William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States of America. And as The Simpsons ditty “Mediocre Presidents” reminds us, he died in 30 days (in office). Head east from his Presidential Tomb, and you’ll find Aston Oaks Golf Club. Aston Oaks is a real-estate and golf course combination that was built on 1,000 acres previously owned by the Harrison estate.
The golf course itself was built in 1999 by Nicklaus Design associate Tom Pearson (now running his own firm). It was a welcome addition to Cincinnati golf on the West side of town. While home to the good private clubs such as Western Hills CC, Clovernook CC, and Miami View GC (one of few golf-only clubs in town) there isn’t much quality, non-muni golf to speak of on the West side.
Aston Oaks looked to change that. Although the course originally operated out of a trailer, they have since built an expansive clubhouse, complete with its own restaurant and reception facilities. The course offers a couple of putting greens to choose from and has a decent size range. Views of the Ohio River can be seen at various parts on the back 9. Does all of this allow Aston Oaks to compete with the likes of Stonelick Hills and Shaker Run as one of Cincinnati’s best public experiences? Read on…
The first couple of holes start out rather ho-hum. 1 is a dogleg left par 4. You have to hit it far enough to get a clear 2nd shot, but not too far to go over the hill. A long cart ride to #2 finds a par 5 that is another dogleg left hole. Because of the uphill nature, it’s difficult to reach it in two, but not impossible for long hitters.
The downhill par 4 3rd is the first hole of strategic merit. A bunker in the middle of the fairway dictates which club to use off the tee. Although the 2nd shot continues to go down the hole, I find it’s still better to hit driver off the tee and hope for the best.
I’m not sure how I feel about hole 4. I do like the hole; a mid-length par 3 with a carry over a creek. However, this hole is always in bad shape when I play. If it’s not the green with turf patches on it, it’s a loss of grass at the tee box. I think removing a few trees and adding fans could help the conditions here. Hate to call this out, but in the 10 or so times I’ve played Aston Oaks over the years, hole 4 is always in rough shape.
Hole 5 is one of the more difficult holes on the course. The tee-shot must carry the valley. The fairway goes significantly uphill; so much that this hole is cart path only. A slightly undulating green makes approaches a bit tricky, but since the hole plays 1-2 clubs uphill as it is, the goal is just to reach the green any way possible.
The 428 yard, #1 handicap, par 4 7th ranks up there with the 3rd and 4th at Sharon Woods as one of Cincinnati’s most difficult public par 4s. Thankfully, the right side is now a lateral hazard instead of OB. The tee-box is up on a hill and the play must make a decent carry to reach the fairway. The fairway goes uphill and to the left. Hit it too far left, and you’re likely to lose your ball down the hill. An approach to a draw green must not be short and left.
Thankfully, 8-11 provide a bit of reprieve. 8 is a moderate par 5 that is easily reachable in 2 for longer players. High Handicaps may struggle with the fact you need to carry about 120 yards from the end of the fairway to the green. Across the lake, there’s a fairway to the left of the green that provides an out, but I never see people hit it there.
9 is the best hole on the course in my view, made better by the addition of the overlooking clubhouse. Anything from driver to iron is an option off the tee. I find a good 5 wood gets you close enough for a short wedge 2nd without risking one of the fairway bunkers. There are bunkers protecting the green. The bailout is left of the green as anything right falls into a valley and is likely dead.
The back 9 starts out with another short par 4 at 10. The uphill nature of the hole makes it a bit more difficult than 9, although there is less trouble around the green. 11 is a fairly short par 5 where big hitters must think birdie at worst. A wide fairway moves towards a green that is open on the left and protected by a bunker in front.
In Aston Oaks’ early days, hole 12 gave you a grand view of the Ohio River.
Since then, a lot of houses have been built and the view ain’t so grand as it was, though still very pretty. Oh, and speaking of housing, there’s plenty of it on 12. If you slice the ball, I recommend you trod carefully on this hole. Even though the fairway is wide, it ends on the right with condos and slopes left to the valley below. Not as easy a hole as it looks.
I was going to take a video of the ride from 13 green to 14 tee, but I decided not to. But take my word; it is, shall we way… scenic.
For me, 14 is the last decent hole on the course. A slight dogleg right, the hole commands a fade off the tee and on the approach. This is a tough green to hit, protected by a bunker short and right. Anything not on the green is either un-findable or a tough up and down.
15 is a dropshot par 3, which you had a chance to play already at 6, save the green undulations.
16-18 run through a creek valley and are a stark contrast from the previous 15. Unfortunately, these holes, like #4, tend to get pretty beat up; mostly because they don’t drain well. 16 is a par 5 that even the best professional would have trouble reaching in two. From the tips, you actually cross the creek 4 times from tee to green. Even if you hit a great tee shot, the type of shot required to reach the green in two, which is small and protected by a stone wall, is not worth the risk. Generally another iron to the other fairway and a wedge in will put the player on in regulation.
17 is there because it had the land left in between 16 and 18. As far 18, it’s a disappointing finisher. A short par 4 that gives the player no chance to drive the green. The fairway slopes a bit from right to left. The approach must be carried over the creek and avoid the protecting bunkers. When I played, they were in the process of rebuilding the green, so a mandatory “two putts and get off” was in affect.
It’s tough for me to recommend this course for anyone outside of the Cincinnati area. Conditioning, while improved, continues to be an issue here. The last 3 holes are in a valley which doesn’t drain very well. 16 was downright unplayable when I visited. I would suggest adding fans to the greens on 4 and 18 at the very least. The GPS on the carts is good as is the new restaurant, which fills a void for dining options around the neighborhood. For a Cincinnati sub-division course, I would recommend Walden Ponds in Hamilton over Aston Oaks. In fact, for the $45 rate (which was discounted from $49), I would much rather walk a course like Miami Whitewater or Neumann Muni twice before I would play Aston Oaks once.
OINK Rating – 3