Venue for the US Senior Open in 2002 when Don Pooley beat Tom Watson after a five-hole playoff, the Tom Fazio-designed course at Caves Valley Golf Club sits amidst the rolling hills of Baltimore County with many of the fairways routed through rather attractive areas of woodland.
The 11th edition of the Palmer Cup (an annual 8-man competition between American and European college/university golfers) was contested here in 2007 when the home team won the event by a score of 18 points to 6 points.
The two par threes on the front nine are real standouts, both of them protected by water: the 224-yard 4th plays to the largest putting surface on the course with a bail out to the right of the green whilst a couple of menacing bunkers flank the left side of the green at the 215-yard 8th.The round concludes with a couple of very strong par fours: the 480-yard 17th doglegs slightly right to an offset green that sits behind a cluster of bunkers, followed by the 460-yard 18th, where the well-bunkered home green is positioned above a small gulley to the front left of the hole.
From the standpoint of a comprehensive facility Caves Valley operates in first rate manner. The care shown to those going there is clearly top shelf. The rolling terrain is quite attractive but the Tom Fazio layout does not break any new or noteworthy ground given the healthy portfolio of courses the talented architect has created over the years.
The turf quality is superior and the detailing is present throughout the round. Few architects have the skills Fazio has in creating a canvass with a striking presence.
Sad to say, but the architects who have the biggest array of top ticket courses often fall back on the tried-and-true style of layouts used elsewhere. Caves Valley does conclude with a strong finish with two difficult par-4s holes ending the round. However, I did chuckle over Doug's comment when he opines Caves Valley is akin to a fast-food place more like Morton's.
Fazio deserves credit in creating a glowing oasis but the golf architecture is simply a bystander to the other dimensions. For many who go there that stated limitation will not register one iota. For architectural blood hounds you'll be likely one and done and looking for a more lasting scent elsewhere.
M. James Ward
Caves Valley is a great place. The course is very nice. The facility is excellent. Everything about the place is done very well. But why do I not feel overjoyed by such a great facility? It's a corporate factory. My guess is 80% of play is corporate sponsored groups...You show up and click/click/click... It's kinda like being in line at a fast food place except it's more like Mortons…..The course is nice. It is a great group of holes. But the vibe of the place wears you down and overcomes you. The playing fields are large and inviting mostly. Plenty of room to spray. A few grand holes with raised greens. Water comes into play on a number of holes. I'm hoping to back soon so I can improve my memories of the place.
When I discussed ‘favourite holes’ with the members, number 8 and 12 were mentioned most. For the scratch golfer, the par 4 11th hole offers a stern test. It plays 440 yards to a dog-leg right fairway that rises up 50 feet to a severely contoured green. Take your par and run. The driveable par 4 14th hole begins the home stretch which includes the strong & long par 4s 16th, 17th & 18th. From a championship course perspective (Caves hosted 2002 Senior US Open), the finishing stretch will have to be tamed in order to lift a trophy. The bunker complexes get bigger and more aggressive in the fairways as you make your way back to the clubhouse and really demand picture perfect ball-striking. Overall, I left the course thinking that Fazio had created a well sculpted course, although the more Fazio courses I play, they begin to feel the same and lose their memorability. The clubhouse and residences are opulent and the demographic of the membership is Baltimore’s finest.