Old Town Club - Home of Wake Forest Golf
Old Town Club has served as the official home course of Wake Forest golf for many decades. Like Wake Forest, Old Town also maintains a rich golf tradition. Located immediately next door to the University campus, this 1939 Perry Maxwell masterpiece has just recaptured the attention of the golf world following a 2013 restoration by famed architects, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
The restoration served as a catalyst for one of the biggest jumps ever in Golfweek magazine's annual rankings. In 2014, Old Town catapulted an unprecedented 43 places up the chart to the 29th position in the country. That's the largest leap by any "classical" course in the history of the rankings. Still today, Old Town continues to climb to No. 23 on Golfweek's prestigious listing.
The results are universally glowing. Old Town also landed at No. 59 on GOLF Magazine's biennial list of the Top 100 golf courses in the country. In 2018, Old Town also secured its first World 100 ranking and is now listed at No. 40 in North America. A short list of Old Town's current golf course rankings is located in the box to the right.
For Coore, the Old Town restoration represented a homecoming. Coore grew up 24-miles away from Old Town outside of Denton, N.C. and attended Wake Forest as an undergraduate. Though he only remained a member of the Wake Forest golf team through his sophomore year, Coore developed a keen sense of knowledge and understanding of the Maxwell design while regularly playing the course as a student.
Old Town's restoration focused on recapturing the size, shape and character of Maxwell's original bunkers, which often contained jagged-laced edges and tall stalks of native grasses, called broomsedge.
The restoration also featured the redesign of Old Town's double green at holes 8 and 17. Coore enlarged the dual putting surface from 8,200 to 16,700 square feet to more closely resemble its source of inspiration at The Old Course at St. Andrews -- home to seven double greens.
The layout is highlighted by expansive fairways, meandering creeks, uneven terrain, sweeping cross-course vistas and undulating green contours, widely known for their trademark "Maxwell rolls." While golfers never tire of these green undulations, it's those tilting fairways -- producing a variety of stances and lies - that require a golfer's full attention. Wake Forest legend and World Golf Hall-of-Famer, Lanny Wadkins, who just became an honorary member of the club, professes: "Old Town offers so many varied lies that it is the best proving ground for training serious young golfers."
It all started in the early-1900's on the Reynolds Estate (known as "Reynolda"), which was the 1,000-acre farm of tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds. Reynolda was eventually passed down to R.J.'s daughter Mary Reynolds and her husband Charlie Babcock. In 1938, the Babcock's donated 165-acres of Reynolda to start a new club named Old Town -- adjacent to the Reynolda mansion. (now showcased on the National Register of Historic Places as Reynolda House and Gardens).
In 1938, Charlie Babcock's investment group Reynolds & Company (later to become Dean, Witter, Reynolds) had just hired Clifford Roberts as an employee of the firm -- the same Clifford Roberts, who co-founded the Augusta National Golf Club. Roberts was working with Perry Maxwell at the time reconstructing many of Augusta's greens for The Masters Tournament. Delighted with the results, Roberts recommended that Babcock also retain Maxwell to design the new course at Reynolda.
In 1956, the Babcocks donated 300 more acres of the Reynolda estate, just north of the Old Town Club, to bring Wake Forest College to Winston- Salem from the eastern part of the state. However, Old Town's close association with Wake Forest golf actually pre-dated the University's relocation to Winston-Salem. Wake Forest participated in the Southern Conference Championship at Old Town in 1942, 1947, 1949, 1950 and 1952. By all accounts, it was Arnold Palmer's masterful play during a trio of conference championships that helped forge the early bonds between Old Town and Wake Forest. Mr. Palmer won medalists honors at Old Town in 1949 and finished runner-up to Harvie Ward in 1950. The inaugural Men's Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship was held at Old Town in 1954, where Palmer prevailed again to win his second conference title at Old Town, after serving a three-year stint with the United States Coast Guard. Following that exciting beginning, the ACC Men's Golf Championship returned to Old Town every year through 1958, and then again in 1962. Since 1956, Old Town has proudly served as the home course of both the Ladies and Men's golf teams. All Wake Forest students and faculty members were even granted access to play Old Town through 1968.
Today, Old Town has a burgeoning National membership, which includes many Wake Forest alums and parents from around the country. Plus, a handful of Wake Forest's distinguished golfers have been granted Honorary memberships, including the following major champions: Curtis Strange, Jay Haas, Lanny Wadkins, Webb Simpson and the late Mr. Arnold Palmer. Photo portraits of all hall-of-famers, major champions and All-Americans from Wake Forest's storied past also hang on a wall gallery at the club to help commemorate a long lineage of outstanding Demon Deacon golfers, including Billy Joe Patton, Leonard Thompson, Jack Lewis, Joe Inman Jay Sigel, Eddie Pearce, Scott Hoch, Gary Hallberg, Billy Andrade, Len Mattiace, Bill Haas and many others. Old Town has also helped develop many talented young lady golfers, including Stephanie Neill, Laura Diaz and Cheyenne Woods.
On September 23 - 25, 2018, Old Town will re-new their tournament traditions with the Wake Forest Men's golf team by hosting a 12-team field for the inaugural "Old Town Collegiate Invitational." (Story)
Indeed Old Town and Wake Forest are carrying on their long legacy as golf companions and stewards of the game. The Demon Deacons feel fortunate to call Old Town their home.
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