven owned by the City of Cincinnati, water is not in short supply. After all, the city owns the water system. The water table, too, is close to the surface and the Little Miami River will overflow its banks onto the course, so during times of particularly heavy rainfall, one or two fairways can become floodways.

That means the course stays green longer than most courses in the region but the fairways can bake, too, and drives will run a long, long way on the rye grass fairways. It plays like two courses depending upon the season, says assistant professional Ron Dumas. The greens are soft in the spring, when a bump-and-run is improbable. In the summer, it takes a Scottish touch to get on in regulation.

"One thing about the course is the repeat customers," Mr. Dumas said. "The Par Hopers Golf League has been here for 47 years - twice a week, about 100 golfers are in the league."

The practice facilities are among the best in the region with chipping and putting greens, a lighted driving range and individual and group lessons. An active junior program keeps youngsters on the nine-hole executive course that runs parallel to a levee for the Little Miami River.

"You see a lot of the same golfers," said Mr. Dumas. "I think it's like a favorite restaurant. People wouldn't be coming back unless they liked it."

John Eckberg, Contributor

John Eckberg has been a life-long bogey golfer, whose addiction to the sport began with nine-iron pitches to and from neighbor Frank Haines's back yard and on the golf courses in and around Akron, Ohio. His fondest golf memories date to his teenaged-years when he and his brother would annually sneak into PGA events at Firestone Country Club, then spend the day eluding marshals as part of the army that trailed Arnold Palmer.

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