Cov­ing­ton golf course to re-open Aug. 14

The Covington News - - Front page - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

Golf pro Bryan Raines kneeled down to in­spect the putting green. The spe­cially cre­ated MiniVerde Ber­muda grass was tak­ing root, spread­ing and thatch­ing to cre­ate a smooth sur­face. The green had been dusted with sand, the fine grains of which find their way into crevices to fill in any im­per­fec­tions.

Else­where on the ren­o­vated and soon-to-open Ash­ton Hills Golf Club, work­ers were fin­ish­ing con­struc­tion on the ca­bana that will serve sand­wiches, hot dogs and drinks at the turn be­tween ninth and 10th holes. The bunkers were be­ing filled with bright white sand, and mow­ing crews were pre­par­ing to make an­other pass at the course’s fair­ways and rough.

Course and res­tau­rant open­ing

Ash­ton Hills is less than one week from open­ing to pre-reg­is­tered mem­bers, while the course will have its pub­lic grand open­ing Aug. 14 at its 10400 By­pass Road, Cov­ing­ton lo­ca­tion. For non-golfers, the day will see the ad­di­tion of

an­other res­tau­rant as the Vil­lage Grille will make its home at the course’s ren­o­vated club house.

Res­i­dents used to play­ing and eat­ing at the for­mer In­dian Creek Golf Club will notice an im­proved ex­pe­ri­ence, as own­ers, busi­ness­men Neil Baines, Randy Dick­er­son and Eddie Miller, at­tor­neys Philip John­son and Brian Pul­liam and for­mer owner and golf pro Raines, com­bined to in­vest more than $2 mil­lion in the club’s ren­o­va­tion.

The Vil­lage Grille will wel­come back clas­si­cally-trained chef Brett Ricardi, who also headed up op­er­a­tions at the for­mer Golf­side Grill. Raines said the menu won’t be dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent, but will see a few changes while of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of sand­wiches, sal­ads, ham­burg­ers, steaks and seafood op­tions.

Lunch will be served seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., din­ner will be avail­able Thurs­day through Satur­day from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and break­fast will be served on Satur­day and Sun­day from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Course changes

As for the 178-acre, 18hole course it­self, Raines said golfers will find a more player-friendly course with slightly wider fair­ways, shorter rough and greens with more for­giv­ing slopes on some holes, though those same greens will play faster with the MiniVerde Ber­muda grass as op­posed to the for­mer bent­grass.

Though the holes have been renum­bered, Raines said the for­mer holes 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 15 and 16 all re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant changes, while the re­main­ing holes had mi­nor ad­just­ments. The changes were over­seen by Raines and Athens-based golf course ar­chi­tect Mike Young, who has de­signed more than 40 golf cour­ses, in­clud­ing sev­eral in Ge­or­gia, ac­cord­ing to his web­site.

The course was re­cently re-rated by the U.S. Golf As­so­ci­a­tion and re­ceived a rat­ing of 72.9 for the long­est tee marker, ac­tu­ally slightly higher than pre­vi­ously be­cause of the faster greens. The rat­ing is what a zero-hand­i­cap golfer (a pro-level golfer) would shoot on a given course. Ash­ton Hills par will re­main 72, so a pro golfer would be expected to shoot right around par. From the short­est tee mark­ers, the course rat­ing drops to 65.

“The rat­ings went up be­cause of the pace of the greens, the new turf, but I would say the over­all hard­ness of the golf course was less­ened slightly,” Raines said. “It’s not a new, to­tally dif­fer­ent course. The greens have changes; we changed a cou­ple of fair­ways. It’s more playable for the av­er­age guy.”

Sign­ing up

As of Fri­day, 72 mem­bers had signed up, and Raines had re­ceived a to­tal of 97 com­mits from mem­bers. The ben­e­fits to sign­ing up early in­clude dol­lar cred­its on ac­counts, two monthly friend passes and free range balls to use on the driv­ing range, in ad­di­tion to get­ting to at­tend the early open­ing which is from Fri­day through Tues­day, Aug. 13.

“These (early signups) are the guys and ladies who have sup­ported us blindly. These peo­ple have joined over the past 2-3 months, ba­si­cally sight un­seen, be­cause they trust the own­er­ship and me, and they know we’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to give them the kind of prod­uct they want,” Raines said. “I felt these peo­ple are join­ing with­out play­ing and not know­ing what the con­di­tions are go­ing to be, so we wanted them to have the treat of five days for them­selves.”

One of those early mem­bers is Ralph Inger­son, who also lives in the neigh­bor­hood ad­join­ing the course.

“We’re all anx­ious to play,” he said sim­ply, not­ing a group of for­mer mem­bers has been go­ing to golf cour­ses around the area. Now, they’re ready to set­tle back into a home course.

There will be a sec­ondary early signup pe­riod un­til Oct. 1, when new mem­bers will still re­ceive free range balls and one monthly friend pass, while ev­ery­one who signs up af­ter Oct. 1 will not re­ceive any ex­tra ben­e­fits.

The own­ers are hop­ing to get up to a cou­ple hun­dred or more mem­bers, as run­ning golf cour­ses is an ex­pen­sive busi­ness. The main­te­nance alone costs more than $500,000 a year.

The golf club’s phone num­ber, (770) 385-0064, and web­site, ash­ton­hills­golf­, will be up and run­ning by the mid­dle of next week for those want­ing more in­for­ma­tion.

Gabriel Khouli /The Cov­ing­ton News

Bryan Raines ex­am­ines the greens which are be­ing prepped for the Aug. 14 pub­lic open­ing; mem­bers get to play start­ing Fri­day.

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