Imitation Is Art at Renditions Golf Course

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

DAVIDSONVILLE, MD - Life is full of imitators. Just fill a prescription at the pharmacy and you'll be asked whether you want the 'generic'--or the 'name'--brand. Generics give you essentially the same medicinal ingredients as the 'name' brand, plus a break on the price. Invariably, I inquire: "Well, what's the difference?" and the answer is always, "there isn't one."

"Then why's the non-generic stuff more expensive?"

There are other, less successful imitations--cloned golf clubs, bad lounge singers crooning contemporary favorites and family-style neighborhood dinner theaters performing famous Broadway shows, all seeking to replicate the original art they copy. But something always gets lost in translation-after all, it's hard to duplicate an artistic masterpiece.

Thank God golf courses are immune to the trend. Some classics just can't be copied or replicated.

Or can they? The true answer is 'no,' and that's the way it should be. But there should also be a way to play some classic golf holes without snuggling up to a member of an incredibly exclusive private club, or traveling halfway around the world to experience the legendary courses of the game.

For those seeking the 'Grand Slam Experience' without the above-mentioned hassles, there's a pretty darn good imitation just a short drive away-Renditions Golf Course. Renditions will open its tee boxes next April, offering public golfers a chance to play legendary golf holes without sacrificing a lung to receive the privilege.

Jeff Sheehan, Vice President of William Cole, Inc. (Renditions' parent company), says the brand new golf course will offer 'Golf's Grand Slam Experience' by replicating eighteen famous golf holes from legendary courses in the United States and British Isles-all of which have played host to at least one of golf's four majors (and the 'The Players Championship,' known widely as golf's 'fifth' major).

"We thought it was a terrific idea to take some great, time-tested, classic holes from famous golf courses and combine them into one facility, where anyone can come and play. Next year, we'll offer the opportunity to play simulations of Augusta National's Amen Corner, the 17th hole at the TPC Sawgrass and three links-style British Open holes (amongst others) all in one golf round," Sheehan adds.

Sheehan also says Renditions' site works well because of what it used to be: "When we conducted our land search, we found this abandoned salt & gravel mine. It's got some open land, stands of trees and wetlands-it was ripe for environmental reclamation after 60 years of pretty heavy industrial use. In other words, most of the parties concerned were pleased at our turning it into a golf course."

At first contemplation, I figured it'd be impossible to carve all these varied golf holes out of one piece of property. Sheehan explains: "We first take an extremely detailed topographical map of our site, become familiar with the lay of the land, then take equally detailed maps from the famous sites and begin searching for holes that might fit onto our existing property."

"We always have a few staple holes we try to include, such as Amen Corner, but then we look for holes that meet certain criteria on our land. If we have land for a downhill par four, we'll look for a downhill par four from one of the renowned courses. When it's all done, we'll build exact replicas of these famous holes to as close as plus or minus six inches from the real thing," Sheehan said.

The devil's in the details. "We really try hard to make it look exactly the same. Where there's a dogwood, we'll put a dogwood. Where there's a pine, we'll put a pine. We'll put in azaleas as well (and other flowering plants for the rest of the season). We'll do whatever we possibly can to make the holes look as close as feasible to what you'd see if you actually went there," Sheehan adds.

He continues, "They're extremely close--by using aerial photography, the distance of the holes is very accurate and the positioning of bunkers and hazards is fairly easy to adapt to. I'm not saying that if you walk the course you'd swear you were in Scotland or Georgia, but it's a pretty tight approximation."

As a result, holes from The Country Club, Inverness, Oakmont and Winged Foot await you in Davidsonville, Maryland-in addition to those mentioned above.

Renditions will also carry the themed golf experience beyond the fairways. The brand new clubhouse is designed to look much older, dating back to the era when Bobby Jones won the 'Grand Slam' in 1930.

Sheehan elaborates: "Many of the classic clubhouses were built back in the early part of the 20th century, then were expanded as clubs grew in membership and reputation. We're going to have that 'added on' look as well."

"Our pro shop's going to be from the 1930's era, where we'll pay tribute to players like Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen. The grillroom is going to be more like Gary Player, Ben Hogan and young Jack Nicklaus. Then as you proceed into the banquet facilities-we'll feature a more modern look, like Tiger Woods and a 'current' Nicklaus as the theming element," Sheehan adds.

Perhaps a final bit of appropriateness is there's no infringement on copyright involved in replicating legendary golf courses. The matter's been thoroughly litigated in the past two decades, and the courts have ruled that golf holes can be copied as long as there's proper accreditation and the respective club's trademarks aren't abused. So it's full speed ahead for Sheehan and his associates.

"Oddly enough, the private clubs were the ones that really didn't mind us duplicating their holes-a few even seemed kind of flattered by it. Some public resorts thought it might move into their customer base, but I think most people would agree that we're really not competing for the same market," Sheehan said. "We're a daily fee in every sense of the word-we won't have members, and our main market will be groups and outings."

The new Renditions golf course brings one of the most anticipated openings for next year-and just goes to show that imitation can sometimes be art after all.

Note: Renditions is also a member of Tee Time Golf Pass, where some significant discounts can be found.

Jeffrey A. RendallJeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

Jeffrey Rendall is an avid golfer and freelance writer. After passing the California Bar in 1994, he moved to Virginia to pursue his interests in history and politics, where he's worked since 1995.

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