The Spring issue of Golf Digest/Index magazine just came out and ranked the top 75 practice facilities in the USA. When I first started teaching at Berkeley Hall in April 2001 I contacted Golf Digest asking them to do a piece on on the premier practice grounds in the country. They rank everything else in golf, from courses, to instructors, to golf balls, why not an integral part of any golf operation - the practice area!
At the time Berkeley Hall was without a doubt the premier place in the country, if not the world, to work on your game. My request was in vain, yet I am glad to see they have finally caught on and ranked some of the top facilities.
There is good news and bad news - I'll start with the good! Berkeley Hall has over 31 acres of practice area, 6 acres of which are dedicated to the short game. We have a $1 million learning center that includes 4 indoor hitting bays, 3 V1 Swing Analysis stations, a TOMI software indoor putting room, a video room for indoor analysis, a lounge with fireplace and 500 year-old Black Cypress wood bar, two private lesson tees, four oversized practice tees (two on each end), a wedge only tee with six 14ft diameter sand target greens and a lazer to determine distances to each flag, a Cover Shots unit under which 6-7 golfers can escape the elements (rain and sun) and hit off grass, four putting greens, two of which are bent and two of which are tif-eagle bermuda and eight bunkers from which to hit greenside shots from, a few from which you can also hit fairway bunker shots.
Did I also mention that each hitting station on the practice tee is equipped new Titleist NXT Tour balls, a bag stand with distances that are lazered to each target flag daily, bug spray, tees and a towel. There are also Schaefer fans located at each station to cool in the summer, or drive off a pesky bug or two in the spring and fall.
The short game area has three tif-eagle target greens that are maintained in the same fashion as the greens on the course. There are lazers located at strategic locations to help determine how far you might be hitting that new L-wedge. Designed by Fazio, the area allows for pitches over water or sand, uphill or down and from fairway or rough. You can even hit shots from 180 yards out to a raised green!
Now for the bad news! Berkeley Hall, with all the above amenities, is ranked 16th! The ranking, compiled by the Golf Digest Course Rating panelists, reeks of politics. I am not exactly sure why I'm surprised or upset at that.
Pine Valley gets top billing, and while I have never been there, I have taught many members from there and spoken to many people who have visited. Pine Valley has a good practice ground, but it is not world class! It has a driving range and 10 additional holes designd by Tom Fazio. In my opinion a par three course or a short course is not part of a golf courses' practice facility. A practice hole or two, yes, but a par three or executive course - no!
Courses ranked ahead of Berkeley hall include, World Woods (big and round), Muirfield Village (big and round), Caves Valley (nice, but no Berkeley Hall), Desert Mountain (four ranges -how many can you use at once?), PGA West (huh?), and Kinloch G. C. (where they have a 120 yard wedge area and stones marking 10 yard increments!?)
Having been fortunate enough to see many of the facilites on the list I can safely say there cannot possibly be more than 4-5 facilities in the US better than what we have here at Berkeley Hall. FACT!
I wonder how those course rating panelists enjoyed their day at Pine Valley?