While I consider myself open to new courses, it’s lousy treatment, poor pace of play and terrible course conditions (or a combination of those) that keep me from returning to certain courses. Other courses have simply fallen off my radar as other options become easier and simpler.
I’ve never heard much about Poolesville Golf Course. I knew it was part of the MCG portfolio, but that was really it. I’d ask folks about it, and nobody really had much to say about it. Ask the average golfer in the area, and they’ll tell you about the known entities in the area. Which is good. So it was in this vein that I set off for the hour-long drive to the great unknown that was Poolesville Golf Course.
As I pulled into an empty parking lot at daybreak, I’d be lying if I wasn’t overly optimistic. I saw what appeared to be a dilapidated building on one side (labeled as a pavilion), and something that was purporting to be a clubhouse on the other. I walked in with clubs in tow, and found the pro shop where I paid my green fee. Another lengthy stroll to where the carts were, and I’d be lying if I was starting to wonder what exactly I was in for. There is a large practice green adjacent to the cart area where I hit a few chips and tried to get loose. A few minutes later, I set off with one of their starters (playing on his day off) and another regular. A duffed tee shot did little for my state of being.
Sometimes, you just have to wait around, open your eyes, and see what you want to see. I suppose that this is really Poolesville Golf Course in a nutshell. You can see an old dilapidated pavilion and a rather dated pro shop building, or you can look closer. It’s when you stop to look closer that you find that reward.
Poolesville is relatively flat, but that shouldn’t mean to say it’s boring. There are elevation changes but they’re more subtle; nuanced, if you will. Fairways are generous but not overly so; good shots will be rewarded. There’s not serious trouble that’s a few feet from the fairway, but wayward shots can and will get punished. The picture of #2 above is a good example; there’s slope but it’s not windmill and clown’s mouth time (565 from the white tees means that this is a big-boy hole). The greens look flat, but there’s a lot more slope in them than you’d think.
It’s not tricked up on any level, but it’s certainly not easy either. The best of the bunch on the front side is #8, a difficult par 3 requiring a carry over water to a green that slopes from back to front. The 7th is a shorter (515 from the white tees) par 5 but one that still requires three good shots to the green.
The back nine is where the genius comes out. The 10th hole is a fairly pedestrian par 4 (holes 1 and 10 have the same teeing ground so there’s always a few folks there), but then the toughest stretch on the course awaits you. The 11th hole is a short par 5 but it requires a carry over water to a smallish landing area. There is a flag in the middle of the fairway that is a great place to aim, if being in the fairway is your thing (I chose to go right and have to punch out with a hooded 4-iron).
The 12 hole is a long par 4 where left is dead (if you’re guessing that I went left and was dead…you’d be right). 13 is a par 3 that plays long to a tight and well-protected green. Yes, those are white (OB) stakes past the forward tee.
The 16th hole is another knee-knocker. It requires a tee shot over a small ravine to a cambered fairway. The green is no pushover as it has some nasty slopes that protects against approach shots that go long and left (so thanks for that). It’s not a crusher on the card, but it flat-out punishes bad shots.
The 18th hole is a bit of a damp squib. Other than being a bit longish and having an elevated tee box, it looks very similar to #9 (which runs parallel to it). My pushed second shot ended up in the bunker, but I managed to save par with a 20-footer that I sank, which put a nice end to my round.
All in all I enjoyed my round. We went off second and while we pushed the group in front of us we weren’t waiting on them, and got around in a fairly reasonable 3 hours and 15 minutes. For a Saturday morning it’s quite satisfactory. While I ride almost exclusively, other than couple lengthy hikes between holes it’s not the worst walk in the world. It’s flat and most of the holes are close to each other. No beverage cart but the water stations had fresh cold water (which went down pretty well given the heat and humidity).
Poolesville has two challenges. It’s a hike from anywhere in the area, which won’t change. The other challenge is that they don’t have a snack bar or halfway hut. You can go into the pro shop and buy pop, Gatorade and beer and some candy and chips, but that’s about it. This is a relatively easy fix, if you ask me.
I won’t lie about the drive. It’s a long haul, and morons at MDOT (or Morons Doing 0 about Traffic) who decided to close I-370 to one lane for repaving certainly didn’t help (nothing like seeing 10-12 workers sitting around shooting the bull when there’s a 20-minute backup) things. But take that away, and it’s a hidden gem that’s in great shape. Maybe they don’t have a “signature” hole, and maybe they need a snack bar (seriously- get a snack bar; it’ll make money). But for $20 cheaper than Falls Road and Northwest, it’s a relative value and a course worth the drive.
If you’re playing today and you’re either taking your dad and/or being treated by your son/daughter, remember that pace of play is a wonderful thing. And please, don’t get the weepies on the course.
My feelings about FOX covering the US Open mirror the iconic Dead Kennedys early 1980’s take on MTV:
The good news is that after this weekend this bunch will only be around another 11 years. So there’s that.