Maketewah Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio, has reopened its golf course following a restoration by Brian Silva.
The club was founded in 1910 after moving from the nearby Avondale Athletic Club (with that site becoming the Xavier University campus). Tom Bendelow designed the original course and, in 1919, Donald Ross carried out a redesign that included creating two new holes (the third and fourth), which are still part of the current routing.
In 2010, the club hired Silva to create a masterplan that would restore the course’s Ross identity. The $6.5 million project, which was completed in three phases, began in 2012 with work on holes two, four, five and ten, tree removal, and the introduction of a new 2.5-acre short-game area and an indoor practice facility. The second and third phases focused on restoring bunkers and greens, tee work, shifting and expanding fairways, regrassing and eliminating select cart paths.
Bunkers are now reminiscent to those designed by Ross, whether that be the existing hazards that have been restored or the new ones that have been added (25 new fairway bunkers have been built as part of the project) to better frame the holes. The Better Billy Bunker method is now featured in all bunkers.
Fairway bunkers are now more perpendicular in shape. “We’re trying to put a little movement in the bunker faces so that they capture people’s attention,” said Silva on the club’s YouTube channel, reviewing the restored course. “And hopefully capture their fancy, and that they are assisting in the site’s drama and beauty.”
With the removal of trees and bunkers, the course has become more open, with Silva introducing more routes of play from tee to green. The eleventh is one example where Silva has reintroduced this concept. The fairway has been shifted to the left to allow for two cross bunkers strategically placed near the fairway edge around 225 yards from the back tee. After the cross bunkers, the fairway shifts to the left and widens to create a risk-reward element with three bunkers built on the right side of the approach area.
Silva’s restoration has expanded fairways by two acres, which, in turn, has created more approach angles into greens.
Another key theme for Silva’s work has been reshaping the site and making use of existing slopes, with the ground game becoming a more important strategy for players. One notable example is the short par-four sixth where the rebuilt green, which has also been shifted to the right and expanded to allow for more pin positions, is now more receptive to shots running on the putting surface.
“The course has a delightful ebb and flow,” said Silva. “It’s not just a routing plan that uses the land to the best advantage, it’s a plan that creates great variety in terms of mixing the difficulty of holes together. The sequencing is really impressive, and I never feel bored at Maketewah. There is just awesome variety!
“This is a layout more like it was in the 1920s and 30s, and it is more fun and aesthetically pleasing. Maketewah knew there was disguised greatness in the golf course – they knew it could be more interesting.”
The third and final phase began in September 2022 and was completed in May 2023, with the course reopening in June. Work included regrassing tees and fairways with T1/Alpha bentgrass and adding some back tees to increase the course’s back tee distance by 300 yards while shortening the forward tees by 184 yards to make the course more enjoyable for shorter hitters. A new Toro Lynx irrigation system was also installed. Cart path work has also been completed.
“The membership at Maketewah is delighted to see the completed result of our course,” said general manager Mark Bechtel. “The course redesign is the crown jewel in achieving member satisfaction for years to come.”