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Designer of Shaker Run golf course has plans to improve links

In 2005, Shaker Run was ranked the No. 1 public golf course in Ohio by Golf Digest.

But in the 13 years since, Shaker Run, under various ownership and management groups, has lost some of its prestige at a time when the golf industry declined, forcing some public courses to close.

Now Shaker Run’s management and ownership group want to get its 27-hole championship course “back on top.”

To reach that goal, the owners solicited the assistance of the renowned Arthur Hills, who designed the Turtlecreek Twp. golf course that opened in 1979 when it was owned and operated by Armco.

Hills has designed more than 180 golf courses, including private, resort and public golf courses around the world. In addition, his firm, Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates, has been requested to renovate or modify more than 120 courses, including some of the country’s most renowned clubs, often in preparation for major USGA and PGA championships.

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Michelle Wie lines up for a putt on the fifth green during the first qualifying round of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Shaker Run Golf Club in 2005.  (FILE PHOTO)

Hills, 88, recently returned to Shaker Run to review some of the renovations and offer additional suggestions. Several times during the tour, Hills stopped his golf cart and pointed out areas that needed improving to head pro Ryan Nightingale and Joe Robertson, director of sales and marketing.

The renovations are expected to take three to five years to complete because management doesn’t want to close the course, Robertson said.

“That’s the key element,” he said.

“Fine tuning the course” is how Hills described the upgrades.

Robertson said it’s too early in the process to estimate the total cost of the extensive renovations that will include shifting several fairways, rebuilding bunkers, returning some greens to their original size and lengthening some of the championship tee boxes on the original 18 holes.

The hope, Robertson said, is to “restore the property to its previous reputation” while making the course more challenging for experienced players and more enjoyable to all golfers, regardless of their talent level.

“It’s not going to be easy, but we want to be back on top,” Robertson said.

These renovations are coming at a time when 800 homes are being built by Fischer Homes and 350 condominiums/townhouses are being built on the golf course, he said.

After seeing all the housing development, Hills said “it suggests everything is going in the right direction.”

Hills has designed numerous public and private golf courses in the area, including Weatherwax Golf Course in Middletown that has since closed, Pipestone Golf Course in Miamisburg and the course at Wetherington Country Club in West Chester Twp.

After designing Weatherwax before its opening in 1972, Hills met with Bill Verity, Armco president, and Richard “Dick” Slagle, an Armco executive who was integral in the development of Weatherwax, and Armco’s board and he was hired to design Shaker Run.

Hills called Verity, an enthusiastic golfer, “the prime mover” in the Shaker Run project.

Shaker Run was “a beautiful piece of property” that featured a rolling landscape, with drastic highs and lows, and a 135-acre lake as part of the Armco Park facilities, he said.

Verity wanted a top-notch golf course for his employees and gave Hills “no real limits,” he said.

“It’s a first-class golf course,” he said. “It had quite a reputation.”

When Hills designs a golf course, he figures out where to locate holes No. 1 and No. 18 and how to get the golfers back to the clubhouse.

“It’s not nuclear science,” he said with a smile. “It’s not that complicated.”

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