The first hole at Waverly Woods Golf Club looks intimidating. The landing area is a hillside that slopes left toward high rough. Between you and the green lies a creek flanked front and back by marsh. With a steep drop-off to its left, the green rises high above the fairway and looks crowned in the middle - not much margin for error.
So, if you get the impression that focus is a key here, you're on the right track. This upscale course in Marriottsville, north of Interstate 70, requires calculation on just about every shot.
"It's a thinking player's course, requiring accurate iron play," says David Kim, the manager and head professional. "The greens are firm and fast, and you need to come into them at the right angle, with the right shot, so the ball will hold."
No two holes are even remotely alike. It's hilly country, so you'll encounter challenging lies and environmental areas throughout your round. Nevertheless, the course is playable for golfers of most skill levels; you need not boom drives 250 yards to score well - to wit, the recent round I played with Francis and Jesse, two 11-handicappers, and Tom, a 21-handicap. I'm a 17-handicap. Tom was a newcomer; the rest of us had played there once or twice before.
Francis birdied the par-4 first hole with a drive inside the 150-yard marker in mid-fairway, a short iron to the green and a 6-foot putt. At No. 2, a par 5, Tom and I over-clubbed to avoid the environmental area in front of the green and hit into the hilly rough behind it. From there, Tom chipped in for a birdie. In retrospect, the approach shot from the fairway wasn't as tough as it looked.
The third fairway slopes right, toward rough and a creek. A straight tee shot is critical, to cope with the terrain and set up an easy shot to the green.
No. 4 at Waverly Woods, a double-dogleg par 4, climbs steeply. It's a course-knowledge hole, because your second shot is blind. If you blade a mid-iron halfway uphill, you'll be able to see the top of the flag stick on your third shot and perhaps hit close enough to make a par putt - as I did.
No. 7, a par 3, can play a three-or four-club difference from front to back. The green, the course's largest, is flanked by sand bunkers and a grassy drop-off. Tom, Jesse and Francis had putts that broke two and three ways over a ridge in the center of the green. I parred from 40 feet behind the hole; my first putt, downhill, broke once.
On No. 8, a par 5, long hitters can reach a pond on the left that you can't see off the tee - not a problem for our group. Tom, with three competent shots that left him behind the green, chipped in for birdie again.
The 309-yard 10th hole punished Francis when he pushed his drive into trees and rough. Jesse birdied with an uphill chip from the front of the green. I easily parred. Francis came back on No. 11 with a solid drive and a 3-wood shot to the center of the green on the 475-yard par-5. Alas, his eagle putt slid past the hole.
No. 12 is another intimidator. It's only 330 yards long from the white tee, but the fairway slides into a deep ditch of rough 220 yards out. Leave your driver in the bag.
Francis birdied No. 13, a 190-yard, downhill par 3, with a 5-wood tee shot and a 30-foot putt. We posted two pars, though two of us missed the green off the tee.
No. 14 and No. 15, a 437-yard par 4 and a 155-yard par 3, respectively, are wide open, but the 16th and 17th holes require careful placement off the tee - No. 16 because of its rolling hills, and No. 17 because of a down slope to a creek and an environmental area short of the green.
On No. 18, a par 5, two grassy areas cross the fairway to intimidate the drive and second shot off the men's tees. Three of us had no trouble clearing them, but Francis hit a worm-burner into the second patch and lost his ball. Tom and I left the green with pars and went home happy. Off the women's tee, No. 18 is a 374-yard par 4 that creates a dilemma: Can you drive far enough to clear the second environmental area, or must you lay up and leave a long shot to the green?
Hills, bunkers, environmental areas and high grasses throughout the course can prey on your mind. But if you focus on hitting shots where you need them to be, you can score well. Tom, the first-timer in our group, shot a net 68. The rest of us ranged from 67 to 74, net.
The writer, an assistant business editor at The Sun and longtime Columbia resident, is a frequent golfer who over the years has played virtually every course in Central Maryland.
At a glance
The essentials of Waverly Woods Golf Club
Yardage: Black tees, 7,024; Blue, 6,602; White, 6,304; Gold, 5,606; Red, 4,808.
Rating/Slope: Black, 73.1/132; Blue, 71.4/129; White, 70.4/124; Gold,67.3/113; Red, 67.8/115.
18-hole rates: $47 Mon.-Thurs. $64 Fri.-Sun. and holidays; seniors $38 Mon.-Thurs.; juniors $20 Mon.-Thurs. Replays: $20 Mon.-Thurs., $30 Fri.-Sun. and holidays.
Cart rental: $8/18 holes.
Tee times: Call 10 days in advance, 410-313-9182.
Other: Lighted practice range, snack bar, lessons. Memberships: $1,395 to $3,295 a year.
Directions: Interstate 70 or U.S. 40 to Marriottsville Road. North on Marriottsville Road to Warwick Way, one block north of I-70. Turn right and follow to clubhouse on left.