Award win­ner:

Golf Ad­vi­sor ranks Ash­ton Hills one of the top rated golf cour­ses of the spring

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SHA­KEEM HOL­LOWAY news@cov­news.com

Golf Ad­vi­sor has ag­gre­gated re­views (10 min­i­mum) from dif­fer­ent golf web­sites to find out the top 20 best rated cour­ses in the na­tion in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2015 (April through June). Cov­ing­ton; s own Ash­ton Hills Golf Club came in at 14th in the na­tion and sec­ond in the state.

Golfers who have played the course in the sec­ond quar­ter, which is a boom­ing pe­riod es­pe­cially in Ge­or­gia when the Mas­ters are go­ing on, gave rave re­views of the course. One golfer said on gol­fad­vi­sor.com, “I re­ally en­joyed this course. The hills and moun­tains makes for unique shots. The fair­ways were in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and the greens were out­stand­ing.”

Another user said, “In town for busi­ness and de­cided to give Ash­ton a go and so glad I did. The course lay­out is breath tak­ing and in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion. It rained both days that I played and was cart path only but even still it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence. Tee box to green was as good as it gets. Chal­leng­ing and multi level greens make you re­ally pick your shots care­fully.”

Clearly, Ash­ton Hills is a fan fa­vorite, and it be­gins with the staff and golf pro Bryan Raines.

“It’s re­fresh­ing and sat­is­fy­ing to know that hey you fin­ished bet­ter than ev­ery­body in Ge­or­gia ex­cept one golf course. That’s re­ally cool and I was real proud of it. My whole staff was very proud,” Raines said.

The cour­ses were rated on over­all con­di­tion, value, pace of play, staff friend­li­ness, food & bev­er­age and course con­di­tions. Ash­ton Hills re­ceived 4.5, 4.5, 4, 4 1/4, 4 and 4 stars re­spec­tively.

The course con­di­tion and staff friend­li­ness were high­lighted as bright spots when vis­it­ing Ash­ton Hills.

“One of our mantras would be try­ing to make it feel like they’re a mem­ber for a day rather than just some guy com­ing in pay­ing their green fees and send­ing them out,” Raines said. “You want to try and make them feel welcome, make them feel like we’re ap­pre­cia­tive to have them here.”

“Once you get ‘em in the door that's where your in­ter­view starts and if you can do a good job with them they’re more likely to come back. Es­pe­cially for us, it’s so im­por­tant be­cause our golf course is very dif­fi­cult in com­par­i­son to the other golf cour­ses in the area,” Raines added.

Be­cause of the lack of par­al­lel fair­ways Ash­ton Hills is rated as one of the more dif­fi­cult golf cour­ses in the area so Raines and his staff, es­pe­cially main­te­nance su­per­in­ten­dent John Fields, have to work twice as hard to make peo­ple feel welcome, com­fort­able and have a good ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Golf course main­te­nance is a con­tin­u­ing process. You never get to a point where you’re done,” Raines said.

“Main­te­nance is the most ex­pen­sive thing and the most im­por­tant thing. If the golf course isn’t in good it’s just not gonna play well,” he added. “Our fo­cus the last three years has been on the con­di­tion of the turf it­self not a spe­cific of out­side playable ar­eas, the weeds and the woods and

that kind of stuff. Our golfers are so con­cerned with greens first, fair­ways and tees sec­ond and ev­ery­thing else would be a dis­tant third.”

Ash­ton Hills and its over 140 mem­bers have a less than a half a mil­lion dol­lars to spend on their bud­get for main­te­nance. They have an in­sea­son staff of 12 and an out-of-sea­son staff of eight work­ing from sunrise to sunset.

With their small bud­get in com­par­i­son to many other big­ger golf cour­ses, Raines and his staff fo­cus on the playable ar­eas and not so much on the sur­round­ings.

“The big thing that I would say about this golf course when it comes to play­ing is it puts a pri­mary fo­cus on the tee ball,” Raines said. “The fo­cus on this golf course is keep­ing it in play off the tee. It’s not a re­ally long golf course, but the rea­son it’s so hard is be­cause you have to hit very pre­cise shots off the tee. If you can hit a re­ally good, pre­cise driver or tee shot you’ve got a good shot at mak­ing par birdie, but if you hit it side­ways off the tee that’s where it be­comes very dif­fi­cult.”

Ash­ton Hills is lo­cated on 10400 Cov­ing­ton By­pass Rd, Cov­ing­ton, GA.

Sub­mit­ted photo / The Cov­ing­ton News

BRYAN RAINES

Sub­mit­ted photo / The Cov­ing­ton News

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