Playing Golf In The Piedmont
The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club
If great golf with luxurious accommodations are a high priority, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club is a premier choice in North Carolina’s Triangle Region.
Duke University is widely recognized for its academic prowess, its premier medical services and its perennially top-ranked Blue Devils basketball team led by Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is better known as Coach K in these parts for obvious reasons.
Those high standards of quality are also reflected in the university’s affiliated lodging and recreational facility, the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. Located on Duke University’s West Campus, the Inn is an AAA Four-Diamond award-winning luxury hotel. It features 271 guest rooms and suites, meeting facilities that can accommodate groups up to 600 and the Fairview Dining Room with its executive chef and extensive wine selection that has won awards of excellence from Wine Spectator magazine.
Duke University is located just outside of the heart of Durham, a North Carolina Piedmont city best known for its history as a tobacco processing hub until actor Kevin Costner and a Hollywood crew rolled into town in the late 1980s. The minor-league baseball-themed movie Bull Durham, starring Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, propelled the city into the national consciousness. Durham still squeezes considerable marketing mileage from the popular flick filmed two decades ago. To wit, the Washington Duke Inn’s libation station bills itself as the Bull Durham Bar.
The Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club opened in 1988 to serve the needs of the university, the medical center and the nearby Research Triangle Park business community. It was named for Washington Duke (1820-1905), a 19th century tobacco industrialist, philanthropist and the university’s earliest benefactor and namesake.
The walls of the Inn are filled with memorabilia from the international services of Angier Biddle Duke, Washington Duke’s great-grandson, who served as the United States ambassador to Spain, Denmark, Morocco and El Salvador.
First-time visitors to the Inn and the area should make time to stroll the adjoining Duke campus. A cannot-miss attraction is the Duke Chapel, a neo-Gothic architecture structure that rises 210 feet high and took five years to build.
Golfers can take advantage of the Inn’s adjacent Robert Trent Jones-designed Duke University Golf Club. Originally opened in 1957, the course extends out the back grounds of the Inn and seamlessly meanders across gently rolling topography and the abundant hardwoods, pines, ponds and streams of the surrounding Duke Forest. The course is truly a family affair. Rees Jones, son of the original architect, redesigned the course in 1994. His involvement in the rework was prompted by the acceptance, enrollment and matriculation of his daughter at Duke University. Rees Jones had also once competed on his father’s Duke University course during the 1962 NCAA Championships while an undergraduate at Yale.
“Rees took loving care not to change the course his dad designed, but to improve it,” says Ed Ibarguen, Duke University’s general manager and a PGA Master Professional. “It remains a great classical layout.”
Ibarguen arrived at the club in 1988 and is considered one of golf’s top teaching professionals. He is a member of the Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructors panel.
The redesigned course follows the original 1950s routing. The primary change was a renovation of the green complexes, which were significantly elevated by the younger Jones. The course features five tee boxes and generous landing areas. Rolling contours in the fairway, however, do not present a lot of level lies. The greens are large, roll true and are not tricked up. Or, as Ibarguen says: “There are no buried elephants (on the greens).”
Ibarguen was instrumental in landing Rees Jones for the course redesign. He has also hosted the renowned architect again in recent times to discuss future enhancements and a possible lengthening of the course.
The North Carolina Golf Panel, the de facto ranking organization for the state’s more than 500 courses, considers Duke University Golf Club the best in North Carolina’s Triangle region, which encompasses the cities of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding towns.
Duke University Golf Club is a 7,105-yard, par-72 layout with a challenging slope and rating of 73.9/141. It is open to the public as well as those staying at the Inn. Ibarguen strongly recommends that guests choose the correct set of tees to match their playing ability and to allow the course to unfold as designed for their requisite skill level.
The course hosted the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships in 1962 and again in 2001. It is the home course for the Duke University golf teams. The women’s team has won consecutive national team championships in 2005, 2006 and 2007, perhaps assisted by the game improvement possibilities of the club’s massive 29-acre practice facility.
By Patrick Jones
By Patrick Jones
added: December 19, 2008
updated: December 31, 2008