Once upon a time there was a wonderful place that offered sun, sand and surf to tired visitors who came there to be rejuvenated.
But Ocean City didn't offer much in the way of golf opportunities for those who use that game as part of their rejuvenation. In fact, before 1959 there was no golf of the tees, fairways and greens variety in the area -- only miniature golf.
Then some far-thinking people joined with some golfers and created the Ocean City Golf & Yacht Club, which eventually grew to the handsome 36-hole layout it is today.
"Golf in general has allowed Ocean City to become recognized much more as a year-round resort," says Tom Perlozzo, director of the Ocean City Recreation Department and a spearhead in bringing golf to Ocean City. "It has definitely helped our economy in the shoulder seasons."
It was not, however, until 1968 that the community of Ocean Pines was created by the Boise Cascade development company and given as a center- piece a demanding 18 holes created by the well-known golf architect Robert Trent Jones.
But the decade of the 1970s produced no more golf turf near Ocean City, with the exception of Nassawango Country Club in Snow Hill in 1970 and the first nine of the executive-sized Pine Shore Golf facility in 1979 next door to Ocean Pines. Then Pine Shore added another nine in 1980 and built nine more in 1986.
However, 1989 was halfway over before the first full-sized new course came along in the Bay Club near Berlin. Then 1991 became a banner year and June a banner month, as first River Run golf club opened in April and then the Beach Club Golf Links and Eagle's Landing opened in June. That made four clubs in two years -- actually five, with the spring 1991 addition of Nutters Crossing on the eastern side of Salisbury.
Two more projects
And that probably isn't the end. There are two golf projects in the early stages of discussion that could bring two or more courses to the Ocean City area in the next couple of years.
The town of Ocean City and the Worcester County
commissioners are discussing the feasibility of building an 18-hole course on the gorgeous Lighthouse Sound site, which is bounded by Assawoman Bay, the Isle of Wight and the St. Martin River. Plans seem to be heading in the direction of combining the new golf course with a county park to maintain the environmental integrity of the lovely location.
The other project involves a huge piece of land called Riddle Farm, a former racehorse farm on which the famed Man o' War trained. The planners are leaning toward a marina and two golf courses.
But right now, Eagle's Landing is probably the closest to Ocean City, with the Ocean City Golf & Yacht Club farther down the same road on state Route 611 toward Assateague Island. Then there is a tight group of three courses near Ocean Pines -- the Ocean Pines course within that community, and River Run and Pine Shore along the Ocean Pines north boundary, both on Beauchamp Road. Next geographically are the Bay Club and Beach Club, both in Berlin. Farther away but reachable are Nutters Crossing and Nassawango.
These courses are easily accessed by dialing (800) 4OC-GOLF, which can fix you up with tee times and more information on the courses and get you a brochure if you leave your name and address. The office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
Here's a rundown of the courses:
Just past the Ocean City airport is Eagle's Nest Road, which curves into Eagle's Landing, one of the finest golf courses you'll ever see.
The wetlands of this Sinepuxent Bay area layout were carefully preserved by architect Michael Hurdzan,and its natural setting is complemented by those wetlands and accompanying wildlife like deer and heron. More than 2,000 linear feet of bridging over the marshes lead to peninsula tees, and greens and rolling contours highlight other areas.
Eagle's Landing plays to yardages of 7,003 (for the masochists), 6,306 (for sensible lower handicappers) and 5,700 (for average guys intent on golfing fun), and for the women, it is set at 4,896. The number for Andy Loving's pro shop and tee times is (410) 289-4900.
Ocean City Golf & Yacht Club is down the road from Eagle's Landing on state Route 611. Either of the 18-hole layouts offers excellent golf, and the handsome clubhouse presents a bar, lunch facility, Dave Quelland's pro shop and lockers.
The seaside course is 6,520 and 6,252 yards for men with a 37-36--73 par, and 5,848 for women with a 38-37--75 par. The bayside is 6,526 and 6,211 for men with conventional par of 36-36--72, and 5,396 and 37-35--72 for the women. Call (410) 641-1778 for starting times.
You can reach the next trio of courses either by the U.S. Route 50 path to state Route 589 (also called Racetrack Road) and into the Ocean Pines South Gate, or by the state Route 90 bridge from 62nd Street in Ocean City and the Ocean Pines North Gate.
Robert Trent Jones design