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Kentucky’s Lassing Pointe is Top Shelf
Just about every golf course has a signature hole. But how many have a signature green? With all due respect to the 17th at TPC at Sawgrass, there’s one in the Bluegrass State that might just take the cake… and a few snorts of Kentucky’s finest bourbon for good measure.
Located about 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati just over the Ohio/Kentucky border, Lassing Pointe in the heart of Boone County is widely accepted as the state’s No. 1 public golf course. This Dr. Michael Hurdzan-designed masterpiece is well-known for its exceptional, user-friendly design and superb conditions amongst locals and visitors, alike. And while just about every hole comes across as above average, it’s the 441-yard, par-4 No. 18, and in particular its over 100-yards-in-length narrow green, that generates the most buzz and fuss. It’s as if folks have never had to sink a putt longer than some short par 3s to make birdie or save par. Wimps.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Lassing Pointe, which debuted in May 1994, shines a spotlight on municipal golf. Both it, and its sister facility Boone Links (formerly Boone Aire CC) nearby, are county-owned courses that bang the drum for affordable public play. Hurdzan, who is responsible for over 400 layouts around the world including many in the Midwest, is well-versed in creating unique and imaginative designs that challenge low-handicappers while maintaining a playable likability for casual golfers. Lassing Pointe is no exception. It has hosted both the Kentucky Open and NCAA Regional Championship, so it has the chops to provide a solid test. But beginners will love the layout, too, for its forgiving fairways and large greens which provide accessible targets on approaches.
Measuring 6,724 yards from the back tees, the property’s rolling terrain and collection of streams, woods and ponds allowed Hurdzan to design a great mix of holes. You’ll find both open and tree-lined fairways, scenic vistas, more than 60 fairway and greenside bunkers, water on eight holes, elevated tees, raised greens, and plenty of strategic risk-reward opportunities. What you won’t find, thankfully, is any residential or commercial development to ruin the mood.
The layout has a comfortable ebb and flow to it, with both nines working effortlessly away and then back towards the clubhouse. And while it is ostensibly a thinking man’s type of course, it has few of the trappings often associated with target golf. It will reward aggressive play with scoring opportunities, but will also accommodate those who prefer a more conservative, avoid trouble and aim for the middle-of-the-green strategy. The first hole, a 525-yard (middle tees) par 5, is a prime example. It begins with a relatively easy downhill tee shot to a wide fairway. Golfers then have a decision to make. The fairway splits with the left side being narrower but leaving a more receptive shot at the green. A second shot to the right fairway is the easier layup, but forces an approach over the front-right greenside bunkers. The putting surface stretches nearly 50 yards wide, giving players their first taste of Lassing Pointe’s oversized greens.
Playing to a par of 71, the course includes five par 3s that all require a carry of some kind. The 167-yard No. 2 is played to a green wedged into a hill with a large, deep sand trap out front and smaller pot bunkers in back. Number 14, in contrast, plays a similar length but is all carry over water. The par 3s are balanced with four par 5s, with the 471-yard No. 8 being one of those holes that can make or break a round. It begins with a semi-blind tee shot to a wide fairway that gives up a ton of roll. From there, an easy layup zone is provided for the second, although some golfers will be tempted to go for the green in two. To do so you’ll have to contend with a small pond in front to consider eagle. A bunker wraps around the inlet-style green, which is heavily undulated and only 25 yards or so from front to back.
Lassing Pointe closes with three par 4s, each with its own unique set-up. Number 16, which plays just 275 yards from the middle tees, serves up a getable birdie opportunity. The fairway is wide and receptive up until about 125 yards from the green, where it tightens considerably and brings bunkers into play. Trees can also block the approach if the tee shot drifts too far right. This is a fantastic short par 4 and one that exemplifies the subtle risk-reward decisions the course provides. The 17th is a mid-length par 4 which moves slightly to the left. It, too, offers a good scoring opportunity with an open fairway and short- to mid-length approach. Hurdzan must’ve designed Nos. 16 and 17 with the closing hole in mind — an olive leaf, perhaps, before all hell breaks loose.
Number 18 is loathed by some, loved by others, but impossible to forget. As one publication described it, “The drive is easy but the approach is nothing less than insanity.” Most golfers will have no trouble finding the fairway, arguably the widest at Lassing Pointe. It’s the approach, and in particular the hole placement that day, that causes so much consternation. The peninsula-designed green, over a football field in length but only about 20 yards across at its widest point, is squeezed on three sides by water. Depending on the cup location, everything from a wedge to a long iron may be required to get your second shot anywhere close to the pin. There is a slope just to the right of the green that will occasionally provide a friendly bounce. Any approach that ventures too far left will find the same lake that players had to navigate earlier at No. 14. Whether you finish with a birdie or double par, be sure to stop by the tombstone of a Revolutionary War soldier who is buried very close to the 18th green. It’s a solemn reminder that the shots we take, as opposed to those taken by those who have served our country, are never a matter of life and death.
Lassing Pointe is an exclamation point for how public, municipal golf can be of the highest quality but void of the punative greens fees demanded by many upscale daily-fee courses. It is, as its core, an engaging and fun test of golf where really good players and those of us not so good can share the same fairways and come away with the same sense of accomplishment.