Category Archives: Travel

Need help with my golf swing! Any takers?

I developed a push-cut with my golf swing on my recent Myrtle Beach golf trip.  Here’s two videos of me face on and down the line with the driver (post-trip).  I’m willing to try something new and give the readers of this blog a crack at providing suggestions for my improvement so please add a comment on what you think is the source of the push-cut and / or provide any drills or swing changes you think might help.  Thanks for your willingness to participate; let’s get at it!

Driver Face On:

Driver Down The Line:

Tidewater – Course Review

Summary

Clubhouse at Tidewater

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, our travel group played Tidewater on a scheduled afternoon starting time.  Located in North Myrtle Beach, SC, we found Tidewater to be a rather ordinary course with a dozen almost unforgettable holes mixed in with six that are absolutely breathtaking and run along the Intracoastal Waterway, and at the end of the day, form a distinct and lasting impression.  This course is highly touted, and admittedly, when I recall my experience, I think of those great holes and the natural beauty of the area.  At the conclusion of your round you feel as if you’ve played two separate courses.

On the first tee at Tidewater

We found the course in excellent condition from tee to green with the putting surfaces running smooth and medium-fast.  Unfortunately, they had just began their summer aeration and were working incrementally.  There were four holes (two front and back) punched and top-dressed, but even the putts on these four rolled reasonably true, which was a bit of a consolation.

Playing Tips:

  • The par-3, 12this one of the most difficult and beautiful holes I’ve played in Myrtle Beach.  Be precise with your club selection.  With a stiff wind blowing in off the ocean and across the Intracoastal Waterway, three of the four players in our group actually hit this green and managed two-putt pars, which was the highlight of our day.

    Tee shot on the par-3 twelfth hole at Tidewater
  • There are two great par-5s (#8 and #16) that run along the waterway that are difficult to manage for the first time player.  I figured most course architects don’t leave trouble at 100 yards from the green on a par-5 and this strategy worked well on these holes.  However, the fairway bunker on #8 runs out at about 110 yards from the green so take enough club to clear it on your second.
  • #9 is a medium length par-3 that played into the wind and about two clubs longer than you’d think.  With marsh left and no bail-out right, the place to miss is short and in the closely mown approach.  Beware of a big right to left slope on this green.
  • #10 is a medium length dog leg right par-4 with ample room on the left side of the fairway.  Use it.  I drove it behind a bush in the right rough and had enough room to clear it and go for the green, but I wrestled with a forced carry over water and took too much club, ending up in the hazard behind the green.  You need a clear shot to this green so favor the left.
  • #18, when playing into the wind is a brutally tough par-4.  I hit driver-3WD pin high and left which presented a very tough pitch that I could not get close because the green sloped away from me.  Bogey is not a bad score here so don’t be a hero.

    On the tee at the par-3 third hole at Tidewater

Value (3.0 out of 5.0)

The course is considered a premium play and we did not entertain a replay, hence the afternoon starting time.  Greens fees are $94 in the height of the summer and $144 in the high season.  Despite the lofty amount, everyone traveling to Myrtle Beach should play Tidewater at least once.  The natural beauty of the featured holes somewhat justifies the cost.

Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)

The drive into Tidewater feels exclusive and there is fairly tight security at the entrance gate.  Once inside, Tidewater has a nice large clubhouse with a pro-shop and full service grill.  The driving  range is all-grass and of modest size (about 15 hitting stations).  Adjacent is the practice putting green where they appear to allow chipping (we did), but they did not appear to have a designated short game area for pitching and bunker practice.  The highlight here is the course itself and the stunning memorable holes.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

The customer experience was a mixed bag.  The pro-shop staff were friendly and we felt unrushed because nobody was scheduled around us during our afternoon time.  They charge $5.00 for range balls which is unnecessary for a premium facility like Tidewater where everything should be included.  Golf carts were equipped with GPS but there was no cooler with ice, and the only drinking water on the course was at the restroom water fountains.  The driving range staff was professional and after mishandling (accidentally dropping) one of our golf bags, gave us some free range balls as an apology.  There is significant distance from green to subsequent teeing area on a lot of holes and directions on the cart paths were clearly marked, but we found it odd that there were no signs at the individual tee boxes denoting which hole you were playing.

For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,771 yards and carded an eight-over par 80.  If you come to Myrtle Beach, make sure you make it out at least once to Tidewater and enjoy half a dozen of the best holes at the beach.

Updated from a round played Monday, June 8, 2015:  The course has rebuilt their greens.  They are Bermuda, running fast, and very hard.  It was difficult to put a ball mark in and hold because the root structure hasn’t fully taken hold, but they look good.  The customer service has improved as well and the range balls are now complimentary.  Apparently the bad reputation Tidewater got from the problem with their greens over the last couple of years has spurred needed improvements.  I was impressed.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

Another look from #12 tee.

Tiger’s Eye – Course Review

Summary

18th green at Tiger’s Eye

My travel group played Tiger’s Eye on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 as an afternoon replay from a morning round at the premium course (Leopard’s Chase) at Ocean Ridge Plantation.  Located in Ocean Isle Beach, NC, if you are playing the Big Cats, make Tiger’s Eye your first and foremost destination.  It’s the number one course at Ocean Ridge and is in my top five in the Myrtle Beach area.  I played the course three times in 2009 and our return trip this year did not disappoint.  The course is a fabulous layout that combines large natural waste areas with some well placed bunkering and forced carries over water, and interjects a mix of very drivable wide open landing areas with careful meandrous routing among the tall pines.  No two holes are alike and you’ll be struck by the natural beauty of the landscaping and the unique challenge of some of the greatest holes in Myrtle Beach.  The bentgrass greens were rolling a little slow as the course was trying to keep them from getting stressed in the hot weather, but otherwise, our playing experience was perfect.

Clubhouse and 9th green at Tiger’s Eye

Playing tips:

  • #1 is a short and seemingly benign dog leg right par-4.  Do not miss your tee shot right because the woods and fairway bunkers can turn this into a struggle.  There is plenty of room left in the fairway.
  • The par-3 second hole plays uphill and long so take one to 1 ½ extra clubs; it’s all carry.
  • #4 is a beautiful par-4 with a split fairway.  You’ll need about 220 yards to carry the water if you choose the left (shorter) fairway.  Otherwise, play to the right but avoid the approach from the large waste bunker in the middle; it makes the hole needlessly difficult.
  • The par-5 seventh has room beyond the right fairway bunker on the tee shot, so pound the driver and get as much distance as you can.  Good scoring opportunity here.
  • The par-4 ninth has a forced approach over water.  Avoid the right side on the tee shot because if you hit the fairway bunker, clearing the hazard on the second is difficult.
  • On the back-nine, #15 is one of the best par-5s in Myrtle Beach.  Your second shot here is the key and must be placed on dry land.  When playing into the wind, this hole can be as brutal as it is beautiful.

    #15 Tiger’s Eye
    Photo by Mike DeOrio
  • On the par-3 17th, take the middle of the green which is a great play for any pin position.
  • The green on the par-5 18th is very undulating.  Two precision shots are required to give you the best chance to get it close.  If you don’t a three putt is very likely.

Value (4.0 out of 5.0)

We played in the afternoon on a $45 replay rate which was an excellent value considering the quality of course.  The regular summer greens fee is $72 is also an excellent value.  High season rates go over $100 but for summer golf, you cannot beat Tiger’s Eye.

Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)

Tiger’s Eye boasts a huge and fully stocked clubhouse, pro-shop, and full service grill.  There is a practice putting green adjacent to the cart staging area which is ample enough for warm-up but they do not allow chipping.  There is a separate pitching area and driving range that is shared with Lion’s Paw and Panther’s Run that is accessible by cart.  The clubhouse is dedicated to Tiger’s Eye, as Lion’s and Panther’s share a separate facility.  We ate lunch on the clubhouse veranda overlooking the 9th and 18th greens.  The food was good, the service a bit slow, and the panoramic view excellent.  Oddly enough, the view was obscured a bit for those sitting at the tables by the large top railing, but in the grand scheme of things, this was inconsequential.

Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)

Scheduling replays from any of the Ocean Ridge Plantation Courses at any of the others was a breeze.  We had 3:00 p.m. reserved at Tiger’s and when we arrived, they were cognizant of our standing and had us set up and ready to go on time after we ate lunch.  The pro-shop staff, starter, and beverage service attendants as well as the ladies working in the grill were friendly and accommodating.  We had the course to ourselves all afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed our day.

For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,628 yards and shot a five-over par 77.  For summer time golf in Myrtle Beach, Tiger’s Eye has my highest recommendation.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)

Friendly cold-blooded lizard by the 18th green at Tiger’s Eye
Photo by Mike DeOrio

Leopard’s Chase – Course Review

Summary

Approach on #18 at Leopard’s Chase

Leopard’s Chase, is considered the premium play for the four Big Cats courses at the Ocean Ridge Plantation located in Sunset Beach, NC.    My travel group played here on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, and the experience was decidedly different from when we played this Tim Cate design in 2009.  Unfortunately, the change was not for the better and course conditions were the issue.  As we did three years ago, we enjoyed the same great routing and hole variety, especially on the back nine,  but the excellence ended there.  The L-93 bentgrass greens had just been treated for a fungicide and were colored aqua-blue and were rolling extremely slow.  Most bentgrass greens get hammered in late summer from the persistent heat in the Southeast U.S. and it seemed a bit early to see greens on a course of this caliber stressed.  Also, general maintenance had clearly slipped.  Last time out, the course was pristine with lightning fast greens.  This time we noticed a few bare spots on the approaches, the landing surface on the practice pitching green was literally covered in weeds, and there was grass growing in several fairway bunkers.  You got the feeling that a general level of malaise had set in regarding pride of ownership.  Interestingly enough, this was not evident when we played Tigers Eye later in the afternoon (another Big Cat course) which was in beautiful condition and is under the same management.  Leopard’s Chase was still quite playable and we had a good time, but were surprised at the shape.

Our group on the range at Leopard’s Chase

A few playing notes:  There is a lot of sand.  You will hit into greenside and fairway bunkers so bring you’re A-bunker game.  Also the back nine is more challenging than the front and features the par-5 11th, which requires three precision shots to get home, and the scenic par-4 18th ,with the lovely approach over the stone configuration and waterfall.  I enjoyed one of my better ball striking days on our trip, but was continually frustrated at my inability to get short birdie putts to the hole because of the shaggy putting surfaces.  Others in our group felt the same.

Checking yardage on the par-3, 6th at Leopard’s Chase

Value (2.0 out of 5.0)

Morning greens fees for the summer run at $83.00 which seems high for the current conditions.  Range balls are included in the greens fee and you are given a very small bag of about 20 balls to warm up with.  I do recall a much higher greens fee back in 2009 and a very steep replay rate of about $80.  Clearly, rates have come down, but with our prior replay rate experience, we played the afternoon at Tigers Eye for $45 and were happy we did.

Facilities (2.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop is little more than a double wide trailer with a decent retail area with some clothes and limited equipment for sale.  There was a very small snack bar and a restroom but nothing else.  The practice putting green was modest sized and the all-grass driving range while limited to about 15 hitting stations was in pretty good shape.  I already mentioned the dreadful shape of the pitching green.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop staff were courteous and helpful getting our replay time set up over at Tigers Eye when we checked in.  The bag drop was staffed by one gentleman who was a bit slow unloading us (we essentially did it ourselves) and the course was basically empty when we got there.  We warmed up and teed off when we were ready.  It struck me as a bit unusual that the place was so empty on a Wednesday morning, as all other courses we played mid-week had plenty of players.  Perhaps word got out regarding the conditions.  For visitors planning on playing at Ocean Ridge Plantation, spend your money at Tiger’s Eye and bypass this one until the conditions improve.  For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,645 yards and shot a four-over par 76.

Overall Rating (2.5 out of 5.0)

Tee shot on the par-3, 4th at Leopard’s Chase

Grand Dunes Resort Course – Course Review

Summary

View from the clubhouse at Grand Dunes Resort Course

Grand Dunes Resort Course, located off Rt. 17 in Myrtle Beach, SC is one of the finest golf courses you can play on the Grand Strand.  Our travel group played here on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 and found the golf course in excellent condition and the service and amenities top notch.  Right from your arrival at the bag drop you are treated with country club level service that sets the tone for a great day of golf.  Grand Dunes boasts some of the best playing conditions from tee to green, as well as on all their practice facilities.  It was hard to find a blade of grass out of place and it was a treat to play on such pristine surfaces.  Depending on the set of tees you play, the layout can be very tough with a premium being placed on solid ball striking.  Hit it close, or you’re going to three-putt a lot of these very large and contoured greens.  Also, bring plenty of balls, as water comes into play on several holes.  The course boasts a string of holes (8-10) that run along the scenic Intracoastal Waterway that can play brutally tough if the wind is blowing.  The downhill par-3, 14th is the course’s most scenic hole and requires a precise tee shot to keep it out of the Intracoastal on the right.

Par 3, #14 at Grand Dunes Resort Course

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

This is a premium course and the prices reflect the conditions and superb level of service.  Green fees can run well over $100 and while our first round was built into the price of our package, we replayed for a fairly expensive $55 rate.  You get what you pay for at this course and it’s worth the extra money to get the conditioning and level of service we received.

Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)

Course conditions were excellent with the greens running smooth and medium-fast.  Grand Dunes has a 15-station grass driving range that was in excellent condition and balls were included in the greens fee.  The range was conveniently located next to the first tee.  Three practice greens (one for putting and two for short game) were also nearby.  Get to the course early to take advantage of these excellent practice facilities.

The clubhouse boasted a fully stocked pro-shop and a nice snack bar and full service grill.  The food was good and the service prompt.

Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop, starters, cart attendants and beverage service staff were all very professional and attentive to our every need.  Carts are fully equipped with GPS, coolers with ice, and as many free bottles of water as you want.  We were especially pleased that the afternoon professional on duty allowed us to replay as a fivesome.  His only contingency was for us not to hold anyone up, and we didn’t.  It makes a big difference when you can play with your friends and not have to split up into groups of two and three players.  We had an awesome day at Grand Dunes and I highly recommend this play to visitors in Myrtle Beach.  For the record, I played twice and shot 83 both times which was 11-over par.  We played from the blue tees which measured 6,737 yards.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)

On the green at #14

2012 Myrtle Beach Trip Report and Golf Improvement Plan

Just got back from the golf trip of the decade to Myrtle Beach and have trip details and good news to share.

Our group before the June 23rd round on Moorland.

Summary:

We enjoyed 11 fabulous rounds over six days in sunny mid-80 degree weather.  With these temperatures, we played 36 holes every day except for Thursday when our first round was scheduled in the afternoon.  Normally after this trip, my body feels like I’ve been through an NFL game with the rigorous physical demands of playing so much golf, but the conditioning work I’ve been focusing on since January has increased my strength and stamina, and I feel as fresh as I did on Day One.  Let’s play another 11 rounds right now!

The swing speed work and exercises designed to strengthen my back clearly helped my iron game and I was hitting it flush and more consistently with all clubs.  I was particularly pleased with the ability to attack flags inside of 120 yards instead of fighting a push, as I had in years past.

My driving was a mixed bag, as the additional length I was enjoying early in the season was neutralized by a fade that developed early in the trip and was hard to control at times.  A big push reared its ugly head on occasion which is my standard miss with the driver, but rather than fight the push/fade, I just played for it.

My short game was not as sharp as I would have liked, especially with the chips and pitches you need from tight Bermuda lies just off the greens, however my bunker play was solid, and you need to play well from the sand as frequent visits are common on these resort courses.  I never worry too much about putting because of the difference in surfaces from course to course.  I rolled it okay but you can go nuts if you let the changing green speeds affect your approach.  The better iron play made up for my substandard short game and allowed me to score better.

#3 green at Moorland with #6 green in the foreground.

KPIs:

  • Handicap index went DOWN!  Pre-trip was 5.2, post-trip is 4.4 and six of the 11 rounds were handicap rounds.  Very pleased with this.
  • 2012 trip scoring average was 78.81, down from 80.70 in 2011 and 82.50 in 2010.  Again, attributed to better iron play.
  • Set a new personal best of playing 54 straight holes without a swing thought 🙂  Started thinking “target only” after a particularly rough stretch with the driver and this worked great to steady me.

Rounds / Results:

  • June 18, Oyster Bay – 75
  • June 18, Oyster Bay – 78
  • June 19, Grand Dunes Resort – 83
  • June 19, Grand Dunes Resort – 83
  • June 20, Leopards Chase – 76
  • June 20, Tigers Eye – 77
  • June 21, Tidewater – 80
  • June 22, Heathland – 81
  • June 22, Heathland – 72
  • June 23, Moorland – 86
  • June 23, Heathland – 76

Full reviews of Grand Dunes, Leopards Chase, Tigers Eye, and Tidewater are coming.

A couple of quick notes:

  • Playing this many holes, you inevitably hit hot and cold streaks.  One minute you make back-to-back birdies and are on fire, and the next you wonder what you are doing out there and think you need a full swing lesson.  You need to ride out the bad streaks, understand they will happen and not panic.  Fixing your swing on the course is an exercise in futility.  Just ride it out and have fun.
  • If you book rounds at The Legends (Heathland, Moorland, Parkland) it’s best to avoid the weekend.  Our morning round on Saturday at Moorland took 6 hours and we had to quit after 15 to leave time to eat lunch and re-tee for our afternoon round.  We actually finished the last three holes after the afternoon round was complete which was a little odd but allowed us to get the full 36 in.  The double teeing in the morning and our late (9:00 a.m.) tee time was the culprit.  If you need to play the weekend and want a replay, try to get one of the times before 8:00 a.m.  Better yet, play mid-week at this golf factory.  We did speak to the staff about the slow pace of play.  To their credit, they made it right by giving us a free replay for the afternoon.
  • Call each course one week before you travel and inquire about green aeration plans.  I moved us off Heritage and onto Oyster Bay because of aeration at Heritage right before we arrived.

If you have any questions or comments about any of these courses or just want to talk Myrtle Beach golf, send them along, thanks!


Golf Improvement Plan – The Big Test

It’s June 1 and I’m two weeks out from the final exam for the 2012 Improvement Plan.  Yes, end-stage preparations have begun for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Myrtle Beach) and a quick review of my 2012 KPIs vs. 2011 and some anecdotal observations are in order.

Positive trends:

  • Scoring average has dropped from 79.17 (six rounds) to 77.80 (10 rounds).
  • GIR average has increased from 8.83 to 9.20 with 7 out of 10 rounds at or above 10 GIRs.
  • Putts per round has decreased from 32.66 to 31.90.
  • More play.  Number of rounds up from six last year to 10 in 2012 with two or three more scheduled prior to MB.
  • Number of practice sessions has been reduced from 20 to 13 for the same time period.  Intent was to be more efficient by playing more and practicing less.

Negative trends:

  • Short game is not as sharp, especially with greenside SW shots
  • Tendency to pull hook the occasional mid-iron off the tee on par-3 holes

General observations:

My focus has been on improving core conditioning in hopes that the changes would result in more consistent ball striking.  This has worked and I’m enjoying more length off the tee and better accuracy with my three wedges inside of 120 yards.  My GIR stats are skewed down a bit by an early round where I hit only two greens but actually struck the ball decent.  That day the course was playing hard and fast with the greens impossible to hold.   It’s clear that ball striking has seen the best improvements.  Along those lines,  I’ve been resisting the temptation to work on my swing and finally succumbed last weekend, but the key here is that I continued to focus on my single most prevalent weaknesses (not maintaining spine angle).  My Saturday range work helped result in 12 GIRs during Sunday’s round.

Adjustments:

Players of this game all know that just when you think you have it, you don’t, and that golf requires constant adjustments.  I didn’t want to work on my swing but started to see some familiar misses that were not evident early in the season.  Now that I think I’ve got that fixed, it’s off to work on the greenside pitches.  I’m not too worried because these are clearly a problem with technique and lack of reps.   I changed short game approach over the winter and have not practiced it enough to get comfortable.  With my focus on conditioning, the short game suffered.  The good news is that it usually takes only one or two dedicated sessions around the green to get comfortable.

So a little short game work, a round this weekend and next, a few last minute adjustments for whatever else pops up, and I’ll be ready to go.  Wish me luck!

Feeling pressure to tinker with my swing

Suffering a short-term hangover from playing in the Jess Carson Foundation charity tournament at Queenstown Harbor last week.  While the team did well and shot 11-under, which was good for 2nd place, I’m starting to feel the urge to do swing analysis, probably brought on by the scramble style format.  To get ready for one of these tournaments, you are afforded the luxury of not having to work on your full game and focus only on driving and putting.  Leading up to the tournament, I mentally prepared myself to optimize distance by making the most powerful and technically correct move possible.  I struck the ball well in the tournament but missed a few shots and felt the sudden urge to work on my swing.

With a certain major milestone only one month out, I think it best to resist.  Yes, Myrtle Beach is 30 days away and every year faced with the proposition of playing 180 holes in six days, I haul down a minivan full of swing thoughts that inevitably twist me into a swing pretzel.  While my short game usually sharpens from the reps, the carnage of bad shots I leave is not pretty.  Why the constant need to over-prepare for this venture?

To date, I’ve let the off season conditioning plan drive my swing performance and have yet to film swing or hit balls all spring, except to warm-up before a round.  With a clear head and a relaxed demeanor on the course, I’ve made more good swings than I have in years so why am I feeling the urge to tinker?

Between now and Myrtle, I’m thinking I’ll try what Bob Rotella advocates:  Commit to only two things on the golf course -try your hardest on every shot and have fun.  Think it will last?

G – minus 137 days to Myrtle Beach!

#1tee Dye Course at Barefoot

Dateline – February 10, Rockville, MD.  Cabin fever has officially set in and is killing me.  Thoughts of summer golf in Myrtle Beach are exacerbating the symptoms and we just booked our trip from June 17 – 24.   We’re staying at The Legends with their outstanding accommodations, practice facilities, and service.  Trip details:

Day 1Oyster Bay.  Just swapped in this awesome play along the coast in Sunset Beach, NC for Heritage, as the latter has scheduled summer aeration one week in advance of our arrival.

Day 2Grand Dunes Resort Club.  I’ve never played there but have heard great things.  Anyone with playing tips, please send them along.  Full course review coming.

Day 3Leopard’s Chase.  Played it once a few years ago when my group was looking for an afternoon replay.  Loved it.  We had the whole course to ourselves and had one of the most enjoyable relaxing rounds of golf ever.  Full course review coming.

Day 4:  Tidewater.  Afternoon round only at our highest end course.  Awesome looking track adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.  Again, never played this one; send tips!  Full course review coming.

Day 5The Legends – Heathland.  Great links style course and right on location.  Will try to grab an afternoon replay at Parkland to cover the main three courses.

Day 6The Legends – Moorland.  Rough and tumble P.B. Dye design and probably the hardest course at the Rt. 501 trifecta; just a great play.  Kicked my butt last year but I’m game for a rematch.

Next Saturday is supposed to be showery and 58 degrees in the DC area and is looking pretty good right about now!  Anyone want to play?

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

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)


How do you motivate yourself in the off-season?

Golfer's worst nightmare

We’re on the cusp of winter in the DC area and as I prepare for my fall eastern shore golf trip the inevitable sadness is setting in with the realization that the golf season is nearly over.  My typical year consists of 30-35 rounds from March to November followed by two months of worshiping at the alter of the football and hockey gods and ending with a one month infliction of cabin fever.  The absence of any meaningful play on the professional tours doesn’t help (and I’m not counting the President’s Cup as meaningful.)

Combating the passion drain and propensity to become a sofa spud is tough.  How do you stay motivated over the winter?  My main source is improvement.  The ability to practice and the challenge of putting my efforts to the test on a weekly basis is a powerful driver.  Banging balls in the backyard range has less appeal without the ability to immediately test my changes.  Professionals in other sports stay motivated in their off-seasons by the fear of failure and loss of income.  How about those of us who have a passion for the sport but also have day jobs?  Will travel to a warm weather destination solve?  Embark on a fitness regimen?  Please send your ideas.  Thanks.

Golf trip set – Destination: Maryland Eastern Shore

My exciting fall line-up is booked for the last week of October.  First up is a new course for me, Glen Riddle – Man ‘O War which is part of a two course complex just outside Berlin, MD.  Next is Eagles Landing in Ocean City, MD, which is one of my favorite courses at the beach.  And we’ll finish with another new play, Heritage Shores, which is a semi-private track in Bridgeville, Delaware.

My game is in strange shape after last Sunday’s round at Maryland National.  I carded my highest score of the season (89) but felt strangely good after the round since I putted so well using the new Stockton method.  Didn’t hit it close all day which gave my lag putting a workout.  Weird how you can get excited about a poor round of golf.  Anyway, full course reviews are coming and please send me any recommendations or playing tips you have on Man ‘O War or Heritage Shores.  Thanks!

Golfers: Don’t forget to recharge the batteries

Last week was rough.  I was coming off a great video lesson with FixYourGame.com and worked hard pounding balls in my backyard range all week.  Saturday’s practice was seriously overdone as I started at one course in the morning for some short game work.  Got kicked off there when they closed for a charitable event and went to my second course for some range work and putting practice.  Finished up at home playing 18 simulated holes on the backyard range.  When Sunday’s tee time rolled around I was popping Advil like SweeTarts.

Trying to play Sunday was mentally draining as I implemented the lesson changes and coped with the fatigue from the previous week of practice.  I held it together for nine holes at even par but the tank ran dry and I faded to six over on the back.  Oddly enough on Monday morning, I had no energy to book a tee time for the following weekend and have decided to take a badly needed break.

Two things became apparent.  First, I got away from my routine of 75/25 practice time favoring the short game.  Short game is easier on the body, is more varied so it holds my interest longer and allows me to play better the next time out.  Second, it’s easier to focus on practice when you have a milestone event to prepare for.  I got so psyched to play Myrtle Beach in the spring and loved preparing for Pinehurst over Labor Day this year, but felt rather deflated afterwards with seemingly nothing to play for.  Definitely time for a break to get re-energized and focused on a new target.  I’ve lined up Maryland National in early October and will head down to Ocean City, Maryland for a three-day trip in late October to finish up my season.    Nothing but TV golf for me this weekend.

Tips for playing new courses

Playing your best golf on new courses has always been a challenge.  Unfamiliar surroundings and lack of local knowledge can wreak havoc on your confidence, but there are several strategies I’d like to share to counter this.

Don’t try to perfect your swing before going on a golf trip.  Lots of players attempt to work out all the flaws in hopes of having a ball striking nirvana experience.  Don’t try: it’s not going to happen.  This will have the opposite effect because you’ll be running with too many mechanical thoughts.  It’s hard enough on a familiar course to play mechanically and on a strange track you’ll need to fully focus on where to hit the ball, not how to swing.

Do your homework by logging onto the course’s website and noting as much information about course characteristics as possible.  Pay specific attention to the type of grass and the structure of the greens.  You’ll gain valuable information to allow you to tailor your short game practice to suit course conditions.  On my recent trip to Pinehurst, I knew I’d be playing to small elevated greens with significant drop-offs on all sides.  Clearly this would require short shots with elevation and spin so I practiced nothing but pitches and lobs with my sand wedge leading up to the trip.  In three rounds, I hit all my green side shots with the sand wedge except for one.  It’s also a good idea once you arrive to practice at their short game facility to get more comfortable.

Do whatever it takes to keep the ball in play.  It’s tough enough at your home course overcoming wayward tee shots early in your round but it’s even more important on a strange course because resort courses are often loaded with hazards not present off the tee on your average municipal course.  “Hit the shot you know you can hit, not the shot you think you should be able to hit,” and you’ll give yourself a much better chance to score.  Keep it in the fairway even if you need to tee off with a fairway wood, hybrid, or long iron.  As you become more relaxed your confidence will grow and allow you to start hitting driver without hesitation.

Good luck!

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

Game is peaking for Pinehurst!

11 days and counting until Pinehurst!  The good news is that last weekend I practiced twice at Bear Trap Dunes in Delaware and felt real good.  The second day’s practice included full swing and short game and was extremely productive.  One more pre-trip tune up round scheduled for this weekend and I should be set.  Hopefully Hurricane Irene will hold off long enough to get in my work on Saturday.

The line-up for Pinehurst:

Saturday, 9/3 – #8

Sunday, 9/4 – #4

Monday, 9/5 – Bucket list round on #2, yeah baby!

If anyone has any playing tips for any of the three courses, send ’em my way, thanks!

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)