Note: I last played in 2014. Conditions and other variables may have changed since my play.
Its tournament credentials include hosting the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links. Hosting a Pub Links is not a unique attribute in Cincinnati golf, as Glenview Muni also hosted a Pub Links. What made Shaker Run’s unique is the inclusion of a certain female contestant. Michelle Wie qualified for the event, made it into Match Play; losing to the eventual winner, Clay Ogden. Looking back through the contestant list, I found another familiar name: one Anthony Kim was the Stroke Play leader and made it to the semi-finals.
There are three 9s at Shaker Run. The original routing (Lakeside/Woodlands) is the way to go. I’ve played Shaker Run a handful of times, and I’ve yet to play the Meadows 9. I wish I would have many years ago before 7-9 got placed in the middle of a sub-division. Of course, the Master Plan at Shaker Run has a lot of homes being added adjacent to the course. Evidence of that is already in place at Lakeside #4.
The original configuration of Shaker Run starts with Lakeside #1. A fairly wide open fairway that condenses in the driving area. Need an accurate iron shot into the green. Right is dead.
The second hole is a short, drop-shot par 3. The green is narrow, but wide. There isn’t any bail out short, so better to be long. Anything too long though will likely land in one of three bunkers, leading to a downhill bunker shot with water on the other end.
4 was played as a par 4 at the Pub Links. For everyone else, it plays as a short par 5. The tree in the middle of the fairway was alive during the Pub Links, but appears to since be deceased; yet, it remains. The fairway on the right side was in pretty rough shape when I visited. Probably for the best, since you really should aim your shot to the left side for a better approach in two. Greenside, there is a hazard on the right side that will received any blocked shots.
7 and 8 are fairly interesting holes. The former is a par 4 that I think would be improved if they moved the fairway bunkers left and removed the small fairway. I suppose it’s to have a better look at the downhill green, but they seem silly to me. 8 is a birdie opportunity as long as you play the hole correctly. A strong draw off the tee will put you in great position; as long as you know the distance. Michelle Wie highly underestimated the distance here her first day and ended up with a bogey. The green has a nice backdrop of the lake, but requires an accurate approach to hold.
The closing 9s at Shaker Run both hug the lake. Woodlands #9 is a dogleg right whereas Lakeside #9 is a dogleg left. Lakeside’s I think is the harder of the two. Like 18 at Sawgrass, a draw is the ideal tee shot. Take the wind into account and bite off as much as you want to chew.
The Woodlands 9 starts out with the most open hole on the golf course. There are plenty of bunkers, yes, but the fairway is quite wide. The layup area has a couple of bunkers guarding it, but it really shouldn’t be a problem. Those going for the green in two will take on a green protected by three bunkers.
The 2nd hole is probably the most modified because of ash borer. However, I think it’s actually a better hole for it. The drive is still open, but recovery for a bad tee shot is more open with the trees gone. Green slopes big time from back to front, so being below the hole is a must.
Some like hole 3 and some despise it. Put me in the latter category. The tee shot is blind and the fairway runs out at about 150 yards. From here, the hole dives steeply downwards, then rises again with a forced carry over a creek. Those at the top of the hill will deal with an elevated, downhill lie. There is a fairway area short of the green to layup to. Personally, not a fan.
The signature hole at Shaker Run is Woodlands #5. It’s 203 from the tips with about a 40 foot drop-off. It’s nice, but let’s be honest; it’s very basic Arthur Hills to have a drop shot par 3. Ignore the white tees at the bottom of the hill, and play the hole from the top of the hill, no matter what. There’s plenty of bail out to the right. A nice high fade should find the green.
At number six, I actually saw a contestant attempt to drive the green here. His ball got lost in all the trees and he ended up with a double bogey. My advice would be a hybrid down the middle, leaving a mid to short iron in. Maybe it’s my skill level talking, but I plain don’t like this hole. There’s a very small (5-10 yards, maybe) area in the fairway where the ideal tee shot can be placed. My tee shot landed in the fairway, but was completely blocked of its approach to the green by a tree. Perhaps my playing skill can be criticized for not being able to hit a 20 yard fade into the green to get around the tree. I’ll hear that.
7 Woodlands is another hole with a tree in the middle of the fairway. Unlike the one at 4, this one is very much alive. The tee shot must be left of the tree to have any chance in reaching the green on the approach. Unfortunately, that area of fairway isn’t very big. The fairway stops before the green, removing any chance of a run up shot. Another not very good hole.
The penultimate hole is a par 3. I feel like I see a lot of those. This one gets you out of the trees and back into the Meadow area. This one can be tough to gage, as the dam blocks out any feel of wind from the tee. Go for the middle of the green and two putt.
The final hole goes back to the lake, but plays opposite of Lakeside 9. The fairway is fairly generous for a driver or fairway wood. The forced approach must clear the water, though there is bailout room to the left; albeit with blocking trees. Again, bite off as much as you can chew on the drive.
I’m not even sure they let people walk. The Lakeside 9 is doable. Woodlands is where you’ll run into trouble. There’s quite an uphill hike from 3 green to 4 tee and 6 green to 7 tee, plus a good hike from 8 green to 9 tee. The downhill walk from 5 green to 5 tee is no picnic for one with slippery spikes. At the Pub Links, they carted the players up and down these hills. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but you better be in shape.
I hadn’t played Shaker Run since the Pub Links until recently. I must say I think the course is better for the ash borer coming through and eliminating some trees. In fact, I think even more trees can and should be removed. Conditions when I played were spotty. While most everything was okay, the greens were pretty disappointing; especially at Shaker’s price. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for punching, but I could tell there were a few spots that were just bad and in need of TLC. At least the bunkers were in good shape.
I was going to play the Meadows and make it a 27 hole day, but a 4:40 round on a Thursday morning squashed any thoughts of that. It seems no matter when I play a highly rated public course in Ohio, I seem to have a 4:30+ round; my last round at Stonelick Hills the exception. Bad luck? Coincidence? I dunno.
I think the course’s past conditioning and reputation give it the status it has. Maybe I just caught it at a bad time; maybe my knowledge of golf course architecture has matured in the years between plays. Either way, I can’t say this is one of Ohio’s best public courses. As far as the Cincy area goes, Stonelick Hills is the clear winner in that category.
OINK Rating – 5