"It's not a golf course you're going to make your home," he said. "If you're going to spend that kind of money [to play regularly], you're going to join a private club."

Instead, he said, the course expects to cater to golfers looking for a unique experience -- even if most of those only play the course once or twice.

"The guy who can't afford the 79 bucks all the time -- he may do it once or get to play here as a Christmas gift or Father's Day gift, something like that," Sheehan said.

"A big part of our focus," he continued, "will be the outing business. We'll target corporate outings and charity groups."

We played the course on a sunny but chilly spring weekday just three weeks after it opened and found it to be rough in spots, as are many new courses.

The fairways, in particular, seemed thin and patchy in stretches. But the greens were lush and well-manicured. They were also, mercifully, not nearly as fast as the ones on a real Grand Slam course.

I was particularly eager -- or maybe anxious is the better word -- to play the links-style holes (patterned after the rugged seaside courses of England, Ireland and Scotland) and didn't have long to wait.

The fourth hole is a 324-yard (from the white tees) par 4 that replicates the famous 16th hole at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, complete with a blind tee shot over a large ridge. Stray your drive even a little and you end up in an ocean of heather. And if you can get out of that without breaking your club, you'll be shooting at a green the size of a drink coaster ringed by treacherous-looking bunkers.

As you can imagine, we had, oh, loads of fun on that hole. The next hole, a 499-yard par 4 imitation of the famous No. 15 at Royal Birkdale, was not as memorable -- which, in this case, was a good thing.

The 15th at Royal Birkdale is described on its official Web site as being "a golf hole of the highest class and the longest on the course."

But, at least from the white tees, the Renditions hole didn't play that long. And if you avoided the requisite pot bunkers on the left side of the fairway -- what is it with the British and pot bunkers? -- the hole didn't inspire the inherent fear I associate, Pavlovian-style, with a links hole.

Faithful copies

Sheehan and course architect Dave Edsall of Annapolis explained how the various holes at Renditions were re-created.

First, aerial photographs of the famous holes were taken, along with aerial photos of the Renditions site where they'd be replicated. Then a topographical map of the famous hole was created, and laid over the "topo" of the Renditions site.

Finally, a digital, three-dimensional model of each hole was made, and from this image the ground was contoured to the shape of the replica hole.

"The tee box locations, bunker locations, streams, creeks and all the features are extremely accurate" renditions of the original holes, Sheehan said.

But with four sets of tees, golfers of varying skill levels can play tough holes like the British Open replicas -- well, at least some of them -- without feeling overpowered by the course.

"All the glitz and glamour is fine," said Edsall. "But at the end of the day, you've got to have a golf course people want to play."

The other highlight of the front nine were the three Amen Corner holes, particularly the seventh, which is a replica of the famous No. 12 par 3 at Augusta National.

This hole is considered the finest par 3 in golf and is the one hole at Augusta that has remained unchanged for 50 years.