Courses a test for golfers

Public links offer challenges, rewards

Harford Recreation


Golfers from all over the country tee off every day from Harford County's premier public golf courses. Rolling terrain and picturesque views disguise the challenges pieced into the course designs.

An informal poll of golf professionals and players divulged what they see as some of the county's toughest golf holes.

Tom Monty of San Diego said he plays courses all over the world and the courses in Harford County are above average in difficulty. He played Mountain Branch and Beechtree during his stay.

"At Beechtree, the eighth hole was a nightmare," Monty said. "I could not get a break. I had a double bogey both times. But, I enjoyed the course because it presented new challenges every time we played. And, I think that's the best type of course."

According to Michael Gebhard, head golf professional at Beechtree Golf Club in Aberdeen, the par-four, 466-yard sixth hole on the Tom Doak design is one of its toughest.

"This hole has three large bunkers so you have to have a good tee shot," Gebhard said. "You can't see over the bunkers, so you don't have good depth perception."

Gebhard agreed with Monty and mentioned the eighth hole as particularly challenging. "This is a par-5, 588-yard [black tee] hole," he said. "It's the No. 1 handicap and it's intimidating to look at. But, if it's played just right, it's a birdie hole."

Overall, Gebhard said his home course is no-frills and low-key. "We're not trying to wow people with railroad ties or waterfalls," Gebhard said. "You can have a 20 handicap and get around our course and have fun doing it."

As for other courses, Gebhard said, the fourth hole is the toughest at neighboring Mountain Branch Golf Club in Joppa.

"On the fourth hole, the golfer has to hit a good drive and then deal with the water on the second shot," Gebhard said. And, Gebhard said, the entire Bulle Rock Golf Course layout in Havre de Grace is demanding.

"The 18th hole has water up the left side, and you have to hit two big shots to play it well," Gebhard said.

"Overall, Bulle Rock can be too much for a lot of players," he said.

Peter Bollman, Bulle Rock's golf professional, agrees that the course is tough but said most golfers can get through it without much of a problem.

"We know the course is challenging, but our golfers enjoy it," Bollman said. "We offer special services that make our course a top choice by golfers of all skill levels."

He's alluding to the first-rate service offered to golfers from the moment they enter the course.

As visitors drive up the lane to the clubhouse, they can see the breathtaking holes on either side of the road and the sign directing them to drop off their golf clubs at the bag drop.

After checking in, their clubs are ready and waiting in a golf cart, with course logo nametags attached.

The amenities and service earned the course a five-star rating from Golf Digest.

Bulle Rock is listed in the top 12 courses in the country along with the most prestigious of courses - such as Pinehurst in North Carolina.

"We want to be equal to world- famous resorts," Bollman said. "We're very proud of that rating."

While the 7,375-yard (black tee), par-72 golf course isn't designed for a novice, most golfers can enjoy a round.

Bollman said the toughest holes at Bulle Rock are the 13th, fifth and 18th.

Finn Neilson, a scratch golfer from Edgewater, said he plays Bulle Rock once a year, from the black tees, to put his golf game into perspective.

"Bulle Rock is tough. It's long and has several challenging holes," Neilson said.

According to Neilson, the 12th and ninth holes are particularly difficult. "The 12th hole at Bulle Rock is tough because you have to hit your tee shot from left to right and play a draw over the water. There's no margin for error."

Neilson, who plays golf three to four times a week, said the par-3, 225-yard yard seventh hole is tough at Mountain Branch.

"It plays uphill," Neilson said. "It's nearly impossible to hold the green if you hit to reach it."


Beechtree Golf Club, 811 S. Stepney Road, Aberdeen 21001; 410-297-9700; Rates: Aug. 12 to Oct. 30, $85 Monday through Thursday, $95 Friday through Sunday; Oct. 31 to Dec. 4, $65.

Bulle Rock, 320 Blenheim Lane, Havre de Grace 21078; 410-939-8887; Rates: $145 year-round.

Mountain Branch Golf Course, 1827 Mountain Road, Joppa 21085; 410-836- 9600; Rates: April 11 through Nov. 13, $95.

Toughest holes

In a recent poll of golfers and pros, the 10 toughest holes on the three courses are (distance from the black tee):

1. Bulle Rock, fifth hole, 483-yard par 4

2. Beechtree, sixth hole, 466-yard par 4

3. Mountain Branch, fourth hole, 418-yard par 4

4. Bulle Rock, 13th hole, 476-yard par 4

5. Mountain Branch, 18th hole, 492-yard par 5

6. Mountain Branch, seventh hole, 190-yard par 3

7. Beechtree, 14th hole, 441-yard par 4

8. Mountain Branch, sixth hole, 394-yard par 4

9. Bulle Rock, 18th hole, 485-yard par 4

10. Bulle Rock, 12th hole, 190-yard par 3

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