When I first moved to the DC area my knowledge of local golf was nonexistent. But shortly after moving here and playing a few rounds with locals, you’d here them talk of this “Little Bennett” in revered tones, and yes- in the old Kemper Open days they had used it to host the Monday Qualifier for the Kemper Open (RIP). But not living near there, and not really knowing the area that well, I never played it. New courses opened up, and they became the flavor of the month. Nearby, I’ve played PB Dye (Whiskey Creek remains on my “to play” list as does Bulle Rock), and going further west I’ve played Musket Ridge (twice during the Golfstyles Solstice Survival) and Maryland National. With a newly renovated Northwest Park and Hampshire Greens closer along with other options nearby, it became the course I forgot about.
Until today. A former colleague who, like me, lacks the good sanity to sleep in and rather is perfectly happy playing at sunrise met me for a round at this forgotten gem.
With all the rain we’ve had in the last month, I wasn’t feeling optimistic at all, and having spent the last 3 weeks trying to get back on my two feet, I made the drive on I-70 in the dark fearing an energy-sapping beat-down at the hands of this behemoth.
Pulling up as the sun was just starting to make first light, I was greeted by a friendly and affable gentleman in the pro shop; pleasantries were exchanged along with greens fees, and we were off. Shockingly, while I spent the drive in a sense of dread over the “cart path only” policy we were surely getting…behold! Why, that’ll be scatter…so drive to thy ball and be off. With our tee time fast approaching we quickly headed to the first tee. The starters were these two polite older gentleman who, while friendly, weren’t letting anyone tee off before 6am and that was that. The twosome in front of us went off, and then we did.
While most courses give you the proverbial handshake hole as a starter, Little Bennett announces its presence with the #1 handicap hole right at the start. A lengthy forced carry off the tee to a narrow fairway got us off to a rocky start. The 3rd hole plays two clubs shorter as it’s downhill to a tiny green. The par 3’s are of widely varying yardages; from 15 and 17 which are very short to a much tougher 6th hole at over 210 yards, you’re getting a good variety. The par 4’s also have variety. The 13th has a split fairway to a carry over a ravine to a small severly sloped green. The 18th is a good finisher; a stout par 4 dogleg with a narrow sloping fairway and a forced carry over a ravine for the second shot. All in all, a solid course.
I was amazed at the course conditions; I was expecting a sloppy, soggy mess. Not the case at all. It was hardly what you’d call firm and fast, but the bunkers were in great shape and the greens rolled very true if not particularly speedy (understandable). The course superintendent and their staff…you’re aces in my book for doing great work in some brutally tough weather.
Overall, Little Bennett is worthy of what people were saying; if it’s not the flagship course of Montgomery County Golf it should be. It’s a tough course; there’s four sets of tees (we played the whites; at just under 6200 yards it was plenty of course- the tips max out at just over 6700 yards). A well-conditioned course, friendly people, and a layout with plenty of variety. It may have taken me well over a decade to finally find this gem, but I’ll be back.