A world tour of golf -- close to home

Short Hop

Famous holes, from Britain to Florida, challenge players at Renditions, a replica course in Anne Arundel County.

Short Hop

July 07, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff

Replica golf courses are all the rage now, but many in the course-design industry, a group previously not noted for extreme sensitivity toward the needs of the average golfer, are wondering if this is a good thing.

Does your garden-variety hacker really want to tackle a long par 5 from a famous Scottish links-style course, with killer rough lining a narrow fairway and hidden pot bunkers the size of small condominiums?

Does he or she really have the skills to parachute a tee shot over 150 yards of water to an island hole with a bentgrass green as slick as a marble floor?

Well, we can kick that around till the cows come home.

Having said that, Renditions, the new replica course that opened recently outside Davidsonville in southern Anne Arundel County, actually manages the impressive feat of being challenging without leaving you reaching for a Xanax when the round is over.

Built on 250 acres of an old sand- and gravel-mining site near the Patuxent River, Renditions bills itself as "Golf's Grand Slam Experience."

This means it replicates famous holes from courses at which Grand Slam tournaments (the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship) were held -- the only course in the country with this theme.

(The lone non-Grand Slam hole is a replica of the famous par-3 17th, or island hole, at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, which is known as golf's "fifth major." But more on that later.)

On the front nine alone, golfers can play replicas of holes from Royal Lytham and St. Annes and from Royal Birkdale, two British Open sites, and the only thing missing from the links experience are the raging gale-force winds duffers battle in the British Isles.

These two holes are followed by three holes that replicate the famous "Amen Corner" at Augusta National, revered site of the Masters. And the back nine features imitation holes from such venerable courses as Medina, Oak Hill, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills, Winged Foot and, yes, that devil-made island hole from TPC Sawgrass.

Off to a good start

Thus far, despite being relatively pricey -- greens fees are $79 Monday through Thursday and $89 the rest of the week and on holidays -- golfers have flocked to the course.

Jeff Sheehan, Renditions director of golf, said the course is averaging 200 rounds a day, and it's projected the course will average about 40,000 rounds a year.

"The golf course has been very well received," said Sheehan.

Adding to the historic ambience of Renditions is its full- service, 1930s-style clubhouse, the rich-looking wood-paneled walls decorated with pictures of famous golfers from pre-World War II to the present.

Renditions also has a banquet room that holds 170 diners and a grill room that holds 50. And the pro shop peddles everything from clubs and balls to logo merchandise.

In keeping with the turn-back-the-clock feel of the place, Sheehan said, the starters and other course workers will soon wear Bagger Vance-style knickers, vests and bow ties -- the ultimate proof, one recent visitor remarked, that the workers don't have a union.

Renditions expects to draw heavily from the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis area, which, according to a study done for the course, is home to 6 million people and is considered the fourth-largest consumer market in the United States.

Renditions, said Sheehan, will be a "regional destination draw" and will remain a daily-fee course that does not offer memberships.

"It's not a golf course you're going to make your home," he said. "If you're going to spend that kind of money [to play regularly], you're going to join a private club."

Instead, he said, the course expects to cater to golfers looking for a unique experience -- even if most of those only play the course once or twice.

"The guy who can't afford the 79 bucks all the time -- he may do it once or get to play here as a Christmas gift or Father's Day gift, something like that," Sheehan said.

"A big part of our focus," he continued, "will be the outing business. We'll target corporate outings and charity groups."

We played the course on a sunny but chilly spring weekday just three weeks after it opened and found it to be rough in spots, as are many new courses.

The fairways, in particular, seemed thin and patchy in stretches. But the greens were lush and well-manicured. They were also, mercifully, not nearly as fast as the ones on a real Grand Slam course.

I was particularly eager -- or maybe anxious is the better word -- to play the links-style holes (patterned after the rugged seaside courses of England, Ireland and Scotland) and didn't have long to wait.

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