The founders of Old Chatham in Chapel Hill, NC, were looking to establish a private club purely dedicated to golf, and they chose wisely in giving the design job to Rees Jones. Out of the club’s 400 acres, two-thirds of which abut Federally owned land, Jones fashioned a course that fits comfortably into the wooded, rolling terrain. The layout plays 7,200 yards from the tips, with the 630-yard 11th the longest hole. The fairways are Jones generous, and the deep fairway bunkers and two-inch Bermuda rough come into play only after the worst of tee shots. The bent grass greens are fast, averaging 10.5 to 11 on the stimpmeter. Once used to them, the everyday player should feel quite comfortable with the near perfect rolls. Old Chatham deserves its accolades, but accomplished every day players might tire a little of a course that provides little challenge from its tee boxes. Last July, the club hosted a two-round qualifier for the U.S. Amateur, and the low score was 132.
Old Chatham opened just two days before September 11, 2001, but the tragic events did not affect the club’s success; many of its memberships were pre-sold. Golf Digest declared it the best course in the area and the 10th best private course in the nation shortly after it opened. More recently, the magazine named it the 8th best course in North Carolina, not bad given the competition in a golf rich state that includes so many excellent courses in the Pinehurst area.
Old Chatham aims to be private in the manner of classic clubs, and you will need a nominator and two sponsors to be considered. At full membership, the club will have a roster of 280 members, a number of them non-resident, or “national,” members. If you long for a pure golf club on a fair golf course, without the encroachment of houses or tennis courts or swimming pools, you might want to start making friends now in the Chapel Hill area.
Old Chatham telephone: (919) 361 - 1400
Note: I did not personally visit Old Chatham, but my former colleague at HomeOnTheCourse and friend, Tom Hunter, did, and this review represents his observations, which are always astute. Tom is a resident of Chapel Hill.