A drive past Summit Hills Country Club on Turkeyfoot Rd. will take you in the direction of The Golf Courses at Kenton County. The first course, Pioneer, very much a beginners type course (save one mighty exception at hole 16) and was built in 1968. The next course, Willows, is adjacent to the Pioneer course. I’m not sure what year it opened, but it is an Arthur Hills design. Willows is a more difficult course than Pioneer, mostly due to the tough back 9.
When you play Fox Run, you sign in at the clubhouse next to the parking lot. But to actually get to the Fox Run course, you have to take what feels like a 5-10 minute cart ride; passing Willows’ 18th hole. Fox Run has its own driving range and its own mini-clubhouse.
The course opened in 1992 and is the newest of the courses at the Kenton County complex. Like Willows, Fox Run also was designed by Arthur Hills. Fox Run may very well be the toughest public golf course in the Cincinnati area. There are not many flat areas on the course, so slope and elevation must be taken into account on each shot. The course has its fair share of tough golf holes, but a couple that are just unfair in my eyes. More on that later.
The 421 yard first is probably the most level hole you will play all day. The fairway is fairly wide and inviting, with bunkers on the right for those challenging the hole with driver. It’s important to get a good score on this hole, because the of the other remaining holes don’t get much easier.
Once you hit the par 4 2nd (403 yards), you get an idea of what the rest of your round will be like. Hilly and not many level lies. A grassy area in the middle makes the fairway more narrow than it appears.
Things narrow up a bit at the par 5 3rd. It won’t be the last hole with a narrow shoot, but the fact that the hole is 530 yards doesn’t help.
The next few holes have a common theme. The fairway runs out, requiring a forced carry to the green. Both par 3s on the front 9 require a forced carry of some kind, though the punishment for missing the green on 7 is less than that of 4.
The front 9 closes with a 341 yard par 4 that, in my humble opinion, is not fair. A very narrow fairway that can’t be more than 15 yards wide, with a creek running along the right side. If you aim it safe towards the hill on the left, you’re left with a severe lie with the ball below you’re feet; plus, the walk to your ball as this hole is cart path only.
Off the tee, 12 appears intimidating. However, each time I’ve played this course, a playing partner has birdied it. It’s very uphill, and anything short will leave a blind approach (and quite a walk from the cart path). Play long, as the green is larger than it appears.
Your one break on the back 9 really comes at the 14th. Although it is a 570 par 5, its large fairway is very forgiving. It may be a three-shot par 5, but it’s a good opportunity for birdie. Or at least, a level lie.
My opinions on 17 (par 4, 402 yards) have varied throughout the years. Originally, I felt as strongly about this hole as I do 9 and 18. As I’ve played the course multiple times, I don’t feel as strongly about the hole. That being said, it’s not a good hole. The player must be careful on the tee-shot not to over do it. The approach must be very precise, as there’s not a lot of room for error to the narrow green. Right is completely dead and left doesn’t leave a lot to bail out.
The 18th hole is simply a joke. No nice way of saying it and a really bad ending to a course that’s really not that bad. There’s enough room to place a 3 wood or hybrid in the fairway area. But then you have to cross a lake and hit an approach into a sliver of fairway and to a sliver of green. If the fairway were a bit wider, it would be somewhat similar to the 18th at Stonelick Hills, which I don’t really have a problem with.
Maybe I’m a bit harsh on Fox Run. On the whole, it’s a good course. It’s not one I can really recommend to anyone outside the city of Cincinnati though. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can find it at Kenton County Golf Courses. While I think the Willows back 9 may be the toughest in the Cincinnati area, the Fox Run course as a whole is tougher than Willows as a whole.
Things are generally in good shape, but it’s probably best to play Kenton County earlier in the season (April/May). I’ve seen a handful of times where rough weather leads to rough conditioning in July/August; more so than I would say is acceptable. I actually had a couple of August events cancelled at Kenton County because the greens got so bad. But then again, I had an event in May and it was fantastic. So choose your visit wisely.
OINK Rating: 4