Diamonds in the Rough

The Oaks Course and Ashton Hills Golf Club endear themselves to local golfers by offering world-class amenities with close-to-home convenience.

by Nat Harwell

Whenever an assignment pops up, I try to keep my personal views and experiences out of the mix. Generally, my duty is to report on a given subject objectively and to present only the facts, thus allowing readers to form their own opinions on the material. However, I decided to throw caution to the wind while introducing two first-rate recreational establishments. Though many of the roughly 100,000 residents in Newton County have roots dating back to when it was first formed, more and more newcomers arrive on the scene every year. 

Let us talk about golf, a sport that frustrates the masses like no other. On the west and east sides of Covington sit two diamonds in the rough. They are championship-caliber, 18-hole layouts and fall within 200 yards of being equal in length. The Oaks Course, located on Crowell Road, has seniority; Ashton Hills, located on the Covington Bypass near Eastside High School, opened in 1997. 

The Oaks in the 1930s began its life as a nine-hole course that was owned by the Bibb Manufacturing Company and known as the Porterdale Golf Club. The local Moose Club later purchased the course, converted it to 18 holes and renamed it Fox Run. It then fell on hard times and abandonment until current owners, Dick and Nancy Schultz, reopened it some three decades ago. The Oaks has flourished ever since. It offers a modern clubhouse with restaurant, meeting facilities, pro shop, driving range, lockers and membership, all while it remains open to the public.

I played The Oaks many times as a younger man. Although any course should be fined heavily for even allowing a hacker like me to set foot upon it, I consider it a good round if I find more golf balls than I lose while looking for those I lost. My game resembles what Mark Twain once said about the sport: “Golf is a good walk—spoilt.” The Oaks’ 18-hole layout has since been renumbered, but while participating in a tournament in the late 1980s, I was overlooking the tee box on the Par 3 hole that adjoined the clubhouse. The hole featured a dogleg right to an elevated green, just behind a nearly equally elevated pond. Along came State Farm agent Bill Taylor, whose ability to “hit ’em long” was legendary. Eschewing the safe route to lay up in the dog leg, Taylor gripped it and ripped it, clearing the pond and landing on the faraway green. People still talk about that shot.

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots and you get good breaks from bad shots, but you have to play where it lies.”

The Masters Co-Founder Bobby Jones

To the east, Ashton Hills Golf Club features cart tunnels under major thoroughfares, elevation changes and a world-class layout that demands attention on virtually every shot. The course was designed by Desmond Muirhead, who left his signature on every hole. One of them featured a green in the shape of an eagle’s head back when it was known as Indian Creek Golf Club. Surrounded by sand, the hole was so difficult that management at the time removed the eagles’ head—a decision that prompted one local golfer to write the designer to apprise him. Muirhead wrote back, indicated he was humbled to have designed the course and allowed that management could do whatever it wished. He went on to tell the story behind the design of his signature Par 3—now Hole 3—as he sat in an English pub and drew it on a cocktail napkin. The hole features a green surrounded by a network of rectangular traps. Muirhead’s original plan called for the rectangles to alternate, with sand in one and water in the next.

Two local attorneys, Phil Johnson and Brian Pulliam, and golf pro Bryan Raines currently own Ashton Hills. Under their infused energy and vision, it features a clubhouse with restaurant, pro shop, driving range and membership while also remaining open to the public. Ashton Hills has been voted one of The Top 10 public courses in Atlanta and was also named one of’s Top 20 courses in Georgia.

The Oaks Course and Ashton Hills Golf Club have for years provided local golfers—newcomers and old-timers alike—with a respite from the grind of day-to-day life. Whether you play the two courses on a regular basis, frequent their restaurants or simply drive by them on the way to school or work, there is far more to both establishments than meets the eye. 

For more information, visit Ashton Hills Golf Club online at

Click here to read more stories by Nat Harwell.

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