Category Archives: Course Reviews

Needwood – Course Review

#18 green at Needwood

Summary:

Needwood, located in Derwood, Maryland is a municipal course run by Montgomery County Golf and is my home course.  I’ve been playing here for over 30 years and have seen many changes, most for the better.  The course is popular and traffic can get pretty high in season, but despite the heavy play, the superintendent keeps the course in good shape year round and has the greens rolling fairly fast and smooth in the hotter months.

Needwood plays to a par of 70 and at just over 6,200 yards from the tips is not much of a challenge for long hitters.  Right-handers who play a fade can score well since there are five holes that dog leg to the right and only two to the left.  The par-36 front is a collection of straight forward holes but the par-34 back is a wonderful mix of long and short holes, forced carries over water, and significant elevation changes.  The course features an excellent slate of closing holes with the 400 yard par-4 sixteenth and eighteenth holes posing the toughest challenges.

Recent improvements include rebuilding most of the green side bunkers to improve drainage and adding new sand.  I hit several bunker shots and the quality of sand was good.  In the last year the course removed several greenside bunkers which has improved the pace of play but may warrent a review of the course rating and slope, as it plays considerably easier without these hazards.

My regular weekend group played it on Sunday, March 25 and we found the course wet after overnight rains, but not sloppy.  Greens had very small tine punches that looked about a week old and were not part of their general aeration which was planned for April 23/24.  The greens were rolling medium fast and a bit bumpy being that it was early spring.

Playing tips:

After 30 years and hundreds of rounds, I know every nook and cranny of this layout but will cover the main points that a first timer would find helpful.  Here we go:

  • #2 is a 400-yard par-4 dogleg right.  The tee box is misaligned straight into the right rough and you must take extra care to line up your tee shot with the fairway.
  • #5 is a short straight par-5 with two big bunkers guarding the front left and right.  Big hitters are tempted to go for it in two but the front bunkers are hard to get up and down from so if you are doubting your ability, lay up.
  • On the par-4 sixth, when the pin is back left on this two-tier green, only suckers go for it.
  • On the par-3 seventh,  it’s okay to miss the green front right.  Long and left or wide right is a very tough up and down.
  • On the par-4 eleventh, if the flag is back, take the middle of the green.  If you are pin high right or left, the break is severe and two putting is difficult.  Front and middle pins are very accessible.
  • The par-3 twelfth is the toughest par-3 because of the length (195 yards) and the ball sucking woods on the left.  A shot in the trees is an automatic double bogey.  Hit the green or put your shot on the right side where they’ve removed a green-side bunker and the play is easier.
  • The tee shot of the par-5 thirteenth hole is elevated and dog-legs to the right.  In cool wet weather, I hit driver but when the course plays fast, I take a three wood for position.  During the summer, tall rough creeps up fast on the left and can snag just a slightly hooked drive.  You must keep it out of the woods on the right off the tee and the second shot or you might be looking at a big number.  There is no advantage to hitting a fairway wood on your second shot because you cannot get home in two and the risk of rolling into the woods on the right is too great.  I always hit 3 or 4-iron into position for an easy short iron approach.
  • #14 is another elevated tee shot to a very short but tricky par-4 dogleg right.  Cut the corner with a big drive and you’ll have a sand wedge in for a short uphill approach and a great birdie opportunity, but pull or hook your tee shot and you may lose it in the creek on the left.  A conservative play with a hybrid or 3-iron still only leaves about 130 yards in and is the safe option.  If the pin is up front you want to be pin high or just short of the green for an easy chip.  Middle of the green or back is almost an automatic three-putt as the front slope is very severe and difficult to negotiate.  Back or middle flag locations putt much easier.  When you play #2, glance to your left from the fairway and note the pin position on #14 as it’s harder to see while playing #14 because of the uphill approach.
  • The par-4 sixteenth is the toughest tee shot on the course and you must favor the right side of the fairway as the hole dog legs to the left and then drops down a hill with a pond guarding the right side approach.  Even if your tee shot finds the left side of the fairway, you may be blocked from the green by a tall tree guarding the corner and will have to hook one to get home.  There is room to miss left around the green but do not miss short or long right, as a deep bunker or tough side hill lie awaits.
  • On the par-3 seventeenth, over the green is dead.  Always play for the front or middle, as shots landing on the back will often roll over and down into the junk.
  • Finally, crank your tee shot on #18 and get as much distance as you can because the second shot is a forced carry over water and can play long.  #18 green is right next to the first tee and is sloped back to front with a tricky ridge in the middle (see photo above.)  Check the pin placement on #18 before you tee off #1 and if it’s in the middle or front middle, make a note to try and approach from below the hole as putts from the back roll a long way once they catch the slope.

Value:  (3.0 out of 5.0)

Greens fees are $47 on the weekend and range balls are $5 per bucket.  For a municipal course that’s usually in reasonably good condition, I’ve found Needwood as a good value and play it 5-10 times per year.

Facilities: (3.0 out of 5.0)

Needwood has a bare-bones pro shop that sells a few clothes, shoes, and accessories.  They used to stock equipment but have scaled back considerably in recent years.  Upstairs from the pro-shop is a fairly large and well stocked grill that overlooks the first tee and 18th green and is a nice place to grab a drink after your round.  A driving range is available with 20-30 stations featuring only mats.  There is a decent size practice putting green but it’s built on a hill in front of the pro shop and it’s difficult to find a flat putt.  A newer practice chipping green was installed in the last 10 years that is very flat and offers a variety of short game shots and conditions.  I’ve made extensive use of this area for practicing all facets of my short game except for sand as there is no bunker.  Needwood has an executive 9 that consists of seven very short par-3 holes and two short par-4s.  The “exec” is popular with beginners and those trying to get in a quick nine holes.  I’ve played it with my son when he was learning the game and it’s appropriate for that purpose but the slow pace of play will irritate more experienced players.

Customer Experience: (3.0 out of 5.0)

Booking a tee time is easy through Montgomery County Golf’s website but you will have to create an account.  Otherwise, call the pro shop at 301-948-1075.  There are usually ample times 1-2 weeks in advance but they fill up fast in good weather.

Mike Kenny was the resident pro and has moved over to Falls Road (another MCG course) and has been replaced by Chris Cissel, PGA.  The operation had been run well by Mike over the last few years and I’m hopeful Chris shows the same attention to detail that Mike had.

For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,254 yards and shot a four-over par 74.

Overall Rating: (3.0 out of 5.0)

Poolesville – Course Review

Par-3, #8 green at Poolesville

Summary

Poolesville is the western most golf course in Montgomery County, Maryland and is one of nine public courses operated by Montgomery County Golf.  This track is nothing more than bare bones basic municipal golf and seems to be the primary course of choice for residents of the town, as the balance of county golfers enjoying the more upscale courses in the center and west of the county.  I usually play here once or twice per season and just for a bit of variety, because the overall experience is lacking.

During my round on March 18, I found the course in decent shape through the green with the putting surfaces mowed fairly close but unable to hold a shot from any distance.  Approaches were bouncing off these greens like super balls on a concrete parking lot.  Even up close, the most crisp of chips and pitches failed to hold or bite, making for a frustrating afternoon.  Tee boxes were in good condition but the grounds crew didn’t clean up before or after mowing and there were a litany of broken tees littering all 18 holes.

Playing tips:

The front nine is rather ho-hum and the holes are very straight forward.  The back has more variety and challenge.  General rule of thumb; play your approach shots below the hole because most greens are fairly sloped from back to front and shortsiding yourself to tight pins is a recipe for high scores.  Some specifics:  #2 is a long par-5 and you should avoid the fairway bunker on the left at about 150 yards out because the carry from it is over two greenside bunkers.  A third shot is much more easily played from the right side of the fairway or even the right rough.  If you are on the back of the green on #2, the break on putts back to the front is very severe from right to left; much more than it looks.  #10 is a medium length par-4.  Tee shots on the left part of the fairway bounce hard left into the rough and shots in the left rough bounce down the hill, so favor the right side.  Also there is a small greenside bunker protecting the front left that you cannot see from back in the fairway.  #11 is a dogleg right par-5 that longer hitters can reach in two.  From the white tees, aim your shot straight over the last tree in the right rough.  If you hit it 230-250 you’ll be in the left side of the fairway looking at about 190 yards in.  If you hit it shorter off the tee, play for the aiming flag in the fairway.  #12 is the toughest hole at Poolesville and is a long dogleg left par-4.  If the flag is in the back DO NOT GO OVER THE GREEN!  The chip or pitch is impossible to get close.  Same thing on #15 which is a shorter par-4.  If the pin is back, over is dead.  The green on #16 is tiny.  If the pin is in the front, play below it or leave it just short, as the chip is quite easy.  Putting from behind a front pin here is very difficult and for back or side pins, just play for the middle of the green.  On the par-3 17th, take 1 1/2 more clubs than you normally would, as the uphill shot is all carry.  Finally, on the par-4 18th, if the pin is back center, all putts from the front/middle will break much more right than they look.

Value (2.5 out of 5.0)

Greens fees are $42 to walk and you don’t need a cart to play here.  All you get for your money is the golf with the low greens fee in-line with the entire golf experience.

Facilities (1.5 out of 5.0)

Poolesville’s original clubhouse and grill are closed, shuttered, still standing, and unsightly.  They’ve been replaced with a very basic structure hosting a small pro-shop and restrooms.

Clubhouse at Poolesville

The shop sells a few shoes, shirts, balls, and snacks, but no equipment and there is no grill or sit-down food service.  The driving range has mats and rubber tees; some of which are broken.  The best part of the facility is a large practice putting green that has several mowed approaches and a bunker with good sand.

Customer Experience (2.0 out of 5.0)

I played as a single and had called the day before for a starting time.  The shop attendant reserved a spot for me with a threesome but when I showed up at the course I was mildly annoyed that they had no record of my reservation.  Indeed, it appeared that the person I spoke with had rushed me through the phone call.  When I explained the situation to the shop attendant, he booked me over the existing single’s name in the same time slot.  He indicated he thought they might have used an alias as the name in the original booking.  Needless to say but I viewed this as very unprofessional.  I presented myself to the starter when I was ready to go and he pared me up with a single on the tee and we had no issues getting off but I sensed the operation was not being professionally run.  One of the criticisms of Montgomery County Golf in the past is that they use general managers at some of their clubs in-lieu of head professionals with PGA certification.  A check of the MCG website staff listing indicates this is the case at Poolesville, so apparently the practice continues.

I would only recommend Poolesville as a stop gap or if you get shut out from tee times at all the other MCG courses.  For the record, I played from the white tees measuring 6,405 yards and carded an 82.

Overall Rating (2.0 out of 5.0)


My All Time Top Five

Let’s try a fun exercise.  Think of the top five lists for all the golf courses you’ve ever played.  Here’s mine, what are yours?

Top Five Courses:

  1. Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda.  The most scenic, greatest ocean-side course I’ve ever played.
  2. Congressional Country Club, Blue Course, Bethesda, Maryland.  Site of the 1964, 1997, and 2011 U.S. Open.  Also hosted the 1976 PGA Championship.  Just a great old-fashioned superb test of golf.
  3. Carnousti Golf Links, Championship Course, Carnousti, Scotland.  Home to seven British Open Championships and 7,421 of the most brutal yards of links style golf.
  4. Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Quiet oasis inside a major metropolitan area.  Very challenging and has some great holes with significant changes in elevation.  Hosted the 1921 U.S. Open.
  5. Burning Tree Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland.  Along with Augusta National, probably one of the one or two most exclusive old-style private clubs in the country.  Take a caddy and tee it up where all the big shot presidents were members.  Doesn’t even have a website!
#16 at Port Royal, Bermuda

Five Most Fun Holes

  1. Par-3, #16 at Port Royal in Bermuda.  235 yards of the most breathtaking golf shot you will ever see.
  2. Par-4, #18 at True Blue in Myrtle Beach, SC.  437 yards of dog leg left with a forced carry over water and water framing the entire hole down the left side.  Great finishing hole.
  3. Par-5, #7 at Eagles Landing in Ocean City, MD.  Three shot par-5 measuring 528 yards that doglegs 90 degrees and finishes with a shot to the green set out in the marsh adjacent to the Sinepuxent Bay.
  4. Par-5, #9 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.  Measures 602 yards from the tips and the third shot has to carry a large ravine to an elevated green.  Super hole requiring three great shots to get home.
  5. Par-4, #9 at The Legends, ParklandCourse in Myrtle Beach, SC.  At 311 yards this is a brutally tough risk-reward play with the green high on an unprotected hill.  When the wind blows you can put up some big numbers on this little daredevil.
    #18 True Blue, Myrtle Beach, SC

Top 5 Courses in Myrtle Beach

  1. True Blue
  2. Heritage
  3. Leopards Chase
  4. Tigers Eye
  5. TPC Myrtle Beach

Top 5 Public Courses in the Mid-Atlantic

  1. Eagles Landing, Ocean City, Maryland
  2. Whiskey Creek, Ijamsville, Maryland
  3. Rasberry Falls, Leesburg, Virginia
  4. Blue Mash, Laytonsville, Maryland
  5. Swan Point, Swan Point, Maryland

Top 5 Practice Facilities

  1. Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
  2. The Legends, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  3. Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
  4. Blue Mash, Laytonsville, Maryland
  5. Little Bennett, Clarksburg, Maryland

University of Maryland – Course Review

University of Maryland, par-3 #2, Black Nine

Summary

We played the University of Maryland golf course on Sunday, November 13, 2011.  I used to play the course frequently while in school but had not been back in many years.  The course is a lovely layout and definitely requires significant local knowledge to score.  I found my recall excellent but was reminded that Maryland is difficult to play in the fall as the par-71 track routes extensively through tall deciduous trees, and while the fall colors make for a beautiful site, the accompanying carpet of leaves makes ball identification difficult.

The course had top dressed the greens with a light layer of sand which didn’t affect playability too much, however conditions were a bit scratchy and the greens appeared stressed with significant areas unplayable as ground under repair.  After the course underwent an award-winning $3.5 million renovation in 2008, the Nationwide Tour annually scheduled The Melwood Open at Maryland and we were left to wonder how they get the greens in tour condition, only to let them falter in the fall during good growing season.  We noticed that our ball marks were very easy to repair which may have indicated shallow root growth.  There were also many bare lies in the rough which made clean contact an adventure and often balls sat down in the gnarly second cut.  Fairways and tee boxes were in good shape as were the numerous green-side and fairway bunkers.  The course is adequately marked for yardage but no golf cart GPS  service is available.

University of Maryland, par-5 #9, Gold Nine

Playing tips from the gold tees:  The course is configured with two nines (Gold and Black) with golfers playing the Gold as the front.  Right out of the box you are hit with two meaty par fours, each over 400 yards with water in play on both so there’s no time to ease into your game.  The second shot on #2 plays 1-1/2 clubs longer than the yardage.  Most of the holes are straight forward but we found that even in the fairways, you often had lies slightly above and below your feet which made clean strikes and getting the ball close a challenge.  On the Black Nine par-5 fourth, everything bounces right on the drive and second shot.  You need to honor this and going for the well bunkered green in two is not advised.  The Black’s par-3 fifth is a long shot (211 yards from the gold tees) and you must play for the left side of the green as everything bounces right and down the hill.  The greenside bunker on the right is a very tough up-and-down and should be avoided.  Finally, the tee shot on the par-5 seventh on the Black is all about placement.  Get the ball in play on the top of the hill to position for a long downhill second shot.  It is rumored that Jack Nicklaus once eagled this hole hitting driver-seven iron but unless you can bomb a cut 300 yards, hit a 3 wood for position.

University of Maryland, par-4 #9, Black Nine

Value (3.0 out of 5.0)

We played on the winter weekend rate of $50 to ride.  You can walk for $35.  In season weekend rates are $69 to ride which seems like a good value if conditions are better than what we played on.  Range balls are $4 for a small and $7 for a medium bucket and are not included in the greens fees.  However, if you book your tee time through the web, your group is given one free small bucket of balls.  Memberships are offered as are discounts for students but we played on the regular guest rate.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The clubhouse boasts a modest sized pro shop with the basic essentials.  A locker room and grill-pub are available but we did not sample the food.  The practice facilities are nice with a full size driving range with both grass and matted teeing areas.  The grass was closed and I sensed it was primarily utilized for the Melwood Open as well as college tournaments.  Separate modest sized chipping and pitching greens with a practice bunker are available and a large putting green is adjacent to the main clubhouse.  I practiced here for a couple of hours a week before we played and was very satisfied with the offerings.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

I booked a tee time on the web with no difficulty with guests permitted to reserve five days in advance.  The starter and pro-shop staff were pleasant enough and everything seemed to run on-time with a moderately crowded golf course.  There was no beverage cart service which I found a bit odd considering the numbers of players and the agreeable weather.  Carts were not permitted in the parking lot so hauling a heavy bag to your car could be considered a minor inconvenience.  I’d like to try Maryland again in season, perhaps right after they play the Nationwide event, just to see how good this course can play.

For the record, I played the gold tees at 6,369 yards and carded a six-over 77.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


Eagle’s Landing – Course Review

Summary

Eagles Landing view of #18 fairway from #10 tee

It’s all about the course at Eagle’s Landing in Ocean City, MD.  Located adjacent to the Ocean City airport, Eagles Landing is technically a muni because it’s owned and operated by the city, but the impression of “muni” ends when you step on the first tee.  This is one of my favorite plays on the Delmarva and my stop here on October 28 again lived up to lofty expectations.  Tees and fairways were in excellent condition and the Bentgrass greens were running surprisingly fast.  Bunkers were well maintained and had good consistent sand.

Tee shot on the par-3 17th hole at Eagle’s Landing

First time players will not be wowed by the facilities but when play begins, everything changes as you enjoy excellent hole routing and a wide variety of shot choices around the greens.  Along with the superb conditions there are several spectacular views of holes running along the salt marshes of the Sinepuxent Bay.

Eagle’s Landing is buffeted by fresh coastal breezes and the later your tee time the more certain you are to play in the wind.  Managing the wind and knowing how to safely negotiate some placement holes are key.

View of Eagle’s Landing #16 from the Cloud Dancer bi-plane

Playing tips:  The par-3 fifth has a prevalent two-tier green.  If the flag is in the front or middle, play from below the hole.  A chip or putt from the upper tier is dead.  The par-5 seventh hole is a beauty and doglegs 90 degrees to the left.  From the gold tees, play your tee shot at 200-210 yards.  Take the maximum yardage to the end of the fairway for your second shot as there is ample room past the end of the fairway.  You do not want to be short because the third shot is to a green out in the marsh and you must get enough distance to clear the tall pines guarding the left side of the approach.  #10 is a short par four and the woods creep up fast on the left.  Hit your 3WD or driver but favor the center or right rough for an easy approach.  On the par four 15th, lay your tee shot back with a 3WD or hybrid to stay out of trouble.  Water is hidden on the left and sneaks up fast and there is no advantage to hitting driver.  #16 is a deceiving short par-4.  When the pin is cut on the left (front or middle), do not attack it as most shots will roll through and over the green.  Even putting at this crowned pin position is tough so take the middle of the green.  The 18th hole is termed “The Beast of the East” and is an awkward play because it takes the driver out of your hands as the fairway runs out at about 210 yards and is guarded by marsh on the left and right.  The second shot is difficult the farther you lay back so get as close to the end of the fairway as possible.  If you land in the marsh, you want to minimize the distance for your third.  Good luck!

Value (4.0 out of 5.0)

Greens fees are quite reasonable for a course of this caliber.  High season weekend rates top out at $79 and we played for $55 on the weekend fall rate.  Being city owned and operated allows the course to keep fees low and provides excellent value.

Facilities (2.5 out of 5.0)

The major investment at Eagle’s Landing has been placed in the 18 holes of golf.  A medium-size clubhouse hosts a no-frills snack bar and pro shop which serve little more than their functions of getting golfers out on the course and providing basic refreshment.  There are no locker rooms and rest rooms are a bit dated and could use some modernizing.  Players looking to warm up need to use the short game area because there is no driving range.  The pitching green is ample in size and provides a variety of lies as well as two practice bunkers that are kept in excellent condition.  I’ve warmed up adequately by hitting partial sand wedge shots but if you need to hit balls, stop at the Assateague Greens Golf Center on the left side of the road prior to entering the course.   The large practice putting green is located close to the first tee and and conditions usually mirror those on the course.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

This is a popular golf course because of the quality/conditions and the reasonable greens fees so get your tee times early.  I had no problem booking an advance time for my late-October round, but in season, the tee sheet fills up fast.  You can call or book your times on-line.  One minor inconvenience is how you get a prerecorded phone message to call back when the shop staff doesn’t pick up, and then you are disconnected.  I can wait and listen to some elevator music.

At the course, the bag drop staff and starters are friendly and accommodating.  We were visited several times on the course by the beverage cart which was offering free coffee refills on a cold blustery day, which was much appreciated.  The take offs and landings of small aircraft at the nearby airport were a pleasant diversion and didn’t prove to be irritating or distracting.  GPS has been installed recently on all golf carts which is very helpful and we found play moved at an excellent pace with our round taking slightly over four hours to play.

On this day, I played the gold tees at 6,306 yards and carded a six-over 78.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

Jim on the second tee at Eagles Landing
Jim on the second tee at Eagles Landing


Glen Riddle Man ‘O War – Course Review

Summary

#10 tee Man ‘O War

We played Man ‘O War on Thursday, October 27.  The course is one of two at Glen Riddle Golf Club (War Admiral is the other) managed by the Ruark Golf Properties Company and is part of an upscale daily fee group available in the Ocean City, MD area.  Man ‘O War is an all Bermuda grass course which is a little unusual for the mid-Atlantic area, but we found conditions excellent with tees and fairways lush, and greens smooth and rolling at medium speed.  The lone exception was the bunkers.  The sand was dark, wet, and extremely hard packed but was consistent across the course.

The first 13 holes are pure links style golf with challenges in the form of small and large pot bunker configurations as well as significant mounding and rounded elevated greens.  A missed green usually required an uphill pitch or chip from a closely mowed collection area or a difficult shot from the rough with your ball sitting below the surface.  Be prepared to hit some sand shot like explosions from green-side grassy lies.

#14 tee Man ‘O War

#14 (pictured above) – #18 wind through the woods and provided an interesting change of pace with more of a parkland-like feel.  One small idiosyncrasy: there were large plantings of ornamental grass placed directly in line of site of several tee shots.  While the grasses and tee box configurations were aesthetically pleasing, we found the placement a bit odd.    Otherwise, no two holes were alike and the course was a delight to play.

Course management tips:  Most par-fours aren’t particularly long but don’t require a layup with a 3WD or hybrid because of trouble, so go ahead and hit driver.  The lone exception is #17, as the risk/reward is not worth the extra distance.  I hit 3-iron/gap wedge for a good birdie opportunity.  Also, if the pin is back on #3, do not attack it because shots landing hole high, will roll off the back and into the water hazard.

Value (3.0 out of 5.0)

In season weekend greens fees are expensive.  Morning rates range from $89 to $129 depending on the date.  We played after 12 noon on a mid-week fall rate of $55 which was a very good value for the quality of the course and facilities.  The sister course, War Admiral, which is considered the premium play at Glen Riddle, is about $20 higher across the board.  I’d recommend the off season value play because the in-season cost is prohibitive.

Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)

Man ‘O War has an enormous clubhouse.  The original Riddle stables, that were used to train War Admiral and Man ‘O War, were converted into the pro shop and the adjoining Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  Everything from the locker rooms to the rest rooms to the pro shop to the restaurant is very well appointed and exudes class.

Players are treated to an all grass driving range separated in halves for the general public and members.  Conditions were excellent on the range as well as the adjacent putting green, which had ample room to practice long flat putts and breakers.  There was a chipping green with practice bunkers available but oddly enough it’s located at the opposite end of the driving range and is not obvious for those warming up for play.  In fact, we were mildly disappointed at our inability to chip during warm-up as we were simply unaware that the pitching area existed until we saw it after holing out on the 8th green.  A closer look showed it to be in excellent condition as well.  If you want to practice short game before a round, get there early.  Finally, the building that houses the range, has a snack bar and restrooms and is conveniently located before the first and tenth tees.

Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)

Calling for a tee time was a breeze and they had exactly the time and date I requested.  The pro shop staff was courteous and professional and the starter paid specific attention to our needs with regard to required warm-up time and desired time to tee off, given the fact that the course was empty.  On the course, the carts were equipped with full GPS capability and a nice “Pro Tips” feature that provided course management recommendations on each hole.  All the par four and fives had aiming poles in the fairway at 150 yards out, which we found helpful.  The course does require some local knowledge to score and we found that if you can hit it reasonably straight off the tee, there were no tricks or surprises.  Several sets of tees offer golfers of every ability a very enjoyable experience.  With the off-season after 12 noon tee time, this course is an excellent play for visitors to Ocean City.

For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,556 yards and carded an 81.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)


Pinehurst – Resort and Course Reviews

Resort Review:

The Carolina Hotel – Pinehurst, NC

Just returned from an excellent trip to Pinehurst Resort for three days of golf at one of America’s premier destinations.  Here’s a link to the trip photo and video album.  Played the #8 course on Saturday, #4 on Sunday, and finished out on the storied #2 course on Labor Day.

Pinehurst sells a variety of all inclusive deals with various lodging and playing options.  We played on a three-day, two-night package and stayed at the Manor Inn which was the least expensive choice for lodging but was more than adequate for our needs.  The Manor is an older building with clean rooms, nice comfortable beds, mahogany desks and wardrobes, modern bathrooms, and high speed internet access.  Manor is very convenient to the rest of the resort as free shuttle buses can be summoned from any resort property and will take you anywhere.

The Carolina Hotel, pictured above, is the center of Pinehurst operations and is the largest of the lodging options.  We enjoyed our three course dinners and morning breakfast buffets (all included) at the Carolina in their formal dining room.  The food was delicious and the service impeccable.  The staff at the Manor and Carolina were friendly and helpful and exuded class and plenty of old Southern charm.

Upon arrival, you are assigned a bag tag with your tee times and course numbers for your entire stay.  You leave your golf bag at the main club and every day the staff has your clubs loaded on a cart at the course you are scheduled to play.  Courses 1-5 play out of the main clubhouse and 6-8 are off-site.  The main clubhouse is a tremendous facility with two pro shops managing play (#2 has it’s own).  A huge grass driving range and extensive putting green are available along with several practice chipping and pitching areas.  The practice facilities are simply the best I’ve ever played at.  Inside the main clubhouse along the long corridor from the entrance to the locker rooms are displays detailing the wonderful history of Pinehurst and the various championships, trophies, and tributes to the winners.

Payne Stewart, 1999 US Open Champion

Course Reviews:

Pinehurst #2

Pinehurst #2 – 17 tee

The original 1907 Donald Ross design has been altered considerably by Coors and Crenshaw in 2010.  Gone is most of the rough, replaced by natural looking waste areas containing sand, grasses, and pine straw.  The par-3 17th pictured above, features this to the right.  In some instances, bunkers have been placed within the waste areas blurring the line between hazard and waste area.  My group was wondering how a ball on the edge of a bunker within a sandy waste area should be played.  On a pre-round tour of the course, I thought I’d be playing several 3-woods off the tees for position since the waste areas extend the length of most par 4 and 5 holes, but surprisingly I found ample landing area in the fairways and hit driver on all holes.  Making clean contact from the various lies in the waste areas was difficult and we also noted that after playing the first few holes with the same waste area look, subsequent holes were fairly indistinguishable from the previous.  At the end of the round, no single hole stood out for its features or magnificence.

Our biggest disappointment was learning that the greens had been aerated and top dressed four days before our round.  This was supposedly a surprise to everyone including the pro shop staff, as the greens superintendent had judged that the Bent grass greens were under tremendous stress from the summer heat and needed to be saved.  I was highly suspicious of this reasoning until I learned that they aerated one day before a major member guest tournament.  Maybe it was true?  Either way, our round was played on bumpy sandy greens and we payed the full $175 surcharge.   Elsewhere the course was in excellent shape with the Bermuda fairways and tees quite immaculate, and good quality sand in the bunkers.  I found the lack of formal elevated tee boxes and the all-sand cart paths interesting, as an obvious attempt had been made to preserve the most natural of looks to the land.  Also the closeness of several greens to teeing areas made me wonder how the 2014 US Open and Woman’s US Open participants would manage the proximity to other groups and the associated distractions.  Finally, in contrast with the other Pinehurst courses, there were no indicators for pin positions and guessing yardages was difficult since the only markings were on the sprinkler heads.  The course requests that you keep carts on the paths at all times and there are no distance indicators on the paths.  The other seven courses employ the Red, White, Yellow flags to indicate positioning but the #2 pins are all white with the #2 logo emblazoned and unless you take a caddy or are equipped with a range finder, you’ll end up guessing the yardage and lugging a handful of clubs from cart to ball.

For the record, I played the white tees at 6,307 yards and carded an 82 and was left with the impression that #2 was an impressive layout but was a bit over-hyped.

Pinehurst #4

Pinehurst #4 – 13 green

The Tom Fazio 2000 rework of #4 produced a stunning must-play.  The course was the best conditioned of our three with the greens rolling smooth and true, although not very fast, and the tees and fairways in excellent shape.  Fazio has framed several tee shots with clusters of pot bunkers, most notably on the edges of dogleg par 4s and 5s.  Additional pots are cleverly placed green side to defend against wayward approaches.  I found myself hitting 3-wood off several tees for pot bunker avoidance which turned out to be a good strategy.  You have to think your way around this course and can score by avoiding the trouble.

Each hole is unique and memorable.  They do a great job on hole #4 which is a beautiful downhill par-3 that requires a forced carry over water, and reuse the same lake on #13 to present a sweeping dogleg left par-5 that is the consummate risk-reward adventure.  The fun continues on the par-3, 14th which features the same lake all the way down the left.   A few of the holes have significant elevation changes that adds to the uniqueness of the track.

Inevitably, you will visit some of the 140+ pot bunkers so bring your sand game but if you can avoid the majority, you’ll do well.  We played from the blue tees at 6,658 yards and I shot a five-over 77.  #4 was clearly our favorite play on this trip.

Pinehurst #8

Pinehurst #8 – 17 tee

Number 8 plays off it’s own clubhouse and is another Tom Fazio design and was built to commemorate the Pinehurst centennial year of 1996.  The layout of this course was varied and very enjoyable however conditioning was an issue.  The greens had obviously been stressed by summer heat and had significant brown patches.  Some of the collars were completely killed and were being actively worked on.  The Bermuda grass tees and fairways were in excellent shape, as they were across all courses.  After the sum of our experiences on the three courses, we thought the resort may want to resurface all putting surfaces with Bermuda to better manage the heat.

The key to playing #8 is placement off the tee.  you MUST hit the fairway or are left with awkward lies in very penal Bermuda rough.  Once in the second cut, either off the fairway or green side, the ball sat down and was very difficult to extract with clean contact.  Despite the ragged conditions on the greens, I managed to have a good day putting as the surface of the practice putting green mirrored that of the course and left me very comfortable with the speed.

#8 has its own driving range which was beautiful but was only half opened and got very crowded during the morning warm-up with some folks waiting a few minutes for a spot.  Double teeing was the culprit and I’d like to see the course avoid that practice.  There was an excellent short game area that included several mowed approaches and a good size bunker.  A second smaller putting green was located next to the first tee which was convenient.

We left thinking that if conditions were better, #8 would be a great play.  That being said, we had a very fun day and I carded a six-over 78 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,698 yards.

Pinehurst #8 – post round on the range

Blue Mash – Course Review

Summary

Blue Mash golf course in Laytonsville, Maryland is a Joe Hills-Tom Healy design that combines links and parkland styles into a single theme that is both challenging and very fun to play.  The course is home to a fabulous grass driving range and large short game practice facility that begs the seasoned player and beginner alike to come and spend time.

Always in good condition, this upscale daily fee track smacks you right out of the box with three meaty par-4 holes each playing over 420 yards from the men’s tees.  Water and well placed fairway bunkers come into play and frame the approaches on several holes but there’s only one forced carry on the par-3 17th.  A mixture of short and medium length par-4s and 5s keep the route interesting with no two holes alike.  The true toughness of Blue Mash is evident in hot dry conditions when the greens are rolling fast.  I recently played on August 14, 2011 during “Diabolical Pins Week” where the course attempts to mirror some feature of the major tournament being played at the time (2011 PGA.)  The pins were cut on various humps and near the edges and needless to say, I made nothing outside of six feet.  Fortunately, some early rain had slowed the greens to a manageable pace but I left imagining what kind of day I could have had with these pins cut on fast rolling greens.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

Greens fees for 2011 are $79 for morning weekend starting times.  This includes cart and range balls.  You can get $10 off if you elect to prepay.  A variety of weekday, 10-year, and corporate memberships are available that offer good value to the individual who plays a lot.

Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)

Blue Mash is where I go when I need to do serious practice.  The driving range is the best I’ve found in Montgomery County and always seems to be in excellent condition.  The practice putting green can handle a large number of players quite comfortably and is always rolling smooth and true.  Nearby is a short game area that provides a variety of shots from all sides.  Several tightly mowed areas are provided as are a variety of tall grass configurations, as well as uphill and downhill lies.  Two bunkers at opposite ends of the green are much lower than the surface of the green and are the only awkward feature, as thinly struck sand shots from either can sometimes endanger players at the opposite end.

A modest sized clubhouse is home to a small pro shop and medium-sized grill area.  A good-sized patio  overlooks the short game area and is a great spot to enjoy some food and drink after a round.  Finally, a small set of lockers are available to the members for a nominal fee.  The allure of Blue Mash facilities are the course and practice area.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

The pro shop staff and starters are friendly and accommodating.  With the driving range, putting green, and short game area closely situated to the clubhouse, the process of warm-up and teeing off was a cinch.  Everything moved orderly and we did a minimal amount of waiting on the course, albeit after teeing off on a less crowded rainy morning.  The course had aerated greens which I thought was a little awkward considering it was still late summer but then found that another local upscale daily fee (Whiskey Creek) had done the same a week later.  Perhaps there’s a reason, but I’m accustomed to a mid-Fall aeration schedule.  Anyway, the greens were a little slow because of the rain and not rolling true from aeration.  The course had drained very well from heavy early morning rains as we rode and played cart-path only.  Tee boxes and fairways were in good shape with the lone exception on the short par-4, 8th fairway which had many unrepaired divots left from numerous short iron approaches.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)


Clustered Spires – Course Review

Summary

Clustered Spires is run by the city of Frederick, Maryland and is adjacent to the Frederick municipal airport (about 10 minutes from downtown Frederick).  We played on August 7, 2011 at the height of the summer heat and drought that’s gripped the Washington D.C. area.  Surprisingly, the course was in good shape, with well watered tee boxes, lush fairways, and thick receptive greens.  There’s not much length to the course with the regular men’s tees playing just over 6,200 yards.  Most par-4s are under 400 yards and several par-5s are reachable in two with a good tee shot.  Water comes into play on a few holes but there are no forced carries and ample bail-out areas for sprayers off the tee.

My last three times out at Clustered Spires, I’ve switched to a ball with a lower spin rate (Titleist DT Roll) as I’ve found my regular ball (Pro-V1) provides too much bite on these greens.  Again today, those in our group playing high spin balls were backing up full iron shots 10-20 feet.  Once on the greens, the surfaces rolled smooth and were easy to read, albeit a little slow, as the greens crew was clearly working to preserve them in the heat.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0)

Greens fees are quite reasonable with a weekday fee of $40 to ride and $59 for Saturday/Sunday.  The combination of low greens fees and good course conditioning in the summer heat make Clustered Spires a very good value for your golfing dollar.

Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)

Clustered Spires has a good size clubhouse that encompasses a nice fully stocked pro shop, a walk up grill with a medium size indoor seating area, and a fairly large covered patio overlooking the 9th green and 1st tee.  Separate practice putting and chipping greens are available, but the chipping green lacks an extended closely mowed area for practicing longer pitch shots.  A good size grass driving range is available but was in very poor shape with hardly any grass remaining.  Either the hitting area had not been rotated, the summer heat and lack of water had taken their toll, or both.  As a result, I spent most of my warm up hitting woods and irons off a tee.  Our only complaint with the course was the hard packed crusty condition of the sand.  While consistent from hole to hole, it was too firm and hadn’t appeared to be groomed for quite some time.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

Calling ahead for a reserved tee time was easy and there were ample times available one week in advance.  The staff in the pro shop and snack bar were friendly and helpful.  Our starter seemed organized but tried to be too accommodating and sent a twosome off ahead of us and in our time slot.  These guys had played nine holes on the back and were looking to squeeze in nine more.  As a result, we were frequently waiting on our front nine until the twosome mysteriously quit and rode in after six holes.  The pro shop staff should work to better ensure the integrity of the scheduled starting times.  On the course, the beverage cart came by every five or six holes and there was a good supply of fresh cold drinking water.  Starting in late morning, activity at the adjacent airport picked up with a fairly continuous drone of propeller driven aircraft and sightseeing helicopters.  If you’re looking for quiet secluded golf experience, Clustered Spires is not it, but for a fairly inexpensive municipal golf course with pretty good conditioning at reasonable prices, you can’t go wrong.  I’ll be back.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


Destination Pinehurst Number Two!

Just booked a trip over Labor Day weekend to play Pinehurst #2 along with rounds on #4 and #8 – can’t wait!  #2 is on my bucket list, and as with any golf vacation I will try to peak my game for the effort.  When I travel annually to Myrtle Beach, I’m pretty familiar with what types of greens I’ll be putting and what type of short shots will be required but I’ve never been to Pinehurst and am looking for advice and or playing tips for any of the courses so please send your comments!

Of course, detailed course reviews and an evaluation of the entire Pinehurst travel operation are coming so stay tuned!

Heritage Club – Course Review

#8 tee Heritage

Summary

Heritage Club, on Pawleys Island, SC, is one of my favorite layouts in Myrtle Beach.  Two things make  Heritage unique;  a bevy of Live Oak trees draped with Spanish moss that line the entrance to the club and frame several outstanding holes, and huge undulating Bermuda greens that provide a daunting challenge to your short game.  This course is challenging and you MUST place your approach shots on the same level as the pins.  Missing the greens on the proper level is an easier play than playing from the wrong tier of the putting surface.  40 and 50 foot putts are not uncommon and will create havoc with your confidence and put big numbers on your scorecard.  You’ll need length off the tee, accuracy on approaches, and a deft short game to score at Heritage.  The course is an awesome test.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0).

Playing on The Legends rotation package, Heritage provides very good value considering the overall layout, scenic beauty and quality of course conditioning.  To get top billing, they need to include range balls in the cost, don’t charge an extra $2.00 to turn on the Logitec distance finder in each cart, and stock the range with some quality balls.  I bought a bag of 40, with nearly all the dimples wiped off.  Get them for $5 in the pro shop or the range shuttle driver will sell you a bag in route.  A classy course like Heritage doesn’t need to nickel and dime their customers.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The property is not that large but a shuttle is required to go everywhere.  To the range, back to the clubhouse, to the parking lot after the round.  The putting green is located adjacent to the range and not withing walking distance of the clubhouse, which is a bit awkward (also requires a shuttle.)  The attendant manning the cart staging area reminded us not to drive our clubs to our car after the round because of some insurance concern, which I found interesting since the other Legends courses mentioned no such restriction.

From the front and rear, the clubhouse is drop dead gorgeous and is reminiscent of the antebellum mansion that might have existed on the property in yesteryear.   Between our morning and afternoon round, we dined in the clubhouse and while the standard American fare was quite tasty, we found the service a bit on the slow side.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

Despite all the pre and post round shuttling, we found all the staff very friendly and accommodating.  The pace of play was excellent for both morning and afternoon rounds, and the course a delight to play.   Bring your patience, nerve, and your A-game because from start to finish, Heritage is a fun stern test of every club in the bag.  I’d consider this a must play for anyone making the trip to Pawleys Island.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)


Oyster Bay – Course Review

#5 tee Oyster Bay

Summary

Oyster Bay, in Sunset Beach, NC is the northern most track affiliated with The Legends courses managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management.  My group played here on a recent trip in early June.  Located close to the ocean, the course boasts a variety of holes that weave their way around scenic lakes and marshes and are buffeted by the stiff ocean breezes.  Notable holes begin with #14, a downhill par 5 with a large tree to negotiate in the middle of the fairway, which is followed by a risk-reward carry to the green over water.  This is followed by #15, a beautiful short par 3 surrounded by water that challenges the player’s ability to keep a ball down under the prevailing sea breeze.  #16 is a long par 4 that plays downwind and is bordered by water on the right and in front of the green.  Set just inside the ocean, these three holes, along with the par 5 fifth hole (pictured above), provide a standout variety of challenges for the nature loving golf enthusiast.  Course conditioning is less than spectacular, with several brown patches intruding on some greens as well as a good number of burned out tee boxes and worn spots in the fairways, but the scenic views and variety of holes make this a very fun course to play.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0)

Greens fees run $79 dollars during June and July and include cart but range balls are extra.  Our group was playing on the package offered by The Legends which included breakfast, lunch, two drinks, and golf, which was a great deal.  If you are a playing conditions purist, Oyster Bay’s value is middle of the road at best.  Our group felt like we easily got our money’s worth and enjoyed a second 18 in the afternoon at a $30 replay rate which was discounted, as the course honored our 9-hole price replay card from our scheduling snafu at Heathlands earlier in the week.  We viewed Oyster Bay very favorably and would rate it a top value except for the slightly scrappy conditions.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The clubhouse structure was a bit dated and the grill was on the smallish side and offered a limited variety of food choices, especially on the breakfast buffet and just a few ready made sandwiches and hot dogs for lunch.  The pro shop seemed nicely stocked for its size.  Oyster Bay has a medium size grass driving range with balls costing $5 for a bag.  There’s a good size practice putting green where chipping is allowed since there’s no separate short game area.  Most holes on the course are surrounded by houses albeit very beautiful properties, but there is little privacy during play.

Customer Experience (3.0 out of 5.0)

The course had double teed groups from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and we began our morning on the 10th tee accompanied by a very friendly and informative starter/marshal.  We played our first nine quickly and our marshal visited us a couple times on the course to inform us that our pace was good and on one occasion brought a player in our group some fresh ice and cold towels to relieve a painful shoulder injury that had flared.  We appreciated the assistance but when we turned the pace slowed to a crawl with three and four groups playing each hole and we never saw our marshal again.  Ultimately our second nine took three hours to play which taxed everyone’s patience.  A few of us decided to replay and went out again shortly after 2:00 p.m. and breezed around 18 holes without waiting on a single shot which picked up our spirits and provided a very enjoyable afternoon.  If you are interested in 18 holes on the weekend during the summer, try to reserve between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. for the best pace of play.  The final verdict:  If you want a beautiful layout and don’t mind playing on less than stellar conditions, Oyster Bay is a good choice.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


Caledonia Golf Course – Course Review

#10 green Caledonia

Summary

My travel group recently played Caledonia Golf Course which is located in Pawleys Island, SC and is managed by Caledonia Golf Vacations along with its sister course, True Blue.  Caledonia sits on a wonderful piece of property which is actually an old rice plantation and has many spectacular views and is beautifully appointed with many charms of the old south.  While not terribly long (6,526 yards from the back tees), the superb conditioning and well maintained grounds make for a very enjoyable afternoon of golf.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

Greens fees range from a low of $110 during the summer to a high of $200 in the spring for morning tee times.  Technically, range balls are included, but there is no driving range at Caledonia and it’s not practical to shuttle back and forth to True Blue to hit balls before a round.  Also, at these first class prices, you need to have a yardage guide, extra towels, and mini cooler provided with each golf cart, but at Caledonia you get none (just a cart with a scorecard), which we found disappointing.  These minor inconveniences need to be balanced against the sheer beauty and conditioning that the golf course provides.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

There is a bit of a cramped feeling around the bad drop and cart staging area as it’s apparent that Caledonia was built on a limited amount of real estate.  With no room for a driving range, they’ve created a smallish practice area with about four or five separate greens, complete with bunkers and mowed approaches to warm up on.  Want to hit balls?  You need to drive to True Blue which is a couple of minutes away by car.  The practice putting green is very small and barely had room for our group of two foresomes.  You felt congested when several players were trying to warm up in the practice area because the practice greens are tightly interwoven and shots were being struck from several different directions (watch your head!)  The morning we were playing they were double teeing off #1 and #10 and the practice area was crowded.  Additionally, there was little room to maneuver carts around the staging area to get to the practice greens. However, once on the golf course, you no longer felt squeezed and could relax.  Finally, the clubhouse, while on the smallish side, exudes southern charm with it’s wonderful wrap around porch outfitted with rocking chairs overlooking the 18th green and is a wonderful place to watch groups concluding play for the day.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

I’d like to see the course minimize the distractions and crowding by eliminating the practice of double teeing.  Once away from the confusion associated with staging and warm-up, the customer can relax and enjoy the beauty and challenges of a great golf course, which is pretty much what you remember at the end of the day.  Tee boxes, fairways, greens, and bunkers are all immaculate and the landscaping a true marvel.

Finally, you can enjoy an excellent lunch in the grill room with very tasty menu selections, good service, and reasonable prices.  I will be back to Caledonia.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)


The Legends – Course Review

Fairway bunker #18 Parkland

Summary

The Legends is a group of five golf courses, three of which (Heathland, Parkland, and  Moreland), are located off Rt 501 in central Myrtle Beach.  Heritage (Pawleys Island), and Oyster Bay (Sunset Beach, North Carolina), round out the group and all have been operated by the Arnold Palmer Golf Management group since 2009.  Recently our group played all five courses in late May – early June of 2011.  This review covers Heathland, Parkland, and Moreland.

Value (5.0 out of 5.0)

The Legends is an excellent value when coupled with the readily available “Three Round Special” package that includes daily lodging, greens fees for one round per day, carts, range balls, breakfast, lunch, and two drinks.  Our group played on a package that included Heritage and Oyster Bay and found that the excellent course conditions and the professional staff’s ability to move several hundred golfers a day and pay special attention to each made the golf experience very cost effective.

Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)

Along with three superb championship courses, the Rt 501 facility includes an extensive grass driving range and short game practice area.  Each course presents a stern test and is very different in layout, but each are equally playable and enjoyable.  All three are very well marked and a free yardage guide is provided in each golf cart.  Heathland is a wide open links style layout with large bunkers and undulating greens providing the main challenge.  Parkland is a traditional tree-lined layout with large fairways and is the longest of the three.  Moreland is a P.B. Dye design and provides several elevation changes and significant greenside mounding as well as routing around water hazards that creates an ample test of a player’s shot making ability.  Conditions were consistent across all three courses with closely manicured fairways, very undulated greens that ran smooth and true, and consistent sand in the vast array of deep faced bunkers.  Several of the tee boxes were a bit patchy and slightly burned out but did not affect playability.

Driving range conditions were equally impressive as the all grass hitting areas were rotated to ensure even ware and recovery.  Considering the large number of players and long hours (open under the lights until 9:00 p.m.), we always had good grass to practice from.  A large undulating practice putting green with room for 20 + holes was available and closely mirrored course conditions.  Putting green markers are used in lieu of actual cups, which is an inconvenience for players who prefer putting to an actual hole.  Shuttles constantly move players and equipment from the staging areas to and from the driving range since the walk is considerable.  Shuttle service was also available to transport golfers to and from the golf facilities and their housing units.

Customer Experience (5.0 out of 5.0)

The professionalism on display from the golf shop staff, food service staff in the clubhouse, beverage service on the golf course, range attendants, and shuttle drivers was unparalleled.  From the little details like fresh towels and coolers with ice in every golf cart to the television screens showing scheduled tee times for all three courses in the clubhouse, our group definitely noticed a marked improvement in friendliness and attention to detail.   Everyone went out of their way to accommodate our every need and when a tournament was mistakenly scheduled over our previously reserved tee times on Heathland, the shop staff handled the mix-up calmly and professionally and got us out on Parkland in the same time slots and even compensated us with half price replay rates for the balance of our stay, which was greatly appreciated.  You get the feeling the customer is truly appreciated.  The Arnold Palmer Golf Management group has done the job.

Overall rating (5.0 out of 5.0)

Maryland National Golf Club – Course Review

Summary

Maryland National is located in Middletown, MD about 45 minutes from my home in Rockville.  While not overly long at 6,811 yards from the championship tees, this links style course has beautiful mountain vistas and significant changes in elevation on several holes.  The course will test your ball striking ability, especially into some of it’s very small protected greens.  There is ample room off the tee on most holes with the course’s main defense provided by creative green-side mounding and deeply contoured bunkers.  Players enjoy GPS in all golf carts and five sets of tee boxes make the course a fun challenging experience for everyone.

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

The club lists greens fees on the weekend after 10 a.m. at $74 but we were playing on a pre-purchased discount card that allowed you to play on any day/time for $50, which is an excellent value.  Greens fees before 10 a.m. on the weekends are $94 which seem a bit high.

Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)

The practice area is a medium length cart ride from the clubhouse and consists of a nicely maintained grass driving range, albeit on the small size, with about 15-20 hitting stations.  Balls are included with greens fees.  Adjacent to the range are two very small nicely maintained pitching (bunker included) and putting greens.    I was left with the distinct impression that these practice areas could become very crowded during times of heavy play because of their limited size.  There is a fully stocked pro shop and the on-site restaurant provides either sit down or walk up service.

Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)

On Sunday, May 15, 2011 I found the course to be in excellent condition with all tee boxes and fairways nicely manicured and the greens running medium fast and very true.  The course had received significant rainfall the night before but all bunkers were nicely raked and there was very little standing water as the fairways and rough appeared to have drained nicely.  It was clear the staff takes pride in their course conditioning.  Everyone from the pro shop staff to the beverage cart girl to the staff in the restaurant were very friendly and accommodating.  My only complaint was a malfunctioning GPS.  Once we left the cart path, a message to “Return to the cart path immediately” was displayed and could not be cleared until the cart was back on the path.  When we questioned the clubhouse staff, they indicated the GPS was infected with a computer virus and had been for several days.

Overall rating (4.0 out of 5.0)