As I constantly look to expand my golfing horizons beyond the usual rota, I find that sometimes, this means going to take a second look at a course I may have played years prior, to see things that maybe I missed the first time.
It was in this vein that I happened upon University of Maryland Golf Course which is located across the street from their College Park campus. I had played there once before; I left work early on a Friday in July 2008 (which, unbeknownst to me at the time, was the last weekend the course would be open as it would be closed for several months to undergo an exhaustive renovation) and thought it was a good test of golf.
A year or two ago, the University thought about shutting the course down to use the land for something else (just what we need- another “mixed use” retail facility); luckily, cooler heads prevailed- not only do the men’s and women’s golf teams have a home course, but the golfing public has a fantastic public course located inside the capital beltway that can challenge anyone.
The course wastes no time getting your attention; the first two holes (over 410 yards each from the “gold” tees and over 450 each from the tips) are as tough of a start as you could ask for. The second hole (#1 handicap on the card) requires an uphill second shot to a well-protected green (I got in a bunker and went full Benny Hill from there, carding a triple bogey 7).
The third hole is a short par 4 that looks benign on the card, but like #2, has a well protected green (despite only being 316 from the gold tees it’s not easy at all). The fifth hole is fairly benign; only 400 yards from the gold tees and relatively flat.
The eighth hole (seen below) is the shortest of the par 3’s at less than 130 yards from the tips, but the green is well protected and par is certainly a good score. Anything long gets wet as you’ll see (or goes far right). It’s down hill so it’s probably 1/2 -3/4 a club shorter than on the card. The landing area left of the front bunker is a good “miss” spot.
The front side ends with a long, uphill par 5 that runs parallel to route 193. Only 510 from the gold tees but it plays uphill and into the prevailing wind (it was dead calm when I played).
The back nine starts with a shortish par 4 that plays shorter as it’s downhill before coming to the 11th hole. Playing from the tips it’s over 225 yards but from the gold tees it’s only 168. If you can play a right to left shot it’ll help. If you duff one like I did, then you’re in a world of hurt.
The back nine is considerably tighter than the front nine, despite being longer (it has 2 par 5’s rather than only 1 on the front side). The 17th hole (below) is a real gem and proof you don’t need length. At 327 from the gold tees and just over 300 from the whites it’s a short hole but there’s elevation changes and well-protected greens that require two good shots.
The 18th is a monster; 486 from the tips and 438 from the golds. I was very happy to hit two good shots to get on in regulation and two putt for a par.
One thing- unlike most courses, the tee boxes, fairways and roughs are bermuda grass, which you don’t see much of in the mid-Atlantic. The ball will tend to sit up a bit in the fairway, but nestle down in the rough. The rough was not that tall when I played but it didn’t need to be.
The other gem is the practice facility. While most courses have a pedestrian driving range, the UMD golf course has one of the best short game areas in the region. Two practice greens (one near the first and tenth tees, the other complex featuring a putting green and a short game green) and a decent range (mats only, but still). Seeing this further shames me for not taking advantage of this when I was working nearby.
If that’s not enough, one final touch- in addition to four sets of tees, there’s two different “combo” options (I played the gold/white combo) available.
The only negative I can see is that once the class begins I’m sure that playing here becomes tricky as I’m sure the golf teams must have playing privileges. It’s location off state route 193 with the football stadium visible from the course would also mean one should plan any rounds opposite home football games with care.
The greens were fast. They don’t look it, but they were very quick and very easy to three-putt if you’re not careful. Despite potential traffic issues, it’s a solid test of golf and worthy of a visit. If you find yourself playing there, you’ll be in the middle of the front side with nothing visible except fairways, greens and trees. From there, remind yourself that you’re actually inside the capital beltway.
I didn’t see one during my early morning round but they do have beverage carts, a half-way hut called The Turn, and a restaurant on-site. There’s a pro shop where you can buy, presumably, University of Maryland golf-related things (I’m required to mention that She Who Is Really In Charge attended and graduated from Maryland and is a proud Terrapin) and the kinds of things you’d expect to find in a pro shop.
I had a great time and enjoyed my round. Would I come back? You bet.
Since we’re discussing colleges, my fellow Spartan Ken Venturi is still sorely missed to this day. He remains, in my opinion, the best in the business because he explained things succinctly and accurately. To wit, 30 seconds of his genius on how to skip a shot over water.