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 in-season 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.