Old Town Club, North Carolina, United States of America

Sixth hole, 190/175 yards; When you stand on this tee, you’d like to have your affairs in order as the going gets noticeably tougher for the rest of the round. One of the neat tricks about Old Town is that it oozes charm even when its challenge is severe. Old Town’s ultimate trump card is that it’s both great fun (ask the members) and a great test (ask the Wake Forest golf team alums). Epitomizing this is the sixth, whose green extends the fairway as a tongue of land that falls away sharply left, right and behind. While a lot of Old Town’s putting surfaces are on high spots and/or fronted by a creek, this putting surface (the largest one on the course at 6,600 square feet) enables a run on shot and plays an important role in rounding out the variety of shots required to play the course well.

Though the high tee in the corner of the property is sheltered, the sixth green is no and the putting surface bleeds away on all sides. Plenty of tee balls find the putting surface - briefly.

Though the high tee in the corner of the property is sheltered, the sixth green is not and the putting surface bleeds away on all sides. Plenty of tee balls find the putting surface – briefly.

This newly created Coore bunker is actually thirty yards shy of the putting surface and creates a dead area from the tee. While tricky, the golfer who judges the distance properly sees his tee ball tumble onto the open green.

This newly created Coore bunker is actually forty-three yards shy of the putting surface and creates a blind area from the tee. While optically challenging, the golfer who judges the distance properly sees his tee ball tumble onto the open green.

Seventh hole, 445/345 yards; Maxwell’s time with Alister Mackenzie at Crystal Downs again seems to rear its head. On this long, uphill hole the golfer might reasonably expect an ample target for his second shot but like the cruel thirteenth green at Crystal Downs, he encounters one of the smallest, most tilted putting surfaces on the course. It’s a mere 3,240 square feet. According to White, ‘Variations of undulation and contour are at the heart and soul of this course. It’s the distinguishing bedrock of both our fairways and greens. They deserved stature and presence, so we literally unveiled these distinctive features that had long been plugged-up by trees and obscured by their long morning and afternoon shadows. We brought them to life! Undulations and contours are helpless if the golf ball does not react to them. In turn, sun and air movement helped dry out the turf, and an aggressive topdressing program firmed up our playing surfaces. Today, Mr. Maxwell’s undulations and contours once again have visual and physical relevance.’ Well said (!) and the seventh is a superb example.

Short grass and width provide options but the hole still demands exact ball striking. The ideal progression is up the high left side of the fairway where the good golfer carries the bunkers long left to shorten the approach. Balls hit center or right of center are shunted further right by the terrain, progressively worsening the approach angle.

Short grass and width provide options but the hole still demands exact ball striking. The ideal progression is up the high left side of the fairway where the good golfer carries the bunkers long left to shorten the approach. Balls hit center or right of center are shunted further right by the terrain, progressively worsening the approach angle.

Before the restoration, this was the cramped view from the seventh tee and the land was robbed of playing such a significant role.

Before the restoration, this was the cramped view from the seventh tee and the land was robbed of playing such a significant role.

Golden Age architects excelled at cutting bunkers into natural upslopes. So too do Coore & Crenshaw!

Golden Age architects excelled at cutting bunkers into natural upslopes. So do Coore & Crenshaw! This zoomed view also shows how much more accessible the green is from the left than the right.

Eighth hole, 415/380 yards; The word ‘links’ is so ill-advisedly used these days that it has lost meaning. There are links in Las Vegas for goodness sakes! Nonetheless, it is quite interesting to note that Perry Maxwell himself (a humble family man with no marketing ability) referred to Old Town as a links. For sure, its land and the way that he incorporated the landforms provide a number of links-like situations where you land your ball at Point A to end up near Point B and there are several drives like the one at the eighth where you don’t see the ball finish.

Lanny Wadkins offered one of the great lines of all time. When asked what the library at Wake Forest meant to him, he responded with words to the effect -  I always drew my drive at the eighth off its steeple.

Lanny Wadkins offered one of the great lines of all time. When asked how often he used the library at Wake Forest, he responded with words to the effect that he used it every single day — to draw his drive off its steeple on the eighth hole at Old Town!

Speaking of links, Maxwell’s 1919 visit to Scotland played an enormous role in shaping his views of what constituted good golf. St. Andrews and its rippling contours were natural favorites. Initially, Maxwell had the eighth and seventeenth greens close but not touching. It was Clifford Roberts who chided him for not building a Double Green in view of his appreciation for St. Andrews. Maxwell responded with the one and only Double Green of his career. Not surprisingly, it had shrunk dramatically over time so that Coore’s restoration more than doubled its area to a whopping 16,700 square feet. Numerous interesting hole locations abound.

Tenth hole, 410/400 yards; Another example of how routing matters, Maxwell draped the fairway over the land that disappears over the brow of a hill. If you look at the tree lines left and right you’ll see that Maxwell didn’t disturb the land one iota. A modern architect armed with heavy dozers might have altered the crests of the hills to ‘improve’ sight lines. If so, this hole, 4, 8, 12 and 13 would have been shamefully robbed of their inherent charms.  Maxwell’s innate appreciation of the land is demonstrated again at the green where the putting surface follows the high left to low right inclination of the surrounds.

A nifty approach, the golfer has lots of ways to work a ball close to the hole location - including the land which can do the work for him.

At 3,160 square feet, the tenth green is technically the smallest target on the course. Yet, it’s a nifty approach with the golfer given several ways to work a ball close to the hole location – including letting the land do the work for him.

Eleventh hole, 220/180 yards; Some folks constantly yearn for the ‘good ol’days’  – in fact the good old days at Old Town are now.  Coore & Crenshaw’s work combined with O’Neil Crouch’s superior greenskeeping practices make Old Town the best it has ever been. Take this hole where Maxwell beautifully and seamlessly let the fairway feed directly into the putting surface. All skill sets can enjoy it. However, several decades ago, a berm was added above the creek bank to keep water from overflowing. As a result, the ground in front of the green on this long par three was usually soft and spongy. The green could only be approached through the air. Enter Dave Axland, who cored out the approach, brought in a sandy topsoil mix and massaged the grade of the ground so that the entire area in front of the green plays fast and firm. Now, Maxwell’s full vision for this hole is revealed.

Though the eleventh lays peacefully upon the ground, a lot of work was required to ensure that it plays as well as it looks.

Though the eleventh lays peacefully upon the ground, a lot of work was required to ensure that it plays as well as it looks.

Twelfth hole, 455/415 yards; Old Town’s stature within the state of North Carolina and within Maxwell’s portfolio is elevated by three superlative holes on the back that share a common design trait. The holes are here, fourteen and seventeen and though straight, they are multi-optional. Here, some golfers beat a ball along the high left side as it provides for a one club shorter approach. The rub? The approach is blind. Other golfers aim for the middle and allow the tilt of the fairway to drift their tee ball into the lower, flatter quadrant of the fairway. From there, a good amount of the putting surface and the flag is visible even as the sideway roll has robbed the tee ball of forward distance. Each and every day the golfer is greeted with the same wonderful question: How shall I tackle this hole today? Such a pleasant conundrum keeps the course fresh round after round, year after year, generation after generation.

Most inland courses lack topographic interest found among the random landforms so plentiful on links courses.  Not so here as the distant directional pole suggests. Links lovers will be reminded of Rye or Brancaster.

Most inland courses lack topographic interest found among the random landforms so plentiful on links courses. Not so here as the distant directional pole suggests. Links lovers will be reminded of Rye or Brancaster.

As seen from high left of the fairway, the ~200 yard approach is blind.

As seen from high left of the fairway, the ~200 yard approach is blind.

On the right, more is revealed.

On the right, more is revealed.

The largest bunker on the course occupies the hillside left of the green. Its presence is felt throughout much of one's round. One could be forgiven for thinking that we are in Maxwell's beloved Midwest.

The largest bunker on the course occupies the hillside left of the green. Its presence is felt throughout much of one’s round and it took Coore & Crenshaw nearly three months to complete. One could be forgiven for thinking that we are in Maxwell’s beloved Midwest.

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