| Club History || |
Bent Creek is the only course laid out by Jay Morrish in the northeastern United States. A testing and lovely layout, it is the showpiece of Bent Creek Country Club, another planned residential community, this one on some 300 acres near Lititz, in the heart of Lancaster County.
The country club was founded in 1991 by Robert A. Wolf, Robert A. Wolf II, Barry D. Hogan, Dennis D. Herr, Dennis W. Hevener, and Josie E. Buckwalter, prominent area businessmen who had dreamed for years of creating a first-class golf community in Lancaster County. The initial slate of officers consisted of Daniel Burton, president; James Gault, M. D., vice president; William Forrey, secretary; and Jay Siegrist, treasurer. This is a member-owned and family-oriented private country club, with swimming and tennis facilities to complement the golf course.
A 1993 photo of the clubhouse at Bent Creek
Early in 1991, perhaps six months before he was named Golf Course Architect of the Year by Golf Digest, Jay Morrish was selected by Bent Creek to design the 18-hole course. Those who have played in the Phoenix area know his work first-hand, much of it in partnership with Tom Weiskopf—Troon North, Troon Golf and Country club, Forest Highlands, and, at the TPC of Scottsdale, both the Desert and Stadium courses. Looking back 30 years, Philadelphians will be interested to learn that in 1967 Morrish worked with George Fazio, aiding him in the layout and construction of several courses, including the splendid Hills course at Jupiter Hills.
The construction of the course at Bent Creek took roughly two years. The club itself opened in April, 1993, with the course accepting its first players three months later. The holes are routed over what was formerly farmland. It is gently rolling, with an overall elevation change that probably does not exceed 35 feet. Since there was no wholesale moving of earth here—the bulldozer was used sparingly and tastefully—there is a great naturalness about the course and a flowing, graceful feel to the individual holes, which never look as though they were simply imposed upon the land.
Against a par of 71, the course can be played at 6,726 yards (championship tees), 6,210 yards (members’ regular markers), or 5,289 yards (forward tees). It is an altogether satisfying game from 6,210 yards, for the superb bentgrass fairways provide rather little roll.
Though water (the Bent Creek, attendant wetlands, several small lakes) is present on eight holes, the forced carries are clustered at the beginning of the round, on the 170-yard 2nd, the drive on the 401-yard 3rd, and the shot to the green on the 374-yard 4th. Jay Morrish had no inclination to subject us to the "water torture."
Sand is his principal means of defense at Bent Creek. And he ladles it out lavishly, with an eye-opening assortment of pits in every imaginable size and shape. By actual count there are only 80 bunkers here, but so expansive are many of them, and so deep are several of them, and so adroitly sited are all of them that it feels—and plays—more like 120. On the course’s shortest two-shotter, the 290-yard 7th (from the whites), the fairway, appearing deceptively smaller than it actually is, tilts gently from left to right. The bunkers in the landing area on the left are small, and disconcerting. The bunkers on the right are vast, and rather more disconcerting. The fancifully shaped green is closely guarded by three sandy hazards, including one at the rear that lends definition to the target on our 70-yard pitch shot. There are a couple of particularly teasing pin positions and all manner of devilishly subtle borrows on this green. In short, a marvelous golf hole that forces us to work hard for a birdie (and often write down bogey).
Morrish’s par 3s are particularly fine and possess an attractive variety, both in length and nature of challenge. The 170-yard 2nd plays over a pond to a green slightly above us and on a diagonal to the line of flight. The 6th, 147 yards, is a rising shot, this time to a fantastically bunkered green with an intriguing "collection area" over the back (tightly clipped grass only a shade longer than the putting surface itself), from which little hollow we may choose to putt, chip, or pitch in an effort to save par. Only 122 yards from the whites, the 13th boasts a steep falloff right, a big, deep bunker left, and, just beyond the green, a small graveyard with an occasional weathered headstone dating back to the 18th century. And on 15, the last of the par 3s, we play 184 yards over relatively level ground, the green accommodatingly open across its broad front, the only hazard a big, oddly shaped bunker on the right.
Head professional at Bent Creek is Brett Upper, a former PGA Tour player who was raised in Valley Forge and who developed his game at St. Davids, where his father held a 4 handicap. On board some six months before the course was completed, Upper was able to provide the architect with a little input. "And anything we do today," he says, "whether it’s planting trees—the club has two large nurseries, one for deciduous trees, one for evergreens—or adding a new pro tee, I first review it with Jay. That way, whatever refinements we do make will actually help to improve the course."
In early August, 1994, scarcely a year after it officially opened for play. Bent Creek was the site of the Pennsylvania Open. Hershey Country Club professional Paul Oglesby returned cards of 70 and 64 for an eight-under-par total of 134. His putting in the afternoon on these flawless surfaces was little short of magical. Overbrook’s Gene Fieger (72- 66) finished runner-up.