Last week I received a great invitation from my friend, Justin, to play at the Old Chatham Club in Durham NC. He recently joined and is making the rounds with friends who love golf as much as he does. I felt honored to get the call. This course has been one I have wanted to play for a while and it was a great way get golf ROI in prep for the US Public Links.
At first glance you can easily miss the understated entrance off Jordan Lake Rd. Many travelers don’t notice the small wooden sign marking the entrance to the piedmont oasis. This is just how they like it, hidden in plain sight among the tall pines and rolling hills. The Rees Jones design stealthily opened in September 2001. The select membership call it a “golf club” not a country club. There is no pool, tennis courts, or bridge club. The clubhouse is warm and quietly luxurious but it is not the mantel piece. The epicenter here is 7,247 yards of perfect greens and tree-lined fairways.
It was a beautiful day to play and Justin and I carried our own bags from the championship tees. I have played many Rees Jones courses (he is one of my favorite architects) since my first walk down his fairways at the Emerald CC in New Bern NC. His style is distinct. Mounded fairways, large bunker complexes, and tough par 3s. I love that his courses are out in front of you. There is no trickery or blind deception. His courses stand toe to toe with you, testing your skill and shotmaking. Old Chatham was classic Rees Jones.
The most memorable holes were the 11th, and signature 17th. The 11th hole is a 622 yard par 5. All three shots ( I dare you to get there in two) require thought. The day we played, the hole location was +10 and there was a one club headwind. It played long. Real long. Justin calls it the “longest hole in Chatham County” and I believe him. It might be the longest hole in the world, or at least it played that way. The 17th hole is a great hole. The 226 yard par 3 has water down the left side which cradles the back left part of the green like a mother lion protecting her cub. Bunkers on the right sing like Homer’s sirens as you stand on the tee. The green is generous to the player that hits it. Let me know when you meet him or her.
My only critique of Old Chatham is that the course was good. There isn’t a single bad hole on the course but there aren’t many great holes either. But it wasn’t great. I don’t remember every hole like I when I played Taconic or Grandfather CC. I remember the experience and I have never met a nicer staff and membership at a club of its caliber. Kudos for that. Even as a guest I felt welcomed and accepted. Proving again that golf bridges the gap between age, social status, and ethnicity.
photo credit: oldchathamgolf.org