Aberdeen, Md. ' The heartwarming glow that is The Sportlight dimmed briefly as night fell over Aberdeen, Maryland. Beechtree Golf Club, a Tom Doak design conceived and built before Pacific Dunes catapulted his meteoric rise to stardom, hosted a somber yet eager gathering on this warm Saturday in early fall. Fourteen ardent golfers 'dutiful students of golf design, enthusiastic supporters of Doaks work, and intrepid travelers all' came to pay their last respects to a dying Golf Magazine Top 100 course and a well-celebrated gem. Beechtree closes its doors forever on December 7 to become a housing complex. Its a dark day for the game; a great light soon goes out.
Opened in 1998, Beechtree quickly outshone all its competition in the greater DelMarVa region with its cunning design features, tranquil natural setting, ingenious green contours, and competitive $95 high season price tag. Only nearby Bulle Rock, host to the LPGA Championship, can hold a candle to Beechtree, but Bulle Rock charges $50 more, remarked Gerald Mirotti, a D.C. area golfer I met randomly at dinner in Adams Morgan the night before the gathering. Because of Doaks stature, the course has a place in golf history, he continued fervently. Whether it was for a tournament or just a fun round, playing that course was one of my fondest memories of the game. Its a terrible loss to golf.
Golfers from across the country agreed. Organized by members of Golf Club Atlas, (GCA, an online think tank which analyzes and discusses the nuances of course architecture and includes Doak himself among its 1,500 members), members expressed widespread dismay and quickly scrambled to make one last pilgrimage to pay their respects.
Beechtree Golf Club will become housing for some of the thousands of government contractors and civilians impacted by Base Realignment and Closure (B.R.A.C.). Specifically, many workers are transplanting to Aberdeen Proving Grounds from Ft. Monmouth in New Jersey.
The Proving Grounds are an important military and governmental cog. They are the science behind munitions, and theyre really good at it, said one relocatee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But many of us still lose in the long run. Im not happy about this. Im just starting a family and Im deeply concerned about the school system. Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and the other nearby districts are not as strong as other areas such as Belair or Fallston, he adds, the concern showing on both his face and that of his pretty young wife.
Theyre also certainly not as strong as where we lived before, she adds, frustration edging into her voice. We may have to send the kids to private school, but the costs are staggering to a young family. Rolling waves of relocatees such as this young family will arrive between 2010-2012, so the loss of Beechtree is a fait accompli; December 7 is a hard deadline.
Still, players and staff alike are finding it hard to say goodbye because Beechtree feels so natural, so understated. Its comfortable, welcoming, and charming: its like a warm cable sweater on a cold winter day in New England. To quote Paul Simon, began one player from Boston, whose name I didnt catch, losing love is like a window in your heart, everybody sees youre torn apart. This feels like losing a friend.
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Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.
By Jay Flemma