Old Town Club, located next door to the Wake Forest University campus, has been the official home of Demon Deacon golf for many decades. Like Wake Forest, Old Town has a rich golf tradition.
In the March, 2012 edition of Golfweek Magazine's "Top 100 Classic Courses", Old Town Club climbed 21 spots to the 70th position in the country. Out of 6,500 classic designs in America, that puts Old Town squarely in the Top 1.1% of all courses designed before 1960. This also translates into a Top 3 billing in North Carolina just behind Charlotte Country Club and Pinehurst No. 2. Demon Deacon golf feels extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to call Old Town Club our home.
In 1939, Perry Maxwell designed the golf course at Old Town Club. Over the last two decades, golfers throughout the country have acquired a profound sense of admiration and respect for Maxwell and his enduring works-of-art. Among Maxwell's most prominent designs are Prairie Dunes in KS (ranked 13th in the country), Southern Hills Country Club in OK (ranked 26th), Crystal Downs in MI (ranked 10th) and Old Town Club in NC (ranked 70th).
Maxwell was also responsible for renovation work at many of the elite courses in the country, including Pine Valley Golf Club in NJ (ranked 1st), where Maxwell was an "Honorary Member", the National Golf Links of America in NY (ranked 4th), and Colonial Country Club in TX (ranked 59th). Most importantly, Maxwell will long be remembered for leaving his imprint on the Augusta National Golf Club in GA (ranked 6th) by re-building more than ten of their greens, still considered by many as the most undulating set of contours in the world.
In the summer of 2012, Old Town retained world-renowned course architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to restore the Maxwell masterpiece and complete the club's decade-long project approximating the look, playing character and hand-hewn finish of its original 1939 design.
Maxwell's bold green contours, affectionately known as "Maxwell's rolls", stand out at Old Town as well. Wake Forest alum, Bill Coore, architect extraordinaire of the "Coore & Crenshaw" design firm, says that Old Town's greens are among the most intricate in the Maxwell repertoire.
The greens, however, are not the only undulating features at Old Town. The sweeping character of the entire property highlights Old Town's routing. Bradley Klein, architecture and design editor for Golfweek, admitted, "I didn't realize how extraordinary the property was until I approached the interior stretch and noticed that distant site lines and sweeping vistas were available of the entire premises."
Each fairway contains varying degrees of slope, which generates many awkward lies on approach shots. Wake Forest legend, Lanny Wadkins, who was recently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame professes, "Old Town offers so many varied challenges that it is the best proving ground for training serious, young golfers."
For first-timers, it's readily apparent that Old Town is not your typical country club. Tucked away in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, the club's entrance is subtly marked, and the clubhouse isn't dressed up with elaborate gear. Nothing glitzy cuts the eye. With 372 members, Old Town is modest in size, but the golfing membership is even smaller.
"Standard groups comprise five or six golfers", says Jim Holt, Old Town's gregarious club professional. After all, the golf shop doesn't even take starting times, a long-established practice that all members prefer.
In 2002, Old Town restored the architectural integrity of Maxwell's original design by implementing a modest tree management program and expanding the fairways back to their original widths. Native fescue grasses were also re-established in peripheral locations to help imitate Old Town's nostalgic early-American look. Old Town also lengthened nine select holes to offset modern technologies impact on the game. Today, the par-70 configuration measures 6,930 yards.
It all started in the early 1900's on "Reynolda", a 1,000-acre estate of tobacco millionaire, R.J. Reynolds. "Reynolda" was eventually passed down to R.J.s' daughter, Nancy Reynolds Babcock, and her husband, Charlie. In 1938, the Babcock's donated -- 165 of Reynolda's 1000 acres to start a new club named Old Town -- adjacent to the "Reynolda" mansion. (The estate, by the way, is now showcased as Reynolda House, an art museum that's listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
At that time, Charlie Babcock's investment firm - Reynolds & Company (later to become "Dean, Witter, Reynolds") had just hired Clifford Roberts, co-founder of the Augusta National Golf Club. Roberts was then working with Perry Maxwell 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 in Winston-Salem.
In 1956, the Babcocks donated 300 more acres of Reynolda's estate, just north of Old Town's golf course, to bring Wake Forest College to Winston-Salem from the eastern part of the state. The arrangement allowed Wake Forest faculty members and students to use Old Town to practice and play. In 1968, the arrangement was modified to include only the Wake Forest Golf Teams.
As a result, Old Town has groomed many Wake Forest professionals since 1956 including Curtis Strange, Lanny Wadkins, Scott Hoch, Jay Haas, Leonard Thompson, Gary Hallberg, Joe Inman, Jay Sigel, Billy Andrade, Len Mattiace, Stephanie Neill, Laura Diaz, Bill Haas, Kyle Reifers, Webb Simpson and Darren Clarke. In fact, Arnold Palmer won low medalist of the Southern Conference Championship for Wake Forest at Old Town Club in 1954, two years before the college officially relocated to Winston-Salem.
Indeed, Old Town Club and Wake Forest golf are age-old companions!
Click here for a pictorial listing of the Wake Forest golfers on Old Town's Wall of Fame.