Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Afternoon at Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club

There are several golf courses in the area of Front Royal, Virginia but the photographs on the web site of the Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club intrigued me the most so I looked for online specials to play there.  Normally a golfer would pay about $40-44 to play a round of golf using a riding cart, but checking online through a web site that offers discounted tee times if you pre-pay I found a coupon deal to play for $22 plus tax per person.  The tee time was for 2PM, but that was doable in the somewhat cooler temperatures we had been having.  I received an e-mail from both the scheduling web site and Blue Ridge Shadows confirming the tee time (this had been an issue in Chula Vista a year ago) so we were good to go.

Set in the rolling hills outside of the Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club has received several awards for best course, best course for women, new affordable public course, etc.  There is a huge clubhouse with a nicely stocked pro shop plus a restaurant and bar.  The golf carts don't have GPS systems, but they are stocked with free tees and a couple of towels for wiping off your clubs.  Our special deal also included a free bucket of range balls, but we passed on that due to the later tee time.  

From a distance the course appears to be in wonderful shape.  Close up, the damage from Hurricane Irene and T.S. Lee is evident in a few boggy areas of fairways and dead spots in several of the greens.  However, for the most part the fairways are in good condition and greenskeepers were out in force as we played. 

Sandtraps were everywhere and water hazards were cause for carefully played shots on nine of the holes.  The grass of the rough was links-style long and it was a good thing there were only about five sets of golfers on the entire course while we were there because Denny and I did have to spend a little time looking for golf balls in the long grass.  If you play a straight shot, then this will be a fun course for you.  There are enough slopes and hillsides to challenge you and distant vistas of the mountains add pleasure to the game here.

There are five sets of tee boxes per hole here at Blue Ridge Shadows; from the longest (black) tees your yardage is 7315 yards with a rating/slope of 75.5/143.  From the blues it's 6787 yards with a rating/slope of 73.1/138; white tees have a yardage of 6204 and 70.4/130 for the men and 75.9/142 for women who want to play a slightly longer course.  Seniors tees have a yardage of 5551 with a rating/slope of 68.2/122 for men and 73.3/128 for women and the shortest (red) tees have a yardage of 5006 and 70.0/120.  Greens here are cut short but run deceptively slow and those slow rolls will find dips and breaks in the greens that you'll never see.  Denny had a tough time with everything breaking left on his putts whereas I could never get the speed right.  The greens are also larger than what we're used to seeing on less expensive public courses which lent a more professional feel to the golf course.

Finishing up on the eighteen hole you approach not only the very attractive plantation style club house, but the green is set up with a rocky waterfall as a back drop with a wide creek in front of the green for one last challenge to your shot making.

Blue Ridge Shadows would be worth playing even at the regular price; Denny and I would play this course again in a heartbeat if we were ever to stop in the area again.  It is fun, challenging, scenic and in pretty good condition for the extreme weather conditions the area has suffered lately.  This is a golf course we'd recommend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Wet Day at the Marlton Golf Club

We had two days left on our visit to Maryland with both days having rain in the forecast and we had yet check off playing a golf course here. Remember, Denny and I are down to needing only to play golf in Maryland and Oklahoma to fulfill our desire of playing golf in all 50 states. On Tuesdays morning we loaded up our golf clubs in a fine mist and started heading for the Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, only to turn around a few miles out when it started raining much harder. Since I'm recuperating from a cold, I wasn't thrilled about playing golf in 60 degree weather in the rain. So I called and cancelled our tee times and we drove home.

After our rather late lunch the rain slowed to a drizzle and then a fine mist and then it seemed to stop, so Denny suggested trying to get in a round of golf since the chances of rain on Wednesday were even greater than on Tuesday. I was agreeable so off we went to the course, just a few short miles west of our campground. Located on the edges of a housing development and built apparently as a member golf course, Marlton Golf Club is open to the public now. When we arrived, the man at the counter identified himself as the manager for the past year and explained that the fairways were being aerated that day and the golf course was in rough shape. He said that when he was hired the previous year the fairways had been reduced to dirt and he was working hard at getting the course back into its original condition. Fair enough. We had figured that we would be paying greens fees of $41 for me (adult) and $33 for Denny (senior) to play eighteen holes with a riding cart, but since we arrived at 2:30PM we were in the twilight rate period so we each paid $32 to play. And we were the only people on the front nine.Normally the rules here are cart path only, but on this day the manager allowed us to drive using the 90 degree rule. The fairways are indeed rough, as are the tee boxes but most of the greens are in decent shape. The sand traps are currently like concrete and it is obvious the prior management allowed the golf course to fall into near ruin. All of the recent rains and flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee certainly haven't helped the condition of the golf course either. That being said, the layout of the course is fun; the sand traps (when in playable condition) would present obstacles on several holes and there are a couple of par 3 holes with ponds that make you have to be careful of your club choice. There are elevation changes, some sharp dog legs and deceptively slow greens so while the course is relatively short, it's also tricky. From the longest (blue) tees, the yardage is 6181 with a rating/slope of 69.9/122. From the whites it's 5751 and 67.6/116 and the red tee yardage is 4677 with a rating/slope of 68.2/115.

You cross the public roadway to access the back nine where there are a few more houses near the golf course but none that make you feel you might hit them with an errant tee shot. There is no feeling of being crowded by the homes at any point on the course.As a matter of fact, it's pretty darned quiet on the back nine, as evidenced by the young buck who stood on the 15th tee box with us while Denny teed off. As you can see, it was still pretty wet in the woods and underbrush on the golf course.Denny and I played winter rules due to the extremely rough conditions on the course but if the grounds crews can ever get it back into shape, this would be a course we'd definitely play again should we be in the area. In the fall it would be beautiful. I hope that new young manager is able to make his dreams for this course come true.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Old Landing Golf Course

Although the closest golf course to our campground is the Baywood Greens Golf Course, it was a little too pricey for our budget at $109 per person for an eighteen hole round of golf. If we had the funds to indulge, this would be the golf course we would play in the area of Millsboro, Long Neck or Rehoboth Beach, Delaware as the golf course is gorgeous as seen from the roadway. It appears they are also adding another nine holes in a links-type format.

However, Denny and I drove the few extra miles to the Old Landing Golf Course in Rehoboth Beach to play at a much cheaper price. Normally the cost is $49 per person to play eighteen holes with a riding cart on weekdays, however we chose to play after 2 PM which lowered the cost to $37 each. It was a hot and muggy day and the golf course staff had turned off the drinking fountains that were placed around the golf course and there are no coolers of water on the course. Fortunately Denny and I had brought our own water although it would have been nice to have water on the course.

We had actually driven out the day before to play golf but discovered the golf course was closed for aeration, even though we had called on Saturday and were told the course would be open and no tee times were necessary or even taken for those who play after 2PM. They were aerating the greens but not the fairways. At the current time, this golf course is in pretty poor condition, with dying fairways filled with crab grass. Granted, the area has received a lot of rain with Hurricane Irene and leftovers from Tropical Storm Lee, but the conditions of the greens, tee boxes and fairways would indicate a problem long before all the recent rains. That's a shame, because the golf course is nicely set up, plays well for the golf who hits shorter, straighter shots and has enough ponds and sand traps to make the golf course interesting.

When we arrived at 2PM there were only three other cars in the parking lot and only 2 golfers in one golf cart in view on the hole ahead of us. The two men ahead of us played rather slowly so we allowed the single golfer behind us to go ahead of us, thinking the twosome would also allow the single through. Instead they joined up to play and thus managed to slow us up through the entire front nine. Play went more quickly on the back nine when two of the three eventually left the course without finishing (it may have been another single we allowed to play through who was hitting in to them when they refused to allow him to play through also.) Considering there was no one ahead of this threesome it was the rudest behavior we've seen on the golf course in a while.
Two of the holes on the back nine were roped off to golf carts due to soggy, boggy conditions. On these same holes you also have a few houses along the fairways but there is a thin stand of trees to help protect them from golf balls. I don't know if the soggy conditions have helped breed mosquitoes, but they were thick yesterday as we played so bring mosquito repellent with you if you decide to play here.

The condition of the golf course was disappointing for the price we had to pay to play. The layout of the course is nice, with the yardage from the blue tees being 6097 yards with a rating/slope of 68.7/114. From the white tees it's 5830 yards and 67.6/111 and from the red tees the yardage is 5494 with a rating/slope of 70.8/115. The shorter yardage granted us a few pars although I must admit we were playing "winter rules" due to the condition of the fairways and greens. At times the fairways were like playing on hard pan and at times a mud pen. But it allowed us to check yet another state from our list, leaving us with Maryland and Oklahoma yet to play.
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