Four Streams

6,387 yards, 133 slope from the Member tees

In Beallsville, Maryland, about an hour northwest of Washington D.C., lies Four Streams, the first course designed by Nick Price, with Steve Smyers, opening in 1998. Perhaps you have never heard of Four Streams. I would wager most have not. In fact, I found out about it only by sheer happenstance. I was trying to find a course to visit on my back home from Pinehurst a couple years ago and stumbled upon it. Yet it resides as one of the better ranked courses in Maryland, is used by the Georgetown golf team and is on some terribly splendid hilly wooded terrain that makes for invigorating golf. The smaller membership are custodians of the game and everyone I met during my time there were a pleasure to interact with. We were probably one of about three groups to be on the property that day, during the weekend mind you, and truly had the place to ourselves.

I’m glad I took photos, as proof against those naysayers that would argue such golfing Shangri La’s no longer exist. They do, just very quietly.

The generous bunkering defines much of the course’s character. The sharp drops into them with their high and steep faces ramping into the sky, they are utilized generously, presented and incorporated as strategic components within the hills and contours in many different ways. I read they were modeled after those at San Francisco Golf Club and with what appears to be similar terrain and how they’re placed throughout, this very well could be. Speaking of hills, they comprise much of the course and move in multiple directions. When resting on flatter terrain as we see in some of the starting sequence, mounds and slopes were built to ensure movement of the ball upon landing as well as to spice up the visuals of each shot. This all conspired to create a sundry of demands upon the golfer that always seemed to change with each shot as he is required to account for the arching and tilting terrain with a smattering of sharp angled sand before him. The woods yield to wide open meadows at times, while at others begin to congregate much closer at the most inopportune times such as at turns or the crest of hills but this dance with the trees certainly ensures the setting within which we are in is constantly felt in one way or another.

How I came to be at Four Streams is even more happenstance than ever finding out about it in the first place. Yet on a Sunday morning, I found myself moving away from the interstate and into hilly farmland. Things became much more bucolic and subdued as I continued driving deeper and deeper into the countryside, finally turning in to an unassuming road. With only a couple people here and there, I almost decided the club was closed and I had my days mixed up.

One of my favorite things about golf are those times you have such beauty and brilliance in tranquil solitude. The four of us journeying through the rolling countryside, relying on camaraderie and golfing acumen to spur us forth. Four Streams was a terrific modern tapestry that never wavered in its duality of serene naturalness and spirited play.

The First is a 507 yard par 5 (from the Member tees). A hill directly in front of us is all we see and the fairway is some where beyond it. That fairway moves downhill and tilts to the right while dog legging slightly left. The bunkers on that front hill are the only ones on the hole; the slopes and contours become the primary challenge from the second shot on. The green moves strongly from left to right with plenty of short grass area to the right. It’s a nice opener where the tee shot has a bit of mystery to it yet sets up the rest of the shots, which focus on navigating the terrain. It’s a proper introduction to what lies ahead.

The First
Moving down the fairway
The green, from the right

The Second is a 419 yard par 4. A dog leg right at some of the flattest part of the property. Bunkers are at either corner of the turn from the tee and after the turn, the fairway heads directly to the green. A group of bunkers are to the left of the green while another is on the right, the entry point running in between.

The Second
Approach shot territory
The green

The Third is a 431 yard par 4. Now a dog leg left to a blind fairway that crests over a small ridge. Finding the right line off the the tee is the difference between being in the fairway and rough, as all the bunkers are saved for around the green. The green is set off to the left, a bit below the fairway, with bunkers all around it. Most every shot will need to carry bunkers to reach the green since the entry point is far down the end of the fairway to the right. Introductions are now complete and this approach is when the course starts to demand the golfer summons his skills and tests them a bit.

The Third
Approach shot territory
Closer

The Fourth is a 479 yard par 5. The second par 5 comes at us fast and we now have turned around and head to the opposite side of the driving range. Bunkers reside on the right side of the fairway, which happens to be the direction we need to head. A downhill helps after the first set of bunkers on the right, leading to another group, where the fairway narrows and tiptoes around them to the left. The green is surrounded by bunkers except for the entry point located at the front right. It will likely be an aerial approach for most shots. Those that vie for the green on the second shot can hedge to the right a little, where a slope leans towards the green and is free from sand.

The Fourth
Longer approach shot territory
Approach shot territory, from the right

The Fifth is a 165 yard par 3. Terraced bunkers dominate the landscape in front of the green while a bail out area is more off to the right. The green moves back to front and is set at a diagonal more than it’s perpendicular to the tee. The name of the game so far is use the slopes and contours, avoid the bunkers and that keeps going here as well.

The Fifth

The Sixth is a 308 yard par 4. A shorter par 4 where the contours in front of us fall off to the left out of our view yet we know what must be done. Try to get the tee shot far enough to the hill so that it hits and runs forward towards the green. A bunkers guards the green of the green which effectively ends the fairway, yet the side slope to the right can be used to roll the ball around the bunker and on to the green. Even coming in from the left may be the preferred line for some (me), as the movement of the green can be used a little easier as more of a backstop, yet with the green running right to left, some may prefer coming up the right side so their ball moves to the left of the hole, making for an easier putt. A short hole where again the approach is a lively test of strategy and ball striking.

The Sixth
Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 150 yard par 3. All carry over water but the green is generous and the three bunkers triangulating the hole are really more for wayward shots than anything else. There’s plenty of green space, so take advantage.

The Seventh
The green

The Eighth is a 344 yard par 4. The hills now start to make their presence known from here on out as the undulations and swales become a lot more pronounced and dramatic. This might be the first par 4 or 5 where we can see the green from the tee, even if we can also see the fairway drop, turn and climb between here and there. The tee shot likely hits the downhill while avoiding the trees on either side is paramount. The fairway cants considerably from left to right and we have yet another fascinating approach as this cant seems to amplify itself around the green. The bunkers on the left before the green create a false front as there’s still lots of room between them and the green. The movement is so strong that aiming left of the green and using the slope altogether isn’t the worst idea. This makes even more sense when any shot off the rear or right side almost disappears off the edge of the planet. It’s a cool green full of interest.

The Eighth
Approach shot territory
A bit closer
Even closer
From the back left

The Ninth is a 400 yard par 4. Turning around and heading back towards the clubhouse, the fairway is all uphill to the green and tilts from left to right. Accounting for the tilt with the tee shot is a good idea and of course the bunkers on the high right are meant to collect those shots overdoing the concept. The green is above us with a congregation of bunkers around it. There is room around the bunkers on the left but just about every approach will need to carry the bunkers to reach the green. There’s more room up there than can be seen, so take comfort in that and finish the front nine in style.

The Ninth
Approach shot territory
The green

The front nine loops around the lower part of the property and finds some nice green sites while others are shaped in at the flat terrain. There’s a nice balance of ball striking prowess and strategy needed to navigate things while the par 4’s and 5’s do that well. I’d rank them 1, 6, 8, 4, 9, 5, 3, 2, 7.

The back nine starts with the 165 yard par 3 Tenth. One thing to note is I didn’t see one stream on the front. I started to wonder where the name came from. Well, we see all of them on the back, starting here. The tee and green are essentially level with each other, with the stream creating the rift between them. Bunkers are along the sides, so much so that even significantly short and straight could be a much better recovery shot that than in some of the bunkers collecting a wayward shot. Start the back nine off straight.

The Tenth

The Eleventh is a 460 yard par 4. The back nine starts to take on a stiffer chord here. The tee shot is sent off down the hill out of sight and is likely some where on the downhill in fairway and rough, so long as you avoid the bunkers off to the sides. A downhill lie will likely greet the golfer for the approach, which will be a longer one, up the hill and across another, you guessed it, stream. The green is enormous though, which helps get the shot into scoring range even if putting further away from the hole than normal. Moving left to right in general, the size of the green complex can be a bit disorienting, so be sure to pay attention to yardage to help counter that.

The Eleventh
Approach shot territory
The massive green, photo doesn’t do it justice
Looking back

The Twelfth is a 415 yard par 4. A sweeping dog leg left where a row of bunkers confounds the tee shot. They need to be carried and the further left the tee shot, the easier that is. There is room around the bunkers altogether at the extreme right but this will make the approach shot a pretty long one. After the bunkers, a much narrow fairway leads to the green with bunkers crowding on either side. It almost feels like the bunkers are rebelling here and demand attention. Only the more precise and well executed shots will avoid them.

The Twelfth
Approach shot territory
At the bunker line

The Thirteenth is a 374 yard par 4. A slight crook to the right makes the hole feel like a dog leg but it’s actually fairly straight away. The left to right movement of the fairway and trees off to the right make the left side much more favorable off the tee. The entry point of the green is at the left, which is another reason for a tee shot in that direction. Those off to the right will need to carry the bunkers on that side. The left to right movement of the green might be the only reason to take the approach in from the right, as it moves pretty quickly in that direction.

The Thirteenth
Approach shot territory

The Fourteenth is a 346 yard par 4. We now find ourselves in the thick of the forest with trees encroaching on either side as another stream is just after the tee while the fairway climbs seemingly out of sight. It’s a challenging tee shot managing the hill and trees on both sides and anything less likely means you’ll be seeing those trees a bit more closely. A small dog leg to the left is at the top of the hill where a couple bunkers frame the green, which runs away from the entry point. It’s a wide green that spills off the rear into short grass. As approach shots comes in, they’ll funnel to that rear area unless the proper amount of delicacy is imparted. It’s a devilish green when it comes down to it, especially considering most approach shots will involve compromised angles, lies and a contour here and there.

The Fourteenth
Approach shot territory
The green

The Fifteenth is a 195 yard par 3. The final par 3 features a green downhill from the tee where bunkers have grown in size and linger about the green. There’s still a manageable path to the green but the short grass before the green rolls away from it. There really is a much smaller acceptable landing area than it appears but also many acceptable places to miss.

The Fifteenth

The Sixteenth is a 336 yard par 4. The trees are not done with us and from the tee, it becomes apparent we will need to carry the tree line on the left or try to sling it around so that it curves hard to the left. The hole is bunker less with the hillside asserting its presence from right to left while leading down to the green, various mounds and bumps here and there along the way.

The Sixteenth
Approach shot territory
From the center
The green

The Seventeenth is a 381 yard par 4. Heading uphill and finally out of the woods, the fairway tilts from right to left strongly as a left and right fairway bunker are in tee shot range. The fairway climbs to the green with the entry point off to the right and bunkers situated left and right. The hole seems to play longer than it looks, likely from the hills being a lot more expansive than it seems when one is moving along.

The Seventeenth
Approach shot territory
A little closer

The Eighteenth is a 512 yard par 5. We find ourselves right next to the Ninth at the last, moving up the same hill but a bit differently. The tee shot is straightforward enough to a wide fairway all in front of the golfer. Initially the fairway crests and moves back down to the green, which has a lot of short grass sloping surrounding it even though the green is fairly small. There’s plenty of green space to work with and ways to go about closing things out, so remain steadfast until the last.

The Eighteenth
Moving up the fairway
Approach shot territory
The green, from the high left

The back nine is on more dramatic land as the challenge intensifies as the holes move on. Moving from wide open hills to the confines of the woods before coming out once again for the finish helps diversify the structure of play as well. I would rank them 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 14, 10, 15, 13.

Generally, Four Streams is a well balanced course that incorporates challenge, strategy and fun in one form or another throughout the round. There’s a natural serenity that takes hold as well, the forested hills with the wandering streams easing just as much as challenging the golfer. Bunkers and contours provide much of the definition of the holes, which are used with sufficient variety to regale in a number of ways. A spirited course in a sublime setting, it’s a unique play in how these elements touch the golfer during the round, a harmonious dance between focus and repose.

Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Unassuming buildings that are spread out so as not to disturb the natural surroundings. The outdoor patio overlooking the course typifies the serene quietude one will thoroughly experience here.

Practice area: Full range, short game area and putting green.

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