As we sit in the middle of October, all of us facing that inevitable last round of the year, sometimes it’s a good idea to go through that mental Rolodex (note to you young kids- before smart phones, people had Rolodexes on their desks at work, where you’d keep contacts and business cards) and dig a bit deeper.

It was in that vein that I happened to play an October round at Compass Pointe which is in Pasadena, just north of Annapolis.  It had been several years since I played at Compass Pointe (mostly I remember playing a few company golf tournaments of the scramble variety along with a couple 2-man best ball events).  I had heard that conditions had gone downhill over the last few years, but I was curious to find out what had become of one of the few 36-hole courses in the area.

On a frigid morning where toques and jackets were the norm, I set out in search of a good time, and for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.

The people that worked there that I ran into were uniformly polite, courteous, and helpful.  The guys in the pro shop were friendly, as was the starter (a youngish guy).  Having two courses to marshal folks out to can’t be easy but we didn’t have any issues.  On the day I was there, the range was using their green grass tees and not mats (I’ve seen both- if this is important to you I’d call ahead and ask).

Myself and one of the people foolish enough to play with me (a colleague who is the proverbial “good egg”) went second off behind another twosome.  We played the South/West routing (the other course is the North/East although I suppose you could switch up) and much like Little Bennett, Compass Pointe wastes no time in punching you in the mouth with a brutally tough par 5 (honestly all of the par 5’s are tough here) that is 546 yards from the white tees.  The second hole is a short par 3 to a narrow kidney-shaped green with a lot of undulation; looks easy on the card but it’s not.

The 5th hole (below) is in that vein; on the card it’s a short par 4 but in reality you have to be precise off the tee and then into a well-protected green.

Compass Pointe 5th hole on a cold but clear fall morning.  I love this game.

Compass Pointe 5th hole on a cold but clear fall morning. I love this game.

The front side ends with two fairly mundane par 4’s that require two good shots; the 9th is shorter even though it plays longer to a well-protected green.

Compass Pointe 9th hole (South). Aim for the fairway.

Compass Pointe 9th hole (South). Aim for the fairway.

The West routing is, if you’re asking, a bit goofy.  If you were playing in a scramble or a shamble, there are some holes that seem tailor-made for this format.  The 1st (10th) hole gets this going, with a short par 4 that has a huge water hazard right that is a severe dog leg right.  At 330 from the blue tees and 299 from the whites, the big hitters might give it a rip, while the shorter hitters might opt for a fairly generous fairway but leave a longer approach.

If 10 is goofy, then 12 (3 South) needs a clown’s mouth.  I’m all for unique and challenging holes, but this one has “we will destroy your pace of play and you will like it” written all over it.  Your tee shot needs to be right to left or you’re laying up to about 180-200 yards out for your third shot, and that’s before you have to clear a ravine/waste area.  My biggest complaint is that good shots are punished (I hit a great tee shot but it ran out into a waste area; I was lucky to card a 7).   Again- in a scramble this hole could easily be birdied but the ravine must have several thousand golf balls in it.

The 14th hole (5 south) is another “what were they thinking” where you have to worry about your tee shot going into a hazard if you’re too long (which is fine, except you’re leaving yourself 150-200 yard second shots to an uphill and heavily protected green- not exactly where amateurs will shine).  15 (6 South) is a good “risk/reward” hole that doesn’t punish you.

15th hole at Compass Pointe (6 South).  Grip and rip but don't go right.

15th hole at Compass Pointe (6 South). Grip and rip but don’t go right.

16 (7 South) is another punishing par 5 that, like 12 (3 South) requires a carry through a tree-protected ravine, but isn’t as penal.  If you can shape your second shot to the left it’ll play easier, but it’s by no means a requirement.  The tee shot is downhill but all but the biggest of bombers can have at it off the tee.  The 17th hole is a short par 4 at only 280 from the whites and only 327 from the blues (reachable off the tee for the bombers) to a well-protected green.  18 is a short par 4 (375 from the blues) that plays shorter with the prevailing wind (and the wind kicked up something fierce (and cold) when we got to the tee) with a dogleg right.

16th hole (7 South) at Compass Pointe.  From the fairway.

16th hole (7 South) at Compass Pointe. From the fairway.

While the roughs and the bunkers were, if we’re being honest, a mixed bag in terms of conditions (some holes had thick lush rough, other holes (like 7 South above) had spotty dead spots).  However, the fairways, other than a few dead spots, were in pretty good shape (the fairway turf was a bit furry, but well-maintained).  The greens were dewy (very dewy) but once the dew burned off, they rolled pretty well.  Again- not exactly a 12 on the stimp meter but they were quick enough.

While the South and West nines are built amid a housing development, you don’t really see any homes except for a couple holes.  The course shouldn’t be walked- too far between holes; our gas cart was decent enough if lacking a bit in pickup.

The course has a small but serviceable snack bar (we stopped at the turn for a quick snack- the lady working was friendly and helpful), and the pro shop was stocked with the kind of items you’d reasonably expect to find in a pro shop.  I’ve seen bigger pro shops but they had the basics and the two guys working were certainly polite enough.

I wouldn’t put Compass Pointe on a “play before you die” list, but for $54.00 on a weekend morning, staffed by polite and friendly folks with decent playing conditions, you could certainly do a hell of a lot worse in this area.  I’d probably want to play the North/East routing next time out.  After putting out on our last hole as we drove back to head out, I asked my playing partner “would you come back here?” and he said yes.

And that, I suppose, is what counts.  We had a good time, had a few laughs, and got around in well under 4 hours.  Maybe you’ll play Compass Pointe and maybe you won’t.  But you could do a hell of a lot worse.

I’ve been watching sports for a long time and have seen some crazy endings to games, but the end of the 2015 National Rugby League (NRL- Australian Rugby League) might have been the craziest thing I’ve seen.  The last minute of the game and what ensued was everything sports should be- exciting, breathtaking, heroic, tragic, and more.  Well worth watching.