Hard to believe the man who started Penn Station Subs would be the mastermind behind Cincinnati’s best public golf course.
I have the feeling Jeff wouldn’t mind taking this course private in a few years if he could. The clubhouse is massive and quite extraordinary. Inside are locker rooms and a huge bar area with a few TVs and even a shuffleboard table!
Outside is a deck, and closer to the 18th hole… seats from the former Riverfront Stadium. The driving range is expansive, containing a large teeing area and a good short game practice area. Top this off with a stylish clock and bag drop area, and you have yourself the typical CCFD (Country-Club-For-a-Day) experience. Oh yeah, the course is pretty good too.
The course really eases you into the round. The par 4 1st only plays 386 from the tips and has a very wide fairway. A fairway metal is probably the best option, as the fairway runs out eventually. The approach shoots into a big green, although trouble lurks short and left with deep bunkers. This won’t be the last time you’ll see deep bunkers on the course.
The 4 pars at Stonelick Hills are its strength. At the 428 yard 2nd, things get a bit tougher. The tree in the middle of the fairway will dictate where to place the tee-shot. Anything to the left of the tree has the potential to roll down the hill into a hazard. The safe approach will bring the tree into play with the second shot.
There’s a dip right in front of the green that will help short shots roll to the green, although I’m sure it could be bad if your approach hit it. You’ll see a similar ridge at #6.
Next up is the all-carry par 3 3rd. There’s not much room for error. Hitting a shot into the bunker or hill side gives a scary chip to a green that slants towards the water. And at 189 yards, it’s probably a bit longer than a typical “short” hole should be. The par 3’s at Stonelick are good, but not great. If nothing else, this hole will make you pucker a bit while your shot’s in the air.
You can redeem yourself at the 529 yard par 5 4th. There are those that don’t think much of the par 5’s at Stonelick Hills. I will agree 9 and 18 are a bit gimmicky and 13 isn’t a strong hole, but I have nothing wrong with 4 and 10. Stonelick’s layout is pretty standard on the front, but then switches to 3-3-3 on the back 9 (3 par 3s, 3 par 4s, and 3 par 5s).
The 4th is your best chance for birdie for a least a couple holes. The fairway is pretty wide. Taking it over the bunker on the left can lead to a big kick forward, setting up an eagle chance. Nothing really to worry about on the layup, but the green is protected by a deep pot bunker in front, and a decent sized bunker to the left.
Things get a bit tougher at the 5th, which is the number one handicap hole. A brutal 502 yards from the tips, this is all the par 4 you want. The fairway is pretty wide. A safe shot bails out to the right, but leaves a longer approach to the green.
From the fairway, you don’t really notice how deep the valley is below the green. But as you get closer to the hole on the left side, you start to notice how important getting your shot green side is. Take your par or bogey and move on.
If wind is going to affect your shot, it will likely come at the par 4 7th. At 400 yards from the tips, it’s not the hardest par 4, but there’s trouble left and right. A conservative shot will be a hybrid or fairway wood off the tee. I, personally, don’t think driver is a very smart option, as the fairway really narrows about 270 yards off the tee. The approach must also contend with water, and a bunker to the left.
Hole 8, 443 yards, continues the string of great par 4s at Stonelick. As with #2, the safe shot is towards the right side of the fairway, although anything too far will go into a fairway bunker that has a very deep face. A fade is the preferred shot into the green. If you’re going to miss this green, short and left is indeed the spot. Otherwise, the player must contend with a bunker that has a tree in the middle of it.
The par 5 9th is a bit gimmicky for sure, but it’s sure fun. Avoid the two lakes on the tee shot and layup. Going for the green in 2 is a real possibility from a great tee-shot.
The island green is large, but… is still an island. Not too much room for error. Those that layup must contend with water on the right. Green side, there’s a very pronounced ridge in the green, which take make putts to a left pin location very tricky. This hole can yield anything from a 3 to an X, so it’s an okay hole in my view.
The back 9 starts off with another par 5 and may contain the coolest tee box outside of Merion East’s 1st tee. The tips’ tee box is right up against the clubhouse.
For most, this 612 yard hole is a three-shotter. There’s a lot of bunker trouble in the layup and green area. Keep your layup to the right side of the fairway, as there’s more root there than it looks. Make sure your approach has enough club as there are very deep bunkers in front that make an up-and-down no guarantee.
11 is another hole like #7 where a fairway wood is probably the better option. Water is all along the right side on this 376 yard hole, but there’s more fairway room to the right than it looks. Any one looking to carry the massive fairway bunkers to the left better get all of the shot. Otherwise, getting a par on this hole becomes an increasing uncertainty. The green is shaped like a C. Watch out for any pins tucked in that back corner.
Three holes later comes the 440 yard par 4 15th. Anyone who fades the ball will need to worry about the water all along the right side (a theme we saw at 11 and will see again at 16). The fairway is pretty wide, so trying to cut the corner doesn’t make much sense.
The short, 338 par 4 16th is a ton of fun. There’s water to look out for on the right side, but for me, the only play is driver. The layup area is wide, but has water to contend with. I find that driver is actually the safest play. The only worries here could be an awkward chip to a back-right pin location.
Also, anything left will deal with trees and a pot bunker on the left by the green. Par should be a certainty, birdies are likely, eagles aren’t out of the equation, and albatrosses are even possible
17 is your prototypical brutal penultimate par 3. Requiring a long iron or hybrid, this uphill 238 yard hole can ruin any good score made on the previous hole. OB is left, so keep the tee shot to the right to minimize the damage.
The round ends much like the front 9 does… with a reachable par 5 that has water on different sides of the tee shot and approach. The each part of the fairway is pretty wide. The long driver might need to concern himself with diving it through the fairway into the water. I think only professional LDA drivers could actually reach the right side fairway.
There’s plenty of room on the layup. Going for the green in 2 isn’t as difficult a choice as it is on 9. There is a deep bunker to the right in addition to water on the left, but at least there’s no island green. This hole is fun come member-guest events as activity on the deck can cause a bit of nerves.
The course experienced some growing pains in its first year of operation. Many of the greens burned out, which required the installation of fans on certain greens. I’m happy to say that the course has been great ever since. To me, this is the best public course in Cincinnati. Better than Shaker Run, Lassing Pointe, or any other course. If you visit the Cincinnati area and are looking to play golf, I would suggest you check this trek out.
Course is not really walkable due to length between tees. You might be able to do the back 9, but the front 9 is probably out of question. Course is not the cheapest to play on weekends ($75 peak), but weekday and twilight rates make it a bit more affordable ($59). The time to play Stonelick Hills is during winter rates, when you can play for $39 on weekdays and $45 on weekends. Although they had recently aerated the greens and tees, the fairways were in fantastic shape.
OINK Rating – 8
November 3, 2010: I failed to mention in my original post how awesome the ranger was the day I played. We had two slow foursomes ahead of us. It looked for certain to be a 5+ hour round. However, by the 5th hole, the ranger had enough. He very vocally “encouraged” the groups ahead of us to move up. Easily turned a 5+ hour round to a 4.5 hour round, which is fine for me at a public course on a weekend. It was quite refreshing to see a course enforce the pace of play as much as they did that day.