We played Hampshire Greens, in Silver Spring, MD, on Monday, October 8, 2018. Of the nine courses in the Montgomery County Golf (MCG) rotation, this Lisa Maki design is considered the high-end play. They boast a country club level atmosphere and service level at a daily fee price point. While it’s been open since 1999, this was my first time on the course. I’ll usually play between 15-20 rounds per year on the MCG courses, but have not included Hampshire Greens as there are lower cost options that provide an equal level golf experience.
There are four sets of tees on this par-72 track and I found it a very enjoyable play. We played one up at the blues and I felt that this was a course I could score on. They put all the length into the par-5s and don’t kill you on distance or forced carries on the 3s and 4s. If the strength of your game is driving, you’re going to love the looks they give you with neatly framed fairways, superb conditioning, and fairly generous landing areas. Hit your drive solid and in the fairway, and you’re usually left with a medium to short iron in. The course’s main defense is well bunkered raised greens with a decent amount of slope and quickness to them. I found you needed an extra club hitting into these raised greens. Also, the reputation is for lightning quick speed on the putts but we found them medium fast. Perhaps it was because of our early afternoon tee time, but either way, the bentgrass surfaces were in excellent condition and rolling smooth.
- They had positioned some pins in difficult spots either right in front or on the sides of some greens. I left thinking it was best to just play for the middle of these greens rather than go flag hunting and missing into some tough up-and-down spots, which I did.
- Pay attention to the aiming sticks they have in some of the fairways, especially on the second shot for the par-fives. Each of the fives has a similar design where the landing areas are squeezed down to very narrow corridors the closer you get to the greens. We thought this was a bit awkward and felt like the par-5 2nd hole was a little unfair. I lost my ball into the hazard left on a well struck medium iron layup. You must hit it right of the aiming stick there to keep it in play.
- With these narrow corridors on the fives, for long hitters, it felt like you needed to approach with supreme accuracy, else you were taking an unnecessary risk going for the green in two. This was my only bone to pick with the layout.
- From the blue tees, none of the par-4s were short enough to try and drive close to the green, but you need to pay attention on where to land your ball. #10 is a downhill tee shot and an uphill approach. The hole is only 362 yards but everything bounces hard left to right in the fairway. You must keep your tee shot out of the fairway bunker left, which is about 220 yards from the tee, or you could be looking at a big number.
Facilities (3.25 out of 5.0)
This course is designed for cart play. You cannot walk. Actually, you may be permitted to walk but your greens fee includes a cart and for good reason. Some of the distances between greens and tees are huge. I like to walk but couldn’t imagine playing this one on foot.
The course has a smallish clubhouse and grill with a patio that overlooks the fairway of the 9th hole. The 9th finishes up going away from the clubhouse, which I found a little strange, and if you need to stop, you have to backtrack for half a hole. We didn’t and just continued on to the inward half.
They have a grass driving range but the grass tee was closed on this day and we were hitting from one of 13 driving mats. Balls are $5 for a bucket of about 40-50 and are purchased in the pro-shop.
There is a single practice green next to the clubhouse and while you are permitted to chip, it feels a little squeezed to make this an actual short game practice area, especially when golfers are warming up their pre-round putting. I came out the day before just to practice and didn’t feel right hitting chips and pitches in, and just putted. If you want to seriously work short game, I’d seek another venue.
Value (3.5 out of 5.0)
We played on a Monday after 12 noon rate of $39.99. At this price, the value is superb because of the quality of the course. Pre-noon, the cost is $49.99 which is still good. The normal weekend morning rate is $74.99 and after noon it falls to $59.99 which brings a lot of the other area courses into play if you are budget conscious.
The quality of the golf course is the main allure. An equivalent area play for layout and conditions would be Blue Mash. I’ve picked up a 30 round membership there which works out to $47/round for afternoon weekend play and that appears to be a better value.
Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)
Monday was Columbus Day, a federal holiday. The course was busy and the bag drop guy doubled as the starter. While friendly and helpful enough when it came time to get us paired up and out on time, when I arrived he did not unload my bag. This was of no inconvenience to me. However, if they boast a country club experience, folks may expect more than one person working the bag drop on a busy holiday or weekend, and some assistance with their clubs.
The fellow manning the golf shop processed my check in with a “business as usual” attitude and while he wasn’t rude, didn’t go out of his way with a warm or friendly greeting. The guy at the snack bar provided snappy service and the hotdog with sauerkraut graded out pretty good on the taste test.
There was ample cold drinking water on the course and we were serviced several times by the beverage cart which was appreciated.
Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)
On this day, we played from the blue tees at 6,512 yards (71.6/129) and I carded a five-over par 77. I enjoyed my round at Hampshire Greens and wouldn’t hesitate to return, but would only play on the weekday rate. If you are a walker or are serious about practicing your short game, you may want to try out another close-by venue like Blue Mash or Northwest.