The upscale golf boom is continuing, with The Links at Gettysburg (Pa.), Hampshire Greens in Ashton and P. B. Dye Golf Club near Frederick now open. Each of those is within easy driving distance of the Baltimore Beltway. Newcomers near the beach are the Bay Club East course in Berlin and Bear Trap Dunes near Bethany Beach, Del.
The Links at Gettysburg
This Scottish-influenced course is a mix of rolling hills and open valley holes, red rock cliffs, mature hardwoods and 10 man-made lakes that stand ready to drown errant shots. It has generous fairways and large greens, and fairway bunkers are in play off most tees. Since much of the course is open, wind dictates adding a club or two -- or three -- on some shots. Six holes demand carries over ravines.
You can easily drive through the fairway on No. 1, a downhill dogleg, but a 3-wood tee shot sets up an easy but scary mid-iron over a ravine to an elevated green that has a bail-out area short of a 6-foot-high wall in front.
No. 2 flows uphill over another ravine, then doglegs right where the ravine flows left, requiring an all-carry shot to a hilltop green. You should hit at least one club more than you initially think here.
After another ravine carry on the par-3 third hole, several holes run along a hilltop. On No. 7, a par-5, the premium is on placing your tee shot between a stream and a lake in the valley below. You can bite off as much as you want to chew.
Head pro/general manager Joe Burden says the course, chiefly the product of popular golf architect Lindsay Ervin, is designed to play progressively tougher, with six relatively easy holes followed by six of medium difficulty, then six frustration-makers coming home. But that's not the case if you can stay out of the water that defines much of the back nine in the valley.
The finish, though, can be difficult. No. 16, a longish par-4, plays against a prevailing north wind, requiring a strong drive and a long-iron or fairway wood over a creek lined with native red rocks to a sloping hillside green.
No. 17, Gettysburg's signature hole, plays 417 yards from the middle tees, with water left and front and an elevated green tilted severely left behind a deep bunker. Two putts? Good work!
No. 18, a short par-5, narrows progressively, then doglegs to a green set against a waterfall backdrop. If you hit your second shot too far, you're in trees or rough. A long approach will be wet.
The course features undulating fairways skirted by mounds, and hilly greens that demand accurate approach shots. Lisa Maki, a Scottish golf architect who designed Stoneleigh in Northern Virginia, produced a layout for the Montgomery County Revenue Authority that capitalizes on the area's natural terrain.
"You need to play from the proper tees here," warns head pro David Dorn. "There is enough of a challenge with narrow fairways and forced carries in some places, and you can get into trouble everywhere. But it's all right there in front of you."
On No. 2, a par-5, a huge environmental hazard lies in wait for your second shot and forces a deft shot to the green. No. 5, which plays up to 417 yards long, features a long approach over sand traps to an elevated green.
The 11th hole, all carry to a large, tilted green, is one of the prettiest par-3s you'll see. And No. 18 is among the toughest finishers. Depending on which tees you're playing, you must drive up to 215 yards over an environmental area. The sculpted uphill fairway can play two clubs longer than usual into steady headwinds.
The drawback to Hampshire Greens is its youth. The greens are mature, but several fairways aren't. Time and overseeding will correct that. Meanwhile, plan on hitting irons off a few bare lies and seeing an occasional stray shot bounce farther into trouble than you think it should.
P. B. Dye Golf Club
At P. B. Dye, on Frederick County's southern border, they tell you in the pro shop that the course is "risk and reward." Read that: Every hole is an adventure.
As a designer, P. B. is a chip off the old block. Like Pete, his father, he is fond of sloping fairways, insidious pot bunkers, high multi-tiered greens bordered by deep collection areas and the inevitable railroad ties. From start to finish, the greens are tabletop fast -- every day.
Play begins easily enough with a short, dogleg par-4. But if your approach isn't precise, you'll be chipping uphill to a tilted green that may send your ball rolling quickly off the other side.
Past a sidehill par-3, the next several holes feature deep pot bunkers where stray shots force bogeys or worse, par-5s -- and par-4s -- where the smart shot may be a layup.
At No. 8, an uphill par-3, if you're short of the green, you'll look skyward to pitch home.
No. 9 features a fairway that bends left, then right, and a shot home off a downhill lie to a green bordered by sand and water.