PARADISE Baltimore's new Caves Valley golf course is being compared to Augusta National John Steadman

John Steadman

December 07, 1990|By John Steadman

What will be a regal showplace of golf is being shaped with elegance and delicate care. It's where the enormous gifts of nature are enhanced by men sensitive to the trust and responsibility of fulfilling a noble, yet self-imposed, mission. They are building a course that will have instant credibility and earn ecstatic reviews.

It will be a green and growing monument to the glory of golf. Rank it in an ultimate comparison to the Augusta National Golf Club, which is the pinnacle in praise. There isn't anything south of Winged Foot and north of Pinehurst to equal it and even those courses, in five years, will be surpassed by the new Caves Valley Golf Club that will attract Marylanders and an international membership.

Created within 900 acres of majestic hardwoods, the towering trees stand military-straight as so many soldiers drawn to attention. It's too easy to get caught up in the imposing financial facts, meaning the $40 million spent for land acquisition, design and construction.

This is not a country club with a swimming pool, tennis courts and spa, but a golf club. There is a difference. The amenities will be similar to what is found at other elite places of golfing luxury such as Laurel Valley, Cypress Point, Pine Valley and Augusta National.

The golf course, shaped by the genius of architect Tom Fazio, has three sets of tees -- measuring 6,954 from the championship markers, 6,105 to 6,409 from the regular stakes and 5,184 from the forward alignment. Fairways and greens are the first in the area to be exclusively bent grass.

Asked where Caves Valley will fit among the 136 other courses he has designed, Fazio said, "It doesn't get any better than this. Separating quality is difficult, but I believe this is up with the best. When I saw the property, I realized what was here. Then I noticed some high-tension power lines and said, 'Gentlemen, this is going to be difficult.' But when they told me plans were to put them underground, I knew money wasn't going to be a consideration in bringing all this to reality."

Les Disharoon, retired president of Monumental Life Insurance Co., and Andre Brewster, once a managing partner of the Piper & Marbury law firm, are directing what is the most expensive and extensive golf undertaking the area has known. Disharoon and Brewster orchestrated the effort with support, in the main, from executives of the U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co., and the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., plus other business leaders in the metropolitan area.

"My dream," said Disharoon, "is to hear from someone who was sitting next to a stranger on an airplane and a conversation starts about Baltimore. Then to have either the man or woman, after learning you are from Baltimore, say how much he or she wants to be able to play this course known as Caves Valley. That's when we will know we have arrived."

If it's history you're interested in, then reflect on the knowledge that this expansive tract was once owned by Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who signed a score card known as the Declaration of Independence. The clubhouse, the earlier residence of the Kronberg family, is being remodeled while new buildings are being erected for locker rooms, an administration office, pro shop and what is called a teaching/learning center.

To assure appropriate styling, an architect was hired who traveled the state photographing what is considered "traditional Maryland-type construction." The coloring, the stone exteriors and the lead-copper roofs will project a distinct "old Maryland" theme.

All the fairways have been planted and grown in, but there will be no golf until the late spring 1991 opening. "We don't intend to show it off until it's completed," said Disharoon, "but it's tempting."

Par will be 71. Dennis Satyshur, formerly of the Baltimore Country Club and Bent Pine in Florida, is the home professional. He wasn't interested in leaving Baltimore C.C., but after receiving an offer and inspecting the site, he couldn't turn it down.

"I can't imagine anything of such magnitude," said Satyshur. "I am truly flattered to have been invited here, to be in this position to contribute to golf and to Baltimore. Some golfers will remain at their own clubs but also join here. I couldn't believe what I saw. It was almost as if someone found it rather than built it. In a word, special."

The search for the land took six years. "We wanted ideal picturesque Maryland countryside," Disharoon said, "yet be within 45 minutes of BWI Airport. We are very ecumenical. We invited black members long before the Shoal Creek incident. So far we have 100 memberships of our maximum 400. Without a doubt, it's world class.

"We believe Caves Valley is terribly important to Baltimore and to Maryland. Fifty percent of our members will be from other states, or even countries, similar to the makeup of Augusta National. We visualize dedicated golfers coming here to spend several days working on their games, taking lessons and playing the course."

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