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HAMMOCK: Here's to Berkeley Hills, Northwood and Gwinnett's older golf courses

Berkeley Hill Country Club president Joe Lindenmayer, center, stands with longtime members Buddy and Vivien Brackett, left, and Ed and Betty Burchfield, right, during the club’s 50th Anniversary Gala. Both couples have been memebers for more than 45 years. (Special Photo)

Berkeley Hill Country Club president Joe Lindenmayer, center, stands with longtime members Buddy and Vivien Brackett, left, and Ed and Betty Burchfield, right, during the club’s 50th Anniversary Gala. Both couples have been memebers for more than 45 years. (Special Photo)

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Berkeley Hills Country Club president Joe Lindenmeyer, second left, is presented an autographed photo of LPGA golfer and 2011 Solheim Cup Captain, Rosie Jones, left, with other club memebers during the club’s 50th Anniversary Gala golf tournament on Saturday. (Special Photo)

I’ve always had a fondness for the golf course at Berkeley Hills Country Club, even though its highly regarded, speedy greens frustrate me at times.

It probably doesn’t hurt that my only hole-in-one came on the Duluth course, but it’s more than that.

There’s something to be said for Gwinnett County’s older golf courses like Berkeley Hills, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last weekend. Lawrenceville’s Northwood Country Club, the county’s first private golf club, falls into that same category — it opened in 1959 as nine-hole Castle View Town and Country Club. Snellville’s Summit Chase Country Club, opened in 1973, and Collins Hill Golf Club, built in 1965 and formerly called Springbrook, does, too.

Newer, more hyped golf courses have popped up all over since those three were built. Places like the River Club and Bear’s Best in Suwanee, the TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth and Hamilton Mill Golf Club in Dacula are great courses, but wind within sprawling neighborhoods.

At a club like Northwood or Berkeley Hills, the course is the centerpiece. Not the huge houses that line the fairways. In most cases, woods and brush line the holes, not residences.

To me, that’s a neat type of golf course to play. It’s also more compact and conducive to golfers who want to walk their rounds.

“Nowadays they build golf courses to sell houses. That’s not the case here,” longtime Northwood superintendent Chuck Underwood told the Daily Post in 2009, on his club’s 50-year anniversary. “It’s a pretty place. When you turn in the gates, you are kind of in your own little world.”

The same can be said for Berkeley Hills, which has done its share of evolving over the years.

It was built in 1964 as a nine-hole course by local developer Larry McClure, who added nine more holes and sold it in 1966. The club purchased additional land in the early 1970s and up until 2007 it featured 27 holes. That’s when it sold the land across the street from the club to developers.

Through the changes, Berkeley Hills has maintained its quaintness while growing at the same time. Its old clubhouse was replaced by a state-of-the-art building in 1999. Less than a decade ago, its bentgrass greens were replaced by Champion Bermudagrass.

The green switch was met with rave reviews, making the course attractive for everyone from the nondescript members to the club’s most famous member, Gwinnett resident and 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink. He likes the speedy greens there to prepare for tournament play, supplementing his work at the TPC at Sugarloaf course where he lives.

Cink will be playing on another old, self-contained golf course this week for the Masters. No homes between holes, just nature.

Gwinnett’s older courses aren’t Augusta National, but their old-style charm still makes them pretty special in my book.

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.