Aberdeen Amenity: Beechtree Golf Club Sparkles
Golfers willing to spend $100 and more at one of today's upscale daily fee venues no doubt bring with them expectations to match those high end fee structures.
Low handicappers want the risk/reward shotmaking to bring out their best without demanding the precision and perfection of the PGA Tour. And mid to high handicappers want a chance to shoot their number without spending a white knuckle day traversing forced carries or seeking safe havens requiring shots at the far end of their capabilities.
And, without a doubt, all expect to play at a crisp pace without feeling like they're on a chain gang supervised by an overzealous staff of trusties.
Well, opening quietly in June of 1998, Beechtree Golf Club, tucked away in the thick woods and undulating meadows of Aberdeen, Maryland, has already firmly established itself as passionately committed to meet all those expectations and more. It is as elegant and stately a track as you'll find anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic, yet void of the glitter, pretension, and trickery sometimes used to command top dollar for daily fees.
Overall, Beechtree's firm fairways and firmer greens demand precise shotmaking for birdies and pars, yet the course affords considerate landing areas for us bogey golfers who tend to wind up there inadvertently rather than intentionally anyway.
Tom Doak, considered one of America's hottest young architects designed Beechtree with a commitment to building a course that conformed as much as was practical to the original lay of the land. And with this parcel of land seemingly as naturally conducive to hitting a golf ball as Beechtree has turned out to be, the result is definitely a case of less being more.
Doak's design called for an open, heathland-style front nine that will make any kind of wind a real factor in play. Yet the first four holes include two par threes and a short par four (300 yds from the middle tees) that are meant to get your game and confidence off to a good start, regardless of weather or grade of game you happened to show up with.
Then the fescue (actually combinations of Bluegrass and something else you don't even want to wind up in at all) begins to hit the fan from the 5th hole on, where the distances and elevations demand more in terms of accuracy and planning to some blind targets. And by the time you reach the split fairway 555-yd 8th hole - your second consecutive par 5- you could be sensing your hope of breaking 90, 80 or 70, was more fantasy than reality.
And just when you feel you've had enough, and are looking for more of the kinds of holes you started with, you make the turn to the back nine, with its tight tree-lined fairways that can trigger an attack of claustrophobia. One consolation is that all those stands of beech trees will help calm the wind. (My experience there also taught me it was easier to convert a barkie of the smooth trunk of a beech, rather than the gnarly surfaces of cherry or oak.)
But nothing keeps you out of the woods like a solid tee shot, and a solid - not perfect - tee shot is all you need to stay in play. Contrast that with a lot of other upscales where near perfection can still result in lost balls, penalty shots or fudging the local environmental restrictions (along with dark thoughts of how your greens fees could have been better spent helping the poor, or making an extra payment on your daughter's braces).
Keep it playable - meaning out of the 65 strategically but fairly placed bunkers, and away from the stream that meanders through eight of the holes - and by the time you've reached the 18th (the only back nine par 5 aptly named Amen), you should be very likely walking off feeling all your prayers have been answered.
Another satisfaction will come when you look at your watch to find you' ve done it all, good or bad, in just over four hours. And for the most part, that is the result of Beechtree's Forecaddie Program, an amenity you'll find at only the very best resorts around.
Your $115 greens fee includes not only greens fees, cart, and practice balls, but also a real live forecaddie (for twosomes through foursomes). Very knowledgeable and attentive, your forecaddie will help you set up your shot from tee to green, and give you a read on your putt (only if requested). If you execute correctly, you will be amazed (myself) and pleased (the rest of you) with the result.
Several times I would have clubbed short, or went directly for the green that would have never held. But thanks to a forecaddie who had managed to scope out my strength and weaknesses the moment I went running after my hat on the first tee, I wound up with more pars than I normally do playing a new course for the first time.
Conveniently located about 3 miles off I-95, and 12 minutes from another Maryland jewel, Bulle Rock, Beechtree Golf Club can fit cozily into any weekend destination plan. Situated as well within minutes of Perryville's outlet shopping, and about 30 `minutes from Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Beechtree can also serve as a fine Golf Widow weekend venue as well.
The clubhouse matches the elegance of the course, yet with a casual air about it. The cuisine - from what I sampled anyway - would be perfect to share with the spouses after a round.
In short, a day at Beechtree is a day of what all golf should be about: the chance to play well, with amenities making you feel more than a bit indulged along the way.
Beechtree Golf Club
811 South Stepney Rd
Aberdeen, MD 21001
Toll Free: 1-877-233-2487
Course Ratings and Slopes
Tee Rating Slope
Black 74.9 142
Blue 72.6 135
White 70.1 130
Red 70.4 121