Avalon Lakes Golf and Country Club is located in Warren, OH about 40 minutes southeast of Cleveland and 45 minutes northwest of Pittsburgh, PA. Avalon Lakes was created by Pete Dye in the late 1960s and is one of the esteemed architect’s earliest creations.
In the late 1990s, Dye came back to rework his diabolical magic. Avalon Lakes underwent massive renovations that cost somewhere between four and six million dollars. The change took the original course from a great Fowler’s Mill style Dye course into a modern-era Dye course: target golf along the lines of the famed TPC at Sawgrass.
Avalon Lakes is ranked 67th on Golf Digest’s list of Top 100 public courses. Avalon Lakes previously hosted the Giant Eagle LPGA event for four years. The final year – 2000 – was the only time the LPGA players competed on the redesigned course.
Avalon Lakes will test your game. Heck, it’ll test a PGA Tour player’s game for that matter. Be honest with yourself when choosing a set of tees Avalon Lakes as this is a true championship-level golf course that can be stretched to 7,551 yards from the back tees. Water comes into play on 12 of the 18 holes. Inside the 7,500-yard tees, four others are available. Position three is likely the most playable for the average golfer, and the course plays 6,491 yards from those tees – more than enough to test every club in your bag and let you hit driver plenty of times.
With the 1999/2000 renovation/remodel, Avalon Lakes became a modern Pete Dye creation. You will see a little Sawgrass and a little Kiawah Island at the 17th. Fairways are wide in the areas where Pete wants you to land the ball and narrow where he doesn’t. It’s target golf at its best disguised as a parkland course. There are eighteen great holes here.
From the tee, the temptation to pull out the driver on a hole can overwhelm you. Beware, this is a fun course to play but you must think your way through your round. At Avalon Lakes, misses come with a cost. There are hazards of all sorts – trees, sand, and water to contend with. Most holes have at least two of the three hazards mentioned. The green complexes are guarded with many bunkers and the ones closest to the green usually are very deep and have steep faces. Many of the greens have water to help derail an arrant shot.
To add to the beauty of this course there is mounding around greens fairways and virtually everything else on the course. Dye has taken a relatively flat piece of land and turned it into a mounded near-moonscape at times. The mounds are placed in front of greens to deflect shots that come up short, and around the greens to ensure you’re not going to have a level lie on any attempt to get up and down, including from the devilish pot bunkers. The mounds around the green add to the illusion – on more than one occasion a putt will look like it is surely uphill and right-to-left when in reality it is just the opposite.
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Avalon Lakes is the Avalon Holdings Building. The curb appeal from the street is that of an elegant estate. A quick minute dropping off of your clubs, park the car, and head into the pro shop. The carts have leather wrapped steering wheels, GPS, and mag wheels. Remember the days of the three-wheeled Harley Davidson golf carts? We’ve come a long way.
The grass driving range is a range rat’s dream come true, trust me. Vijay’s got nothing on me when it comes to range time. Each hitting station has its own nicely stacked pyramid of balls just waiting to be struck. With five target greens to hit to ranging from 100 all the way out to 270 yards, and yardage stakes down the center of the range, a warming up your full swing is not a problem. Those wishing to work on their short game will find a chipping area complete with a bunker and every possible lie. The range even has a fairway bunker.
Everywhere you look you can’t help but notice green lushness of Avalon Lakes. Even in the middle of a long drought the course is verdant and healthy. From tee to green every hole is an immaculate jade. The rough is thick and can bite you if you get into the wrong areas. I guess they use the lakes for more than collecting ProV1s. I play here a lot and it is extremely hard to find brown areas – a big kudos to the superintendent and the maintenance crews.
The fairways as I mentioned are wide and playable. They have a nice tight cut but are kept slightly on the damp side, allowing your ball to bounce with a little roll on a nicely struck drive. The fairways will allow bump and run shots if your trying to run the ball up to the green. Most of the fairways continue up to the green allowing some links-style play.
The greens here are quick and firm and tend to play at about 10 on the stimp, gaining speed later in the day as they firm up. The greens roll very true, but there are ball marks aplenty and the ball will hop on a few holes. I think repairing ball marks tends to be an issue on most courses today and I wish I could figure out how to remedy the problem. Fixing ball marks isn’t a complicated process and it sure doesn’t take that long. The superintendent told me that they roll the greens most days after they are cut.
Course Design and Layout
All of the holes here at Avalon lakes can be challenged but Mr. Dye didn’t leave a lot of room for misses. There are 150 bunkers on the course, of which at least 140 are in play. The ten that aren’t exist on an island in the middle of a water hazard… with no bridge or walkway to get to them. I think they’re there just to torture the poor soul whose drive has landed just out of reach.
Pete Dye, when building these bunkers, did not make many of these bunkers large, although that variety is on the course. Most of the bunkers are small with steep faces. On more than one hole there are catcher glove style bunkers in the fairway or in front of a green waiting to grab your ball. This is target golf, not bomb and gouge. Dye can be cruel, but at least the bunkers are pretty.
I’d like to pick out a few of my favorite holes to describe just to let you know what you will see when you play this great course.
The first hole is a terrific hole. It could probably be the 18th hole on a lot of courses. From the tee you’re greeted with 406 yards of pleasure and pain. The hole doglegs just slightly right to left with an outcropping of trees and one catcher mitt bunker guarding the left side. The right side has three bunkers and a lake. Way to let me warm up here Mr. Dye! From the fairway you’re left with 170 to 100 yards to a green that is narrow in the front and guarded by a large bunker complex to the right. The green has quite a bit of undulation and slopes from back to front. This hole is inspiring to look at and fun to play. More than one person starts their day with six on this hole.
The eighth… well… what can I say about the eighth? Let’s start with the fact that the par three plays 244 yards from the tips. The day I played for this review it measured 197 yards to the back pin location. This hole is like 17th at Sawgrass on steroids. We’ve found steroid usage, Mr. Player, and it’s the golf course! The green, for all intents and purposes, is an island green with water short, left, and long. Deep pot bunkers and grass swales guard the bail-out area to the right. Where are the railroad ties? Pete has moved on and I like it – the lake has a rock wall all the way around it that looks impeccable. This hole is visually and mentally intimidating, but a beauty as well – I rank it as one of the prettiest par threes I’ve ever played.
The ninth is another memorable hole. This is the way to mark the turning point of your round. From Position 3 (the tee) you’re faced with 344 yards of danger – definitely target golf here. Water comes into play down the entire left side and the lake has more of that great cut stone wall edging it in. Of course Dye wouldn’t leave the right side defenseless, with a large dune-like mound filled with all sorts of bunkers and disastrous lies. The green is not in sight from the tee here, but you must place a tee shot to whatever distance is your best club. I usually hit three-wood or hybrid depending on the wind and try to leave 90 to 110 yards. The green is guarded by water short and long, with more rock protruding out of the water. The green also has a deep gully that starts back right and bisects the green. Think valley of sin at the 18 of the Old Course in St. Andrews – any ball coming to rest in this area will collect off the green down in a drainage area, leaving a chip or flop with water on the other side of the green and the green running away from you.
The 11th measures 522 yards with stunning a view from the tee. This is definitely one of the water holes. With a forced carry off the tee, you can bite off as much as you like. The lake starts just off the tee runs down the right side. With all that water on the right you’d be correct in guessing there is probably bunkering on the left. Bunkers and trees are also in play down the right side. The green is guarded by bunkering on the right with water left and long. The green has a narrow opening in the front and has a lot of hidden movement. Once again I recommend walking to the other side of the hole before striking your putt. From the fairway, the green is reachable in two for a birdie or eagle opportunity.
The 17th is the first of two tough finishing holes.On paper it’s not much at 371 yards, but that’s just a piece of paper. In reality the golfer is faced with a visually daunting tee shot. There is water down the entire right side of this hole. Another large mound of earth guards the left and obscures the green from view. This is thinking man’s golf. There is plenty of room for tee shots about 160 to 100 yards from the green. With God and Country left don’t hit the ball right on this one. Here’s the catch: from 160 to 100 out the green is still not visible – it sits down in a little man-made valley with another large dune-like wall of earth guarding the left side. If the ball comes to rest left of the green the lie will be difficult with the green running away from you and towards the water. Walk away with a par here and be happy despite the short length.
I love the finish on this course. The 18th is 446 from position three. The fairway sits in a narrow chute of trees and snakes around a large complex of bunkers that start at 230 yards down the right. These bunkers rise rise 10 to 15 feet, making carrying them all the more difficult. A well-placed drive down the left center leaves a second shot that will require a draw around another cluster of trees to the green. From the fairway, the view of the green complex will astound. With an incredible bunker complex right of the green and a fountain and the Avalon Building behind, this is great looking finish. Par on this hole is definitely not the norm for most players but if the hole is played with some thought it’s not out of reach. This is a great finish to a great golf course.
Avalon Lakes is a very tough, fun, and beautiful golf course. It’s a true modern Pete Dye course that really needs to be played with thought to be fully enjoyed. The bunkers are all well placed and the holes can be played aggressively or conservatively, but misplaced aggression will make par a very difficult proposition. On the other hand, not every hole is a lay-up hole. The trick is figuring out when and where to be aggressive. With some thought it’s possible to put a very good number on the card.
Bang for the Buck
At a public rate of about 135.00 dollars, Avalon Lakes is not bargain golf course. It is a high-end golf experience in northeastern Ohio. If you’re passing through and are comfortable with the price, I highly recommend playing this course. Not only will you have great amenities, a great course, and a sweet ride, but you’ll find that pace of play should not be an issue and the course is well conditioned all summer long.
The real value at Avalon Lakes is the memberships. Memberships start at $1,000 per year and range up to $4,000. Each level requires different per-round fees and gives members access to three separate courses: Avalon Lakes, Avalon at Squaw Creek, and Avalon at Buhl. All three clubs are located within 20 minutes of each other.
Back at the Clubhouse
After playing this course, it’s easy to say there are 18 great golf holes here. I really can’t think of any boring or standard holes. The course starts off with a very fun tough hole, lessens slightly but crescendos at the eighth and ninth holes making for a great finish to the front side. Then the 10th, which is the third hardest hole, adds anticipation, which is rewarded on the drive to the 11th with an incredible view and a great risk/reward hole. As with the front side, the back decrescendos slightly with the drama building at the 17th and culminating with 18th, two incredible golf holes. All this with 13 other great holes in between. Avalon Lakes and Pete Dye – great combination.
Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Out Par 4 4 5 3 4 5 4 3 4 36 Pos 4 445 400 500 184 332 555 409 200 368 3393 Pos 3 406 368 490 168 300 504 368 186 344 3134 Hdcp 2 10 12 16 18 8 6 4 14
Hole 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 In Par 4 5 3 4 5 4 3 4 4 36 Pos 4 440 522 192 452 509 387 180 395 462 3539 Pos 3 396 508 174 420 495 378 169 374 446 3357 Hdcp 3 15 11 5 17 13 9 7 1
Tees Rating Slope Yards ---- ------ ----- ----- Pos 5 76.9 142 7,551 Pos 4 73.8 136 6,932 Pos 3 71.5 132 6,491 Pos 2 66.4 118 5,558 Pos 1 68.4 117 4,904
This review was written by long-time Sand Trap forum member and reader Matt Moorehead.