Thursday, August 31, 2000

Golf Course Spotlight

Elks, Shaker offer bang for buck

By Carey Hoffman
Enquirer contributor

        It's not the $64,000 Question, but it can be the $100 question for local golfers: Elks Run or Shaker Run?

        The two highest-end courses of Cincinnati public golf can approach $100 for a day of play. All-day golf, cart and range balls go for $85 at Elks Run; 18 holes, cart and range balls run as high as $75 at Shaker Run during peak weekend play.

        What do you get for that kind of cash?

        Without question, both courses deliver on their promise of providing a resort-style golf experience. Visits last week reconfirmed that these two courses belong atop any list of top local public courses. I also found that, despite distinct differences in many aspects, Elks Run and Shaker Run graded out remarkably close in overall quality.

        Employing a 10-point sliding scale, I rated each hole after walking off the green throughout both rounds. (At Shaker Run, which now has 27 holes, the original 1979 layout of the Woodlands and Lakeside nines was used).

        When the totals were figured, the difference between the two courses was half a point; Elks Run had 152 points, or an average score of about 8.44 per hole, while Shaker Run had 151.5 points, or an average of 8.42 per hole. With an 8.5 rating representing “very good” on our scale, clearly both courses have an abundance of outstanding golf.

        The strongest holes were the par-5s at Elks Run. Those three holes on the par-71 course averaged a 9.0 rating, led by the spectacular No.15, the first local hole I've ever awarded a perfect 10.0. Shaker Run's four par-5s averaged out to an 8.6 rating.

        Par-3s usually are showcase holes on resort courses. Shaker Run held the edge here with an average rating of 8.6, anchored by the No.5 hole on the Woodlands nine. That dramatic tee shot from high out of the trees remains a classic and earned a 9.5 rating. Elks Run par-3s checked in with an average 8.4 rating.

        The par-4s — 11 at Elks Run, 10 at Shaker Run — averaged an 8.3 rating at each course. Elks Run's contrasted from an average 7.9 mark on the front nine to an 8.7 average on the back. Shaker Run was a more consistent 8.3 on Woodlands, 8.2 on Lakeside.

        Character differences exist between the two courses that should be considered in determining which may be the course for you. For instance, I've yet to see Elks Run crowded on any of the three visits I've made since the course opened last year, which could be a result of its higher fees and more remote location. Shaker Run can handle a high volume of play and helps encourage it by aggressively discounting fees during non-peak times.

        Aesthetically, the heavily wooded nature of Shaker Run makes it the more visually appealing of the two courses. It also featured more holes that graded out to the 9.5 level — Nos.3, 5 and 9 on Woodlands and No.8 on Lakeside.

        Elks Run had the more consistent greens and probably the best par-4 of either course in hole No.13, which easily earned its 9.5 rating.

        Both courses were long on memorable “thrill” shots, a must for courses in their price range. Elks Run lets golfers bomb away from elevated tee boxes built high into the hills along the southeast border of the property. Shaker Run probably remains bestknown by golfers who have played it for Woodlands No.9, on which a player must carry water on both the tee and second shot.

        Shaker Run is excited about its new, 20,000-square-foot clubhouse. Elks Run is hoping for a burst of excitement in December, when Golf Digest announces its best new course awards.


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