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Blog

Brough Creek National

Mike Eovino

Golf used to be wild. It was accessible to nearly everyone, and golf courses were found, not designed. In the intervening years, we’ve managed to make golf difficult, time-consuming and expensive. We can debate why this has happened ad nauseam, but it’s become our reality. When I was a kid just starting out in the game, my family belong to a club, so I had to make up golf where I could find it. I’d hit wiffle balls around the yard, playing from tree to tree.

I love the idea of The Cradle, The Sandbox and The Preserve and how they are changing the idea of what proper golf is, but they’re all just a little too out of the way for any of us to get to, at least on the regular. That’s where Some Guy’s Backyard and their first project, Brough Creek National, come in.

I’m not exactly sure how I stumbled upon it; I was lost on Golf Twitter somewhere and happened to see something that caught my eye and took me to the SGB site. Immediately, I was hooked. Ben Hotaling is doing as a grown-up what so many of us did as kids. Figure out a way to play golf in the space he had available. I jumped on the offer of free membership as soon as I could, and now I’m member number 273. The team is doing an incredible job of raising both awareness and funds as they build out their dream and prove that anyone can build a fun and challenging place to play golf, doing it in Some Guy’s Backyard.

I do a ton of driving for work, and every place I look, I see short holes just begging to be built. I can’t wait to see them finish this up and start their next project.

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Dunes West Golf Club - Mt. Pleasant, SC

Mike Eovino

Playing Dunes West is like coming home. My father has belonged to DW for more than 15 years now, and it’s the site of my biggest win (the 2005 Dunes West Men’s Invitational, playing with my dad). I’ve played here nearly 100 times, and I think I’ve shot just about every score imaginable. I’ve broken 80, and I’ve failed to break 90. We still try to recapture past glory in the Invitational. And now that my daughters are playing, we get to play as a family.

My little one accompanied us for our front nine yesterday on one of those warm January days that make you glad your parents retired someplace warm.

The tees and fairways were beautifully green thanks to overseeding, but the greenskeeper has wisely decided not to continue to overseed in the winter, as it puts too much stress on the 26 year-old greens. I agree with the decision, but it led to some slow and bumpy greens.

The 1991 Arthur Hills design is remarkably playable for a course that’s routed through a housing development. Most playing corridors are at least 40 yards wide, and if your ball is in someone’s backyard, it was a big miss. One drawback to the course is that, like so many courses in housing developments, there are some horrendous green-to-tee walks. Personally, I’ve never walked more than the back nine. Some of my dad’s friends walk it, but they usually hop on a cart for some of the more obnoxious treks.

The front nine’s best hole is the Redan style 8th which, while not overly long (about 190 from the tees I played, 200 from all the way back) the bunkering forces an aerial attack. The only bail-out is long and left, and that leaves you in some gnarly rough.

A view of the par 3 8th.

A view of the par 3 8th.

The inward nine features a pair of good par 5s. The 11th dares a long hitter to hit a towering fade over a hazard to an elevated green for a chance at eagle. Short hitters can play well to the left to avoid the hazard, but then the green looks like a sliver of land floating in space.

The view of the hazard from behind the par 5 11th.

The view of the hazard from behind the par 5 11th.

The 15th begs you to hit it long off the tee, but fairway bunkers down the right side force you to pay attention. A set of centerline bunkers penalize an indifferent layup. A lone bunker short right guards the two-tiered green, which slopes strongly from back to front. The No Laying Up crowd would rather be in the front bunker than pitching down the hill from behind the green out of deep rough.

Looking down the 15th from behind the hole

Looking down the 15th from behind the hole

The 18th is my favorite hole on the course. It’s framed by a stand of oaks draped in Spanish moss down the right side of the hole and Wagner Creek down the left.

A look down the final hole.

A look down the final hole.

It seems deceptively simple, but the approach shot forces you to deal with the creek on the left and out of bounds uncomfortably close on the right. You can bail out long and left if you enjoy hitting a chunk and run out of deep rough to a green that slopes away from you. You can run the ball up the chute on the right, but you’d better have nerves of steel. I’ve seen single-digit handicappers lay the sod over the ball playing the final hole in the Invitational playoff.

One last look after putting out on 18.

One last look after putting out on 18.

Greens fee paid: $45 (guest of member rate, and dad paid for Allie)


A Well-placed Pair of Trees

Mike Eovino

The 12th at the Lester George designed Providence Golf Club in suburban Richmond, VA is a downhill par 5 that plays to 553 from the back tees and 530 from the middle. It would be ridiculously easy to get home in two if it weren’t for a pair of trees that sit directly in the line of play. Like Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, these twin towers clog up the middle and dominate the hole.

Highly skilled players will be thinking about getting home in two, but the trees impact your strategy right from the start. Unless you’re up for aiming at someone’s back yard and snap hooking it around the trees with your approach, you’re better off hitting a fade into the green, as you have room left of the green for days. The bunker left of the green is not a bad spot for a bail-out. The cart path and out of bounds are dangerously close on the right. In order to set up that approach, your tee ball needs to be in the right spot. Hugging the left edge of the fairway leaves a straighter shot into the green. If you can put it right on the left edge of the fairway, you have an angle at a sliver of the left side of the green without curving the ball. If you hang your tee shot out to the right, you’ll need to hit a left-to-right banana to have any hope of hitting the green. That left bunker looks better and better the farther right you hit your tee shot.

The twin trees on 12, as viewed from behind the green (image courtesy of  Golf The United States )

The twin trees on 12, as viewed from behind the green (image courtesy of Golf The United States)

The trees may be even more difficult for mere mortals. In order to have a reasonable angle into the green, golfers are forced to lay their second shot uncomfortably close to the cart path and out of bounds fence. But the braver you are with your lay up, the more you are rewarded with a better angle and shorter approach. You can bail out to the right with your second, but you’ll likely leave yourself in the rough with an extra 20-30 yards to get home.

George is famous for strategically placed specimen trees, and the 12th at Providence is a perfect example of this.

Belmont GC Escapes Redevelopment

Mike Eovino

Great news, as one of the Richmond, VA golf scene’s golden age gems, Belmont Golf Course, has been spared from the bulldozers. Plans to replace the golf course and community center with a mixed use facility including an amphitheater, an outdoor education center, a hotel and conference center, and space for businesses, offices and housing have been shelved, thanks to community activists.

Articles from The Fried Egg and Geoff Shackleford have called attention to the fact that Belmont is one of only two A.W. Tillinghast designs to host a men’s major championship that’s open to public play, and non-residents can play Belmont on a Saturday morning for $32 without a cart, compared to $150 for Bethpage Black.

The downhill, well bunkered par 3 13th hole (picture from  winecountry.com )

The downhill, well bunkered par 3 13th hole (picture from winecountry.com)

With any luck, we architecture nerds and golf tragics can convince Henrico county to do a proper restoration of the course and bring it back to its proper condition.

And by the way, there’s an original Donald Ross course just across the street. Tell me where else you can hit an eight iron over the fence from a Tillinghast and onto a Ross. We need to treasure what we have.