Your faithful scribe did not grow up in the DMV, but She Who Is Really In Charge (SWIRIC) is a native of Baltimore and has been known to cut people over a plate of steamed crabs. She’s also a big Orioles fan (or the f**king Orioles as they’re commonly known as in our house if they blow a lead), and fondly remembers many trips to Ocean City as a kid. As such, a few years ago (before I started this blog) we decided to vacation in the paradise that is Ocean City, MD. While the whole steamed crabs thing has never caught on to me, I’m fairly game for most things. I had heard that Ocean City was a decent golf destination (the Endless Golf shows that are an early morning staple on CSN/MASN are what they are, but I’d like to think that Bobby Vermillion is as fun of a playing partner as he comes across as), and after four rounds at four different courses, I can say that if you’re looking for that family destination that is very underrated from a golf perspective, Ocean City is a solid choice. It may not be as golf-centric as Myrtle Beach, but the options are better and more plentiful than the Outer Banks or Cape May.
We traveled in June (the week before July 4th week), so things were fairly quiet as peak summer goes. The July 4th influx was coming in the day we left. For a golf perspective, it meant that tee times (and me playing early) were fairly easy to manage leaving us time to enjoy our vacation. Most of the courses are 20-30 minutes from the heart of Ocean City so if you do play, plan accordingly (although I’d use a traffic app if you play on a heavy traffic day). Pam’s Ocean City Golf Getaways handled my tee times in one phone call (I had already decided where I wanted to play). I don’t know what kind of relationship they have with the courses, so it’ll be someone else’s job/place to comment on this. I’ve heard good and bad about Pam’s, but my experience was good. I know they go for the PG-13 rated photos and other innuendo which doesn’t really do much for me, but I’m sure it attracts some customers.
Note: Ordinarily I post photos with course reviews, but I was using an older phone and I neglected to back up my photos. The photos you’ll see are from the course websites.
The first course I played was at Glen Riddle, which has two courses. I played the Man O’War course (the other course is the War Admiral course). The Man O’War course is very flat and has more of a links feel to it. Fairways and tee boxes are Bermuda, so during the colder months and early spring it will be dormant (i.e. brown). The day I played the course was in good shape (greens was a bit slow as it had rained during the start of the round but were drying up towards the end). Rough really isn’t a huge issue unless you get real wild and end up in the tall native grass areas. There’s a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse at the course so an afternoon round and a tasty steak dinner is easily doable. It’s just over the bridge if you’re leaving Ocean City off of Rt. 50. There are some blind tee shots and approaches to greens. The last 5-6 holes on the back nine are more tree-lined that the front 9, so be prepared. Their pro shop was well-stocked when I played there. It’s not the most upscale course in the area, but when I played there, I thought it was in good shape with friendly staff. The Man O’War is just over 7,000 yards from the tips (I played from the blue tees which were just over 6,500 yards and it was more than testing enough).
The next day I played at Ocean City Golf Club, which is also a 36-hole facility with several holes on the bay. The pro shop was very laid back the day I played there (the decor was dated inside; had a bit of a Caddyshack vibe so not sure if they’ve done work or not). The guy in the pro shop was friendly enough. I played the Newport Bay (Seaside is the other course). It’s not that long (less than 6600 yards from the tips), but if you get wind (I didn’t; more on that later) then it becomes a lot trickier. The tees, fairways and greens were in good shape the day I played. My lasting impression was mosquitoes. If you play there, apply bug spray everywhere. I can’t say this enough. I got eaten alive through my shirt (my back had well over 2 dozen bites), and I did apply spray twice to my arms/legs the day I played. The holes that are near the water are particularly problematic. The mosquito issue probably rules out a return visit, but other than that it’s a solid layout that isn’t a brutal test for shorter hitters. Greens rolled pretty true the day I played. So with all of the concerns over Zika, I’d go heavy on the bug spray and re-apply it often, especially on holes near the bay or marshy areas.
The third day I played the gem of the Ocean City area, which is The Links at Lighthouse Sound. I was…not particularly impressed, given the hefty green fee (which does include range balls and cart w/ GPS). For $149 w/d, $199 w/e, that’s not cheap. It’s what I paid to play Torrey Pines as a non-resident, and that’s a PGA Tour/US Open course. It was in good condition the day I played it but for that you reasonably can expect pristine conditions. Pace of play isn’t that great; it’s a tough course that has a number of tight holes with very little bail-out room. For a course that is on the bay, only 3 holes have bay views. It’s just over 7,000 yards from the tips, and just over 6,500 yards from the gold tees (where I played from). The issue is that at 6,500 you’re looking at a 585 yard par 5 and three par 4’s that play over 400 yards. If money is no object and you’ve got the game, it’s as good of a test that you could ask for, but I didn’t see the value for what I paid. Staff was friendly (especially the people in the pro shop), but the starter was, if we’re being honest, a bit of a drill sergeant. Look, I know you’re trying to get people going, but maybe dial it back a notch or two.
Last and by no means least, I concluded my golf at Rum Pointe Golf Club. After having been roughed up the day before at Lighthouse Sound, I was looking for something slightly friendlier, and that’s what I found. A very relaxed (but friendly) and laid back pro shop sent me on my way. At less than $100 during the summer with range balls and cart w/ GPS included, it didn’t blow a hole in my wallet. It’s a Pete/PB Dye design so expect all the things you love (or don’t love) about Dye designs. A few of the holes on the back side (I played the back 9 first the day I played) are tree-lined, but soon it opens up and you’re dealing with the Dye mounds that border fairways. I enjoyed my round; 18 is a toughie with a man-made lake running the right side of the hole (it’s over 400 yards on the card but does play slightly downwind). At 7,000 yards from the tips and 6,500 yards from the blue tees (whites are just over 6,000 yards) it’s plenty of course. It was a nice way to finish up four tiring but fun days of play.
We rented a 1-bedroom condo that was 50 feet from the beach close to the Fenwick Inn and were very happy with the accommodations. If shopping is your thing there’s plenty of it; there are outlets in Delaware that are 15-20 minutes away (and it’s the home of tax-free shopping). There’s also the Ocean City Boardwalk and their beaches; they’re nice enough if a day at the beach is your thing.
If I went back, I’d play Rum Pointe and Man O’War again, and probably make Baywood Greens my “treat” course. There are other courses that run the gamut in terms of cost and scope. If not for the mosquitoes I’d go back to Ocean City GC, and skip Lighthouse Sound.
So if your summer plans involve a trek to Ocean City, there’s no reason to leave your clubs at home. Bring the sticks, play a couple rounds, and treat yourself to a post-round beverage at one of the numerous bars and drinking establishments nearby.