The dream to build a world-class club in the rolling hills outside of Baltimore began in 1977 when Les Disharoon, then CEO of Monumental Corporation, moved to the area and quickly discovered that with the exception of Baltimore Country Club, the area was lacking a certain kind of club—one devoted strictly to enjoying golf at its best. So by the mid-1980s, he and attorney Andre Brewster began an informal search for a golf course site.
Before Disharoon and Brewster even located their site, they already had laid out the standards for their club were already laid out. “We set out with several major goals,” said Disharoon. “First was to build a club that would always have room for new, significant people in the area that would create local pride. Second, to create a club membership of productive people that would have a major economic impact, and finally, to develop a diverse national and international membership.”
With the parameters of their dream club set, the search was narrowed to two potential sites, though neither was immediately available. Disharoon and Brewster wanted to be close to a major airport, and there was little doubt that the mature tree-covered hills of Baltimore County’s estate and hunting region would provide them an ideal location and a beautiful property for golf.
In 1986, after buying 962 acres overlooking Caves Valley, 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore, Disharoon hired Tom Fazio, who at the time was just beginning to achieve the recognition he enjoys today as one of the top architects in the business. Part of Fazio’s original master plan was a short course directly in front of the clubhouse and conveniently located near the club cottages. The idea was to provide a three-hole practice course for those arriving late in the day, or for golfers who needed to work on their short game in a golf course setting.
The short course has since been converted to a range, though it is still maintained and played when the other “warm-up” range to the north of the 1st tee is in use. And get this: The club has a third practice area at the eastern end of the property for the serious golfer who loves pounding balls in the peace and quiet away from the clubhouse area.
In its early years, Fazio’s Caves Valley design had come under attack for various reasons, though some of it might be attributed to jealousy: The club was awarded the 1995 U.S. Mid-Amateur when it was only four years old and hosted the 2002 U.S. Senior Open.
The course opens with a downhill par 4; the next four holes are set at the base of Caves Valley below the clubhouse village. Fazio’s routing subtly returns back up the hill with the 6th, 7th and 8th holes,
though the transition seems hardly noticeable. The uphill 9th is a stunning par 4 with a meandering creek that guards the length of the hole on the right.
The back nine works its way through the tall trees with several stern holes, highlighted by two dramatic par 3s: the 12th and 15th, both of which play over environmentally sensitive ravines to narrow and well-bunkered greens.
After two tough par 4s, the Caves Valley golfer is ushered by shuttle back to the confines of the clubhouse to celebrate, or in some cases, commiserate on the round. Either way, anyone who plays Caves Valley and experiences all it has to offer, surely leaves feeling like they have just been treated to a model of golf at its purest and best.
Year founded: 1991
Architect: Tom Fazio