DEE'S PLACE Mendham, NJ
Owner: Jim Beightol Design: Six holes across one central fairway with a green on each end and six tees Architect: Ken Dye (2000) yardage: 1,300 Par:20
Of the thousands of perfectly good reasons that exist for ripping up the backyard and replacing it with one or more golf holes, Jim Beightol's may have been the most desperate: Time was running out and he needed a meaningful Christmas present for his wife, Dee (hence the layout's official moniker). Yet it's Beightol's nickname for the place—Aggravation—that best captures the essence of his creation.
"First," contends its landlord, the president of a plastics company, "my wife kept telling me the only reason I gave it to her was that I didn't have a real Christmas present for her," which was true. And that it was mostly for his own pleasure, which was also true, though she's certainly not averse to teeing it up. Then there was the tedious permit process, the 200-year rain on the day the course was seeded, the $400,000 construction bill, the friction that ultimately flamed between the contractor and the greenskeeper, and the lawsuit Beightol's neighbor threatened to slap on him in an effort to stop this rolling snowball.
Today the neighbor is gone and Aggravation, which opened for play in the fall of 2000, remains true to its handle. No one who has stopped at all six stations of its crisscrossing pattern has ever parred the sweet sextet. Its small greens, devilish angles and thick fescue off the fairway call for the precise shot-making that architect Ken Dye (whose credits include Piñon Hills and Paa-ko Ridge in New Mexico, and Whispering Pines in Myrtle Beach) intended.
Beightol and Dye linked up in the late nineties when the architect was redesigning Spring Brook in Morristown, New Jersey, Beightol's home club the six weeks of the year he's in the state. While Beightol imagined a single hole strolling downhill from just behind the house to the bottom corner of the property, Dye envisioned painting a bigger picture across the five available acres that would only disturb half the land. "One hole," he remembers thinking, "is gonna be pretty boring after you've played it a few hundred times." Once he figured out how to overlap the lines of play across a single fairway to well-bunkered, elevated greens on either end, Dye tailored the holes—two par fours in the 350-yard neighborhood and four par threes escalating from 120 to 200 yards—to what is essentially a grand practice facility custom fit to Beightol's game.
Beightol figures the course clocks only forty rounds a year, as he's so rarely in New Jersey—about a dozen of those are played by his wife. Given the annual maintenance outlay, a loop for Beightol at Dee's Place costs him roughly the equivalent of a round at Pebble Beach—airfare and hotel included.
THREE PONDS FARM Bridgehampton, NY
Owner: Cheryl Gordon Design: Nine holes over five fairways and four greens Architect: Rees Jones (1996) yardage: 3,153 Par: 35
When the late Manhattan real estate mogul Ed Gordon began pondering the purpose of what would become the front yard of his sixty-acre estate on a former dairy and potato farm across Scuttle Hole Road from Atlantic Golf Club on Long Island, he saw more than just sixty acres of open landscape and rolling hills. He saw greens. And fairways. And tees.
A member at Atlantic, he'd already formed a friendship with the celebrated course's celebrated designer, Rees Jones—and, well, what are friends for?Jones reveled in Gordon's challenge like the manor's signature swans revel in their ponds. "It's one of the most creative designs I've ever had to come up with," he says proudly.