Golf Courses around DC, Maryland, and Virginia

Well I think I've sufficiently recovered from my golf trip to get back to blogging. It was a blast to golf on the East Coast again. For the last few years I've been playing a lot of windy, coastal, links-style courses around California, so it was cool to go back to the woodsy, parkland-style course of my youth. It also brought back memories to experience all the humidity, summer rain, and bugs again.

Here's a brain dump of what I thought of these courses around the DC/Maryland/Virginia area:

Virginia Oaks Gainesville, VA
tee time discounts at Virginia Oaks

In hindsight, it was probably a bad idea to play this course after not getting any sleep on the red-eye flight from CA the night before. It also probably wasn't the best idea to leave late and get stuck in traffic, so as to rush through check-in and tee off without warming up. Still I had a blast.

This P.B. Dye design on the other side of Lake Manassas from Robert Trent Jones Golf Club (where they were holding the President's Cup) was described to me as beautiful and didn't disappoint one bit.

I'm used to bone-dry conditions in the summer, so I was surprised by damp fairways and greens, but I was told this was due to lots of the rain the previous days and wasn't normal.

Great layout, though. It's a testament to the variety of the holes that I have trouble describing the course. More than most courses, it kept me guessing as to what club to use off the tee (driver, utility, 3-iron).

Memorable Holes:

  • #4. This is probably their most-photographed hole as it's right along the lake and has a beautiful peninsula green with a Robert Trent Jones hole mirroring it from the other side of the lake like some sort of Bizarro parallel golf course ("Me not layup. Me want to cry.")

    My buddies told me that right is deadly, so I drove it way left. A little too much as I ended up just beyond the tee of the next hole, in the trees. Ah well, at least it was dry. After a long punchout, I was left with a partial wedge to the green. I probably dodged the toughest part of this hole with my screwup, though, which is the approach shot, since the green is surrounded by water on three sides. Long is bad, left is bad, right is bad. In dry conditions I bet the green is nasty, as it's a tough read ("it breaks toward the water" "Um, which water, there's water everywhere") But that day, the greens were damp and forgiving and I escaped with a bogey.
  • #9. An island par 3. Not very long, but located in full view of the practice green and the clubhouse for additional pressure. I don't know what happened here, it's not a tough shot, but this hole got the best of me. First ball, totally chunked and not even close to clearing the water. 2nd ball from the drop area, a simple little pitch also chunked into the water. My only consolation was that I managed to screwup my opponent that followed me into the water both times. :)
  • #10. 600yd+ par 5. This isn't a hole, it's an epic journey. A double-dogleg, uphill tee shot, downhill 2nd shot, uphill 3rd shot, houses left, woods right, long grass left, random trees middle. I'd love another crack at this hole now that I know how it plays.
Cross Creek Golf Club Beltsville, MD
online tee times at Cross Creek

I should have realized what was in store when the driving range said "irons only". A second clue would have been that the Creekside tees are only 6,035 yds but the course/slope is still 70.3/128. And the blacks are 6,356 yds with 71.5/129.

This course is short and narrow. I think I only used my driver a couple of times, and I probably should have just left all my woods at home. I usually enjoy narrow courses, and I really like courses that have a good risk-reward option off the tee, but Cross Creek pretty much takes any decision away from you.

The condition was ok. Greens were a little bumpy, but tolerable. Still, the layout left me disappointed and I probably wouldn't return.

Memorable Holes:
  • #9. Short par 4 with lots of water to the right. This is only memorable for me because it was cartpath-only and I was playing with a couple of faders and I had a draw that day. This meant an easy GIR and par for me with a quick hop from the cart and everyone else either had to lug a bunch of clubs the entire hole or make a bunch of trips back and forth to the cart.
  • #15. Really long par 3 with all carry. Only 1 of our foursome didn't lose a ball here. It sets up for a 200 yd draw, which was perfect for me that day so I went for the green, but I overcooked it and went left into the woods. Next time I'd just take try a 180 yd shot to the landing area short and right.
PB Dye Golf Club Ijamsville, MD
online tee times at PB Dye

Ah P.B. Dye...where to begin. I had been warned about this course months before this trip. I've played some Pete Dye courses before and I got a taste of a P.B. Dye design a few days before at Virginia Oaks, but this course is like nothing I've ever played before.

We actually played this course twice during my trip, which completely changed my opinion of the course. The first time I played it I felt completely beaten down, as did the others I was with, even though they'd played it before. But after playing it again, now knowing the layout and the spots to avoid, I began to appreciate it. I'm curious how I would do playing it a third time.

If you only get to play this course once, I'd say to stay away as it might totally demoralize you. But, in hindsight, the beauty of the design is that it brings out a masochistic part of you that makes you want to keep coming back and see if, just once, you can take on P.B. Dye.

There are two things that make this course like no other. Now I've played tough courses before, but normally you can identify the dangers from the teebox or there is GPS or some words of warning to steel yourself. But this course is full of misdirection and hidden dangers. This is the first course where I understood the "tricked-up" moniker that gets tossed around, where you can envision P.B. Dye cackling evilly as he was laying out the hole.

The other thing is the greens. On most course I've played, there's usually one or two greens that really stand out in your mind. Often a two or three-tiered green where a 4-putt is possible that can make or break your round. The type of green where you're already thinking ahead about it 3 holes before you play it. The kind of green that, reminiscent of Miniature Golf courses, you just hope that your putt stays on the green. This course is full of these types of greens.

After the first time I played this course, we were swearing at the course designer by the end of the round, and I was just going through the motions on the 18th trying to put an end my misery. I was ready to give this course two stars for taking the fun out of the game. But the second time I played the course we were still swearing at the architect by the end of the round, but I've bumped it up to three stars, having seen a different side of the course.

Damn, I can't wait to play it again. ;)

Lots of Memorable Holes:

  • #3. Fun par 5 with an interesting tee shot, 2nd shot over a creek, 3rd shot uphill with a big bunker to suck up anything short, and a multi-tier green.
  • #5. Deceptively hard par 4. No bunkers and fairly wide-open, but a nasty green to hold. It slopes front to back this hole gave us fits both days.
  • #9. Short par 4. Not a long approach shot, but not a big target with the lake, bunkers, and clubhouse. We scored pretty well on this hole both days. Lots of GIRs, but no one made their birdie putts.
  • #10. Parred this hole both days I played, from the left side and the right side. I found I had an easier view of the green from the right side of the fairway.
  • #12. Par 5, blind tee shot, small creek, and what a green! The first day the pin was on the bottom tier, so it was nothing special, but when the hole is cut on the top tier, this is truly a putt-putt green.
  • #13. This hole really got under my skin. On the first day, my approach shot landed in the bunker just right of the green. But I was terrified of blading my bunker shot and overshooting the green into the water. It really messed with my mind and I went from just missing a GIR to a blowup hole. The second time I played it, I wanted to just play it smart and layup short with my approach shot.(that's good) But there's a hidden creek that I hadn't noticed before.(that's bad) Wait, the creek was dried up and there were only rocks (that's good) But I still couldn't find my ball among the rocks, maybe it took a big bounce. (that's bad)
  • #15. Handicap 2 hole with a crowned green. Not sure what it was about this hole, but I parred it both days while my playing partners blew up on it. Didn't get the GIR either time, but managed to get up and down on a tough green both days.
  • #16 Lots of railroad ties on this hole. Don't end up right on your tee shot. The approach for this hole is where I finally understood the role of railroad ties on a golf course. I thought they were just for show, but now I see how they will amplify any sort of mistake. The railroad ties on this hole are angled so that any shot that's short or left will bounce off putt-putt-style and get funnelled into the array of bunkers.

    In the middle of all the bunkers and railroad ties there's a tiny pot bunker that's the nastiest of them all. This is where I found myself the first time I played this hole. The smart move would have been to pitch out backwards and just take my lumps. But by that time, my round was already shot so I was curious to see if I could get enough height to get on the green from there. Bad idea. Several strokes later, as I holed my putt for a smooth 11, I looked at the sky and yelled "You win, P.B. Dye"...

  • to be continued (Maryland National, Musket Ridge, Northwest, and Needwood)

Posted on Tue, 4 Oct 2005 00:47 by Seni Sangrujee (2092 day(s) old)

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