Consciousness of Stream: A review of Treyburn Country Club

by Tim Gavrich


        One of my favorite hazards in all of golf sadly comes into play just once on its golf course.  It is the Swilcan Burn, which crosses in front of the first green at The Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland (as well as in front of the 18th tee, not nearly in play).  Barely five feet wide, it can cause palpitations for players attempting to make birdie on one of the oldest golf holes in the world.  The Burn’s diminutive size is what is so impressive; its implications far outweigh its substance.

        Across the Atlantic Ocean, about 10 miles north of the center of Durham, NC, the golf course at Treyburn Country Club uses its own streams to delightfully maddening effect.  The flowing water comes into play no fewer than six times during the round, forcing golfers to think about the best angles of attack and to make confident swings throughout their rounds.

        Treyburn is, first and foremost, a course built for its members.  Private golf courses cater to a much more regular clientele than do golf resorts and public courses, and their members –- who write a check to the club every month -- have higher expectations.  Higher standards usually follow, for both conditions and layout.  Thus, it is imperative that the golf course architect loads such a private course with sufficient interest to hold members’ attention through dozens of rounds annually.  Renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio has achieved that dynamic at Treyburn, which has held up very well since opening in 1989.  Treyburn retains the golfer’s interest with naturally hilly terrain, fascinating greens and its streams.


One of the streams at Treyburn comes into play at the par 4 3rd hole.


        The following describes a few of the holes that are most indicative of Fazio’s work at Treyburn:


#3, par 4, 403/374/349/309/309 yards — A dogleg left that demands accuracy and boldness from tee to green, the third at Treyburn is the number one handicap hole on the course.  After a drive down the center of the fairway, most players will be left with a short or mid-iron to a green perched above a stream — the first the player will encounter head-on.  A large bunker also stands guard over the left side of the green.  The putting surface itself is one of the tamest on the golf course and there is some room for error directly over the back.  But shots that miss well long will have to deal with the ever-present stream.


#8, par 4, 447/419/395/375/375 yards — The tee box on this lengthy two-shotter yields the prettiest vista the golfer will enjoy to this point.  The hole unfolds below, stretching straight downhill to a brilliant green that slopes from front to back.  A nod to the limitations of lower-spin players, there is ample room to run the ball onto the green from the fairway, as shots that land too far beyond the front third of the putting surface will bound into the rough beyond.


#13, par 3, 130/118/110/102/81 yards — Many cookie-cutter modern courses feature insufficient variety in the lengths of their par 3s.  At Treyburn, however, the difference between the longest and shortest one-shotters is a fantastic 111 yards (the 2nd hole plays to an intimidating 241 yards from the Gold tees).  The beguiling 13th calls for a short iron or wedge over a chasm to a two-tiered green.  The ravine wraps around the left side of the green and a steep hill rises to the right, leaving nowhere to hide a poor shot.  It is a terrific match play hole, where scores from 2 to 5 are likely.


#17, par 3, 178/155/122/122/103 yards — The penultimate hole is the last of the short holes and will make or break many rounds at Treyburn.  A rocky stream that swallows up many golf balls borders the entire right side of the long, narrow green.  A bunker guards the rear-left portion of the green.  The best place to miss the green and still have a decent chance at par is short and a little left going before moving to the long 18th.


#18, par 4, 471/450/428/355/355 yards — The closing hole at Treyburn is the longest par 4 on the course by nearly 40The approach at the long finishing hole at Treyburn. yards.  It plays downhill, however, and a well-struck drive that curls around the left fairway bunker on the inside of the dogleg could leave as little as a mid-iron into the green.  The green complex is easily the most exacting on the course.  A stream wraps around the left and rear of the green, while bunkers lie to the right.  The green falls from front to back, allowing players to access rear hole locations by landing the ball only a few yards onto the green.  It’s a brute for sure, but it is also a picturesque and entertaining finishing hole.


        When designing private courses, many golf architects are hard-pressed to please members across the spectrum of handicaps.  Playability for the bogey golfer often means less of a challenge for the scratch player, but Treyburn strikes a great balance with a set of challenging greens, often-generous fairways and a measure of restraint with regard to hazards.  Fazio’s artistic eye and deft architectural touch have resulted in a well-rounded golf course that should entertain members over repeated rounds, as well as those occasional guests fortunate to be invited to Treyburn.


Editor’s Note:  Treyburn is located in northern Durham, just 10 miles from Duke University and a few short miles from a full range of services.  The large golf community is divided into five neighborhoods around the Little River Reservoir.  Attached homes begin in the $300s, homes with views of the Fazio course range from the $300s to $1 million, and homes in the most exclusive neighborhood, Treyburn Point, start above $600,000 and range as high as $2 million.  The golf course is owned and managed by The McConnell Golf Group, which runs five other excellent golf courses in the Carolinas; a member at one McConnell course has full privileges of membership at all the others.  Initiation fees are $26,000 and monthly dues $325 per family. 

        For more information or to arrange for a visit to Treyburn, please contact me.

Tim Gavrich will be a senior next fall at Washington & Lee University, where he is an English major.  He is a three-year member of the school’s golf team and also contributes a regular column at


From the tees at Treyburn's par 3 13th, and another shot over the stream.

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