Standing on the back patio of the clubhouse at Hunt Valley Country Club, perched high above the property’s rolling terrain, guests are afforded picturesque views of a rejuvenated golf course.
As part of a project that began in 2014 and finished up in the spring of 2017, the featured 18 holes at the facility — The Valley — have been redesigned, revitalized and rebranded. Trees were trimmed down, bunkers were overhauled and holes rerouted.
The focus for architect Jason Straka of Fry/Straka Global Golf Course Design was on playability and allowing the course, which was originally laid out in the 1960s and opened in 1970, to make the most of the land upon which it sits. Head PGA professional John Albert says the finished product has achieved that and more.
“Honestly, it’s exceeded my expectations and the biggest thing in terms of the golf course has been the bunker renovations. They had not been worked on in terms of drainage for a number of years, so it was a huge need that was handled right away and at the same time there was a redesign done as well,” Albert said. “From a playing perspective and a visual perspective it’s been a wonderful transformation.”
Albert isn’t the only one, though, singing the praises of the $2.5 million revitalization of the Arcis Golf property.
Hunt Valley earned 2017 Design Excellence Recognition from the American Society of Golf Course Architects for the renovation — one of only 11 courses nationwide honored by the program.
And while The Valley course is certainly at the heart of the transformation at the club, the overhaul includes much more than that.
Hunt Valley’s third nine holes, “The Ridge 9” is now a three-in-one layout that can be used for traditional golf, Disc golf or Footgolf. Rounds can be intertwined between the three on a given day, a versatility that has elevated the member experience according to Albert.
The project also included upgrades to the practice facilities and clubhouse. The driving range now is two-tiered with stations featuring both grass and mat surfaces. There’s a new member grill, “Canter Kitchen and Cocktails,” that features indoor dining with views overlooking the course below. Also, just outside, there’s an expansive new deck complete with fire pits and similar sight lines.
To capitalize on these additional offerings to a club that also features a pool, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, a social membership option (CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION) was added with families in mind.
Additional programming aimed at the younger demographic such as cooking classes, movie nights and petting zoos have been a boost to the family atmosphere as well.
“We wanted to increase our universal appeal, really make sure we had something for everyone beyond just the main golf,” said General Manager Chris Deprospo, who started at the club last November. “Our social memberships are designed to allow families to come out and have a full day’s worth of activities and really get to experience the club atmosphere from the pool, to the golf, to the activities, to the food.”
Just this year, Deprospo says social memberships have doubled.
From a golfing perspective, the variety in the holes is what really makes each round memorable. On The Valley, there are straight downhill tee shots on the par 4 first and par 3 tenth holes, straight uphill approach shots on the par 4 ninth and par 3 18th, along with several flatter and more manageable layouts in between.
Throw in several large ponds, meandering streams and the multitude of reworked sand traps, and golfers have plenty of visually pleasing and challenging holes to navigate through.
“As I can personally attest, you can play this course for 32 years and not get tired of it,” Albert said. “There’s plenty of variety and it’s a beautiful setting. With the multiple tee boxes, it’s also an enjoyable round for players of all skill levels.”
The Ridge nine, formerly known as the “Blue Nine,” is incredibly hilly as well in spots —including a picturesque straight downhill tee shot on the first hole — and is described by Albert as a “target course” that is shorter and tighter than The Valley.
In the clubhouse, the renovated ballroom overlooking the course can accommodate up to 250 guests and is an ideal wedding setting. In fact, Hunt Valley has been a regular award-winning venue according to Wedding Wire “Couples’ Choice Award” and The Knot “Best of Weddings Award” since 2014.
The dining area also not only features a brand new look, but also a revamped menu.
“We have a fantastic chef and we’ve become known for not typical country club food, but restaurant food,” Deprospo said.
Looking forward, Deprospo said the club has positioned itself well and, if things continue in this direction, he said there are plans in the works to potentially continue adding amenities. A covering for the new patio and the addition of a fitness center to the clubhouse are among the next projects being discussed.
Address: 14101 Phoenix Rd, Phoenix, MD 21131
Miles from downtown Baltimore: 20
Driving Range: Yes (two-tiered grass teeing area and a 20-station mat area
Putting Green: Yes (large green behind clubhouse)
Chipping Green: Yes (chipping is allowed on the putting green, but there is also an area for pitching and sand trap practice by the fifth green on the Ridge 9)
Membership opportunities: https://www.huntvalleygc.com/membership/golf
Guest Policy: Guests must be accompanied by a member and the same guest may not play more than once a month.
Best Par 3: 4th hole
Known by some as the course’s signature hole, this slightly downhill par 3 features a wide green flanked by plenty of trouble. The creek bisecting the hole sits just a few feet in front of the putting surface and is particularly in play when the pin is on the left side. Shots long are likely to find one of four large sand traps. On a course with five strong par 3s, this one stands out for its balance of beauty and difficulty.
Best Par 4: 9th hole
Visible from the road on the drive in, this finisher to the front nine features one of the most difficult approach shots on the course. After a drive down into the valley, players are faced with a second shot up toward a green some 50 yards above the fairway. A large, deep sand trap guards the front of a putting surface that isn’t visible from the bottom of the hill.
Best Par 5: 15th hole
The second of back-to-back par 5s, this slight dog leg to the right features a downhill tee shot to a wide landing area. After that, players are faced with a decision to either lay-up or go for the green and carry the pond lurking just in front. From a playability standpoint everything is right there in front of you, which is something that can be said for many of the holes on The Valley. So that just leaves the player to decide how aggressive they want to be.
Overview: It really is a unique property, with everything starting on the top of a large ridge at the clubhouse and then feeding down into the valley below. Whether it’s in the ballroom, on the back patio, putting green, driving range or first tee — the views are captivating. The round itself provides a nice mix of holes, especially in terms of the types of challenges. Big sand traps, ponds, drastic elevation changes and environmental areas are all in play, just not necessarily all at once. And, in terms of keeping a player’s attention, that kind of variety goes a long way. As for the improvements, it’s obvious the club has invested a lot in its future from the golf to the amenities. For a course that will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the next couple years, the updates give the facility a more modern feel without sacrificing the old-school character.
Course Work: Do you have a golf course you would like to see featured here? Contact Brent Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BKBSunSports