Please note that this review is reflective of what Old Silo USED to be. Unfortunately, the course has gone significantly downhill in the interim between when I published this column in 2014 and whenever you are reading this. For a more accurate picture of the modern Old Silo G.C. experience, please see my premature obituary for the course at Requiem for a Heavyweight of Kentucky Golf – The Fall of Old Silo.
Since opening in 2000, Old Silo Golf Course in Mt. Sterling has consistently ranked as one of the best, if not the best, public golf courses in Kentucky.
Last Sunday, I made the short drive up Interstate 64 from Lexington, and remembered why Old Silo may simply be the best that Central Kentucky has to offer the golfing world.
Old Silo is set upon the rolling terrain of Montgomery County, just west of the much larger foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
The course layout includes both the gently rolling hills characteristic of the Bluegrass plateau and the severe elevation changes more akin to mountain courses further east.
The course, if I’m correct, was Graham Marsh’s first design built in the United States, and it’s hard to imagine a better or more powerful first swing. Old Silo is a fun, difficult tract that requires power, forethought, execution, and a strong short game to score effectively.
From the Blue Tees, Old Silo plays to a modest 6,485 yards. However, the extensive bunkering, elevation change, and challenging green complexes more than justifies its 72.3/134 course rating and slope, respectively.
I’m not sure if there is a defining characteristic of the course, because different areas of the golf course present unique challenges.
If anything, each time I’ve played Old Silo, the endearing impression has been that the course conditioning has been as near to perfect as one can expect in Central Kentucky, regardless of season or recent weather.
Some fairways are pretty wide with generous landing areas, while others are narrow and guarded by multiple bunkers or hazards. There are several extremely elevated tee boxes, while another handful are virtually level with the rest of the hole.
The green complexes vary from small to large, narrow to wide, and almost all of them have greenside bunkers and multiple tiers that cleverly conform to the surrounding hills and mounds.
In what I perceive as a deliberate attempt at fairness by design, typically the more difficult the tee shot, the more forgiving the green is at Old Silo.
I would argue that the course has two signature holes: the par 4 6th hole and the adjacent par 4 16th hole. The fairways of these holes are side by side, divided by the cart path and several “well, I guess I’m pitching out” fairway bunkers.
Both holes provide a view of the charming namesake old grain silo that remains from the property’s former farm days located to the far left of the 16th fairway. It is just one of many fantastic vistas and visuals that Old Silo provides, in addition to its championship caliber golf course.
The 6th hole has an incredibly elevated tee box looming above a creek-bottom flat fairway below, reminiscent of a scaled down version of Eagle Ridge’s 13th hole. Old Silo’s No. 6 has a creek at the far end of the fairway, separating the landing area from the approach and green, providing an element of danger for the long hitter.
The adjacent par 4 16th hole is a long, nervy test with plenty of danger for the wayward duffer. The fairway is guarded by its own set of fairway bunkers in addition to the aforementioned old silo (which I’ve hit on occasion) guarding the far left rough. The 16th green is guarded by Somerset Creek short and down the entire left side, without much of a bailout area.
The reason I ran all the way out to Old Silo for my Sunday afternoon round was partially motivated by the tremendous value of the club’s afternoon discount. I was able to get around all 18 holes on a cart in 3 hours for $29.00.
One of the many great things about Old Silo is that they consistently market with coupons and discounts that keep the course utterly affordable. Even at the full weekend rack rate, 18 holes with a cart at Old Silo for $49.00 is an absolute steal.
Though not quite appointed with country club amenities, Old Silo certainly offers a clubhouse experience far exceeding anything offered at the typical public course in Central Kentucky.
The clubhouse staff is always friendly, with a fully stocked restaurant and bar awaiting golfers at the turn and after a round. The pro shop is fully stocked with pretty much anything you would need at a golf course. Their ball mark repair tool – marking coin combo tool is my personal favorite accessory.
Because I’m hitting the ball better than I ever have, including my long irons, hybrid, and fairway metal, I found Old Silo less intimidating or imposing than I had in rounds past.
It’s still a difficult course, but as my game evolves from “keep the ball in play” to “get in position to score,” I discovered and appreciated more of the subtlety of Old Silo’s design.
For the first time of my dozen or so rounds there, I accepted that I needed to hit less than driver on several tee boxes, as the benefit of extra yardage didn’t outweigh the danger of being out of position (or out-of-bounds). It was kind of a big moment that I will try to remember going forward.
I needed to get out on a golf course to work the awful taste my short game and putting had left in my mouth from the PMGA U.S. Open tournament. Old Silo’s smooth, consistent greens were just the fix to get my approach and confidence back where I needed it.
Golf Magazine and Golfweek both rank Old Silo as the best public golf course in Kentucky, and I found nothing in my recent visit to convince me otherwise. There might be better public golf courses in Kentucky, but for the Bluegrass region, it’s hard to argue that there is a better course for the money.
If you are visiting Central Kentucky and only have time for one round of golf, or are from the area and need a change of scenery, do yourself a favor and experience the best this region has to offer at Old Silo.