Beechtree Golf Course
Eighth hole, 590 yards; When faced with an elevated landing area from a tee, many modern architects build up the tee pad under the false assumption that no one likes to hit an uphill shot to a blind landing area. Many great holes possess such atee ball (the 4th at Pine Valley, the 2nd at Royal County Down, the 4th at Royal Melbourne West, etc.) and yet modern architects continuallyrob us of the opportunity to play such holes. Similar to the 12th tee at Beechtree, Doak didn’t build up the tee pad and the hole is better for it. The golfer must pick a spot on the far clubhouse as his aiming point and away he goes on this long journey with the slope of the land trying to kick the ball to the right and the golfer battling to place hissecond shot in the left half of the fairway for the best approach into the green.
Tenth hole, 425 yards; A favorite ploy of Donald Ross was to offset the fairwayfrom the tee and Doak does the same here, creating loads of interesting diagonal playing angles. Still, the approach to the most severe green on the course may be even more fun.
Eleventh hole, 345 yards; Similar in shape to the 12th at Pine Valley, the long green is best approached from the end of the fairway, which means the golfer must skirt past the lone bunker on the right of the fairway. Theman wholays back off the tee and plays more conservatively will find that his approach is at an angle that makes the green play much shallower. Creating such interesting angles of play, especially on flat land, is a lost art form.
Fourteenth hole, 440 yards; Even though this is visually the most dramatic hole on the course, every class golfer can still enjoy it. Far too often in modern architecture, the more dramatic holes are often the least playable as the architect places troubledown both sides of the hole and on each side of the green, thus terrorizing the weaker player.
Fifteenth hole, 475 yards; As Gene Sarazen once remarked, the toughest golf should fall in the middle of the back nine and this is indeed the case at Beechtree. Though 16-18 are all clever holes, the thinking player should be able tohold his round together once he gets past the 15th hole. The attribute ofa local golfer leavinga public course on an upbeat note is a valuable one.
Seventeenth hole, 355 yards; The 17th and 18th holes at Beechtree cover over 900 yards of land. If this course had been built in the 1960s, does anyone doubt that the last two holes would have been 450 yard brutes? Instead, Doak let the holes fall where the landdictated and the result is this clever little two shotter. This gull wing green is similar to the 15th at Riviera and is the second deepest on the course at 42 yards. The only other deeper green? The 3rd at 46 yards, which is the other drive and pitch hole! Getting a wedge shot close to a hole on a large green is much more difficult than it sounds.
Given that Beechtree is a public facility, it needs to accomodate a wide range of skill levels. Based on the generous width of its fairways, it can do just that. Just as important, given the uniformly firm playing conditions that Davis presents, the better playeris continually challenged to play a variety of shots into many of these greens and so the course also holds the better player’s attention as well. Doak and Bruce Hepner, who spent the most time on site for Renaissance, are to be congratulated for achieving this hard-to-find balance.
Within the context of Doak’s other work, the greens at Beechtree are more subdued, as is the design in general, which is reflectiveofthe property’s gently rolling nature. However,thanks to a) its uniformly firm playing conditions courtesy of an owner and Green Keeper who understand the architect’s intent and b) a design that provides the golfer with numerous opportunities to use the ground, the golfer continually is both allowed and encouraged to create golf shots. Through this enjoyment of inventing shots, Beechtree becomes one of the most delightful courses to play that Renaissance has designed to date.