Tag Archives: course reviews

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

Northwest – Course Review

476 yard par-4 #10 at Northwest

Summary:

Northwest, in Silver Spring, Maryland is operated by Montgomery County Golf and has been a favorite of county golfers for many years.  Previously known as Northwest Park, conventional wisdom holds that if you’re breaking out a new driver, or want to play a round where you feel like bombing your tee ball, this is your destination.  The course was originally designed in the early 1960s with the thought of hosting a U.S. Open and at 7,376 yards from the tips, the length would qualify but the layout is fairly wide open and would present a minimal challenge for touring professionals.  Challenges for the amateur ranks are abundant with ample length being the main defense (6,827 yards – men’s tees) and huge greens that allow for very difficult pin placements.  The facility also has a par-34  “Inside Nine” that I’ve played on several occasions, which provides more challenges than your typical executive track.

I played the course on Friday, April 13 and found conditions very good, with fairways and greens hard and rolling out due to lack of moisture.  Nothing was burned out as the hot weather had not yet hit DC.  The putting surfaces had been aerated over a month ago and were fully recovered and rolling fast.

Most greens are sloped from back to front and are very large.  Long downhill lag putts are commonplace and are very difficult to two-putt, but you can attack coming from the low side.  If approach shots are not carried to the putting surface, they will most likely roll all the way over these greens, making this a tough track to play bump and run golf, but you can hold a well struck iron shot.

Playing tips:

Over the years, I’ve developed a game plan for playing Northwest that consisted of laying up to 100 yards on the long par fives and attacking with my wedges.  This works well and avoidance of most greenside bunkers is advised because the size of the greens will leave you with long tough shots from the sand.  Here is the local knowledge you’ll need to score:

  • After a routine first hole, Northwest hits you with four straight tough ones that established single-digit handicappers frequently play in several strokes over par, so be patient, play conservatively, and don’t get discouraged if you get off to a rough start; you will have opportunities to score.
  • #2 is a 446 yard par-4 from the men’s tees and plays long.  The front right greenside bunker is a popular landing place and should be avoided.  Short left or wide left is a fairly easy place to chip or pitch from.
  • #3 is a sharp dogleg right and is probably the toughest tee shot on the course because you need to strike your tee shot left to right to hold it in a fairway that bounces right to left.  Long hitters can knock it through the fairway into some penal rough and the second shot is uphill and must be played below the hole.  Putting or chipping from pin high or above the pin is hazardous.
  • On the par-3 fourth hole, take the fat part of the green wherever they have the flag.  Do not mess with the front left bunker and do not be tempted to go long if the flag is in the back.  A routine par here is great.
  • #5 can play tough if they place the pin directly behind the unique front-middle greenside bunker.  In that case, a miss short right, just left of the cart path is fine.   Long is dead because of the severely sloping green and in the front bunker is a poor play because you can only see the top of the flagstick.  Bogey is not a bad score here.
  • # 8 is a par-5 dogleg right 90-degrees.  Go for the long tee shot by cutting the corner next to the last tree on the right and you’ll be in fine shape to go for the green in two.  Avoid the front right greenside bunker as it’s an awkward stance and particularly tough play to a back flag.
  • The par-4 ninth looks docile from the fairway but if the flag is back, take the middle of the green and putt uphill to give yourself a chance.  You should attack a front pin though as the slope is not as severe.
  • #10 is a long par-4 but plays shorter than the yardage on the approach.  You can get a lot of roll on a  low running iron shot that lands 40 even 50 yards out in the fairway.  This is one of the few holes to try a bump and run approach.
  • #13 is a dogleg left par-4 where the fairway runs out quick on the right and is protected by a hidden water hazard, and there are woods on the left.  Take an iron off the tee or draw a fairway wood if you’re comfortable with that shot but do not hit driver here; there’s nothing to gain and everything to lose.
  • #15 is a straight forward par-3 playing 186 yards from the men’s tees.  The tee shot usually plays 1/2 club shorter than the yardage and I’m not sure why.  I’ve also had more success playing from the front of the green than attacking pin positions wherever they put them.  When the pin is deep, short-siding yourself from over the green or putting from pin high is difficult as the green slopes severely from back to front.

    Par 3, #15 at Northwest
  • #18 is a short but tricky dogleg right par-4 with a large sycamore tree guarding the right side of the fairway.  The key here is to find the fairway with any club you can hit 200-220 yards, but I’d caution against hitting driver unless you’re sure you can shape one left to right.

Value:  (3.0 out of 5.0)

I played on Friday afternoon and walked for $39, which I felt was a very good value.  Weekend morning greens fees are $56 which are a little on the high end for municipal golf, but demand is high for starting times and when the course is in good condition, the cost is justified.  During the summer, the course gets heavy play and weekend rounds can slow down in the 5+ hour range as players struggle a bit with the length.  Still, if you’ve got the patience, your golfing dollars are well spent here.

Facilities: (3.5 out of 5.0)

Northwest has a recently renovated clubhouse with a good sized pro shop and fully stocked grill.  A large 40+ station driving range is available with about half the tees covered, lighted and heated, which allows for all-season practice.  All hitting stations are mats only.  Finally, there is a good sized fairly flat practice putting green adjacent to the first tee, but there is no separate chipping/pitching area.  They do allow you to chip on the practice green.  If they were to construct a separate practice green, this facility ranking would move to the upper echelons but is more than adequate.

Customer Experience: (3.5 out of 5.0)

Booking a tee time is easy for any course managed by Montgomery County Golf by using their website.    On the day I played, the starter proactively found me on the putting green and offered to get me out with an earlier group, which I much appreciated.  If you want to get in a quick nine during busy periods, your best bet is to play the Inside Nine, as demand for the regular course is high and walk-on play without a reservation is difficult.

So muscle up your driver, practice your lag putting and enjoy your day at Northwest!

For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,827 yards and shot a six-over par 78.

Overall Rating: (3.5 out of 5.0)

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)

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