I’ve passed by Rattlewood Golf Course at least a dozen times over the last two years, often to playing at Little Bennett, PB Dye or Whiskey Creek.  At no point did I ever think to stop in and take a gander, make a tee time, or look a bit closer.   I took a couple comments from a couple guys I played with once (who both hated it) and let that act as judgement on the course.  Upon further review, they were wrong.

If I were to say that Rattlewood is the jewel in the crown of the MCG courses, I’d be wrong.  With that being said, you could do a lot worse than spending a day at Rattlewood.   If I didn’t like the course I’d tell you so, and more importantly, I’d provide evidence of what I didn’t like.  I won’t say it’s an upscale member-for-day experience (it’s not), but I will say that if you’re looking for interesting holes and good playing conditions that won’t destroy your wallet (I paid $59.99 to ride on a Saturday morning; Hampshire Greens and Northwest run $25 more), then you could certainly do a lot worse.

Pullig into the parking lot amid rain, I wasn’t sure what I was in for.  The lot was empty, and I didn’t see much in terms of activity.  After I schlepped my bag to a cart and loaded up, I went inside, paid my green fee, hit a few practice putts on their practice green (picture below) and waited to tee off.  When the group before me wasn’t around, the starter (first woman starter I’ve seen in recent memory) sent me on my way playing solo.  As is my want, it took me about 1/1000th of a second to get to the tee, put a peg in the ground and send one airborne (I probably should have tied my shoes but really- that’s overrated).  Normally I wouldn’t play from the tips, but 6501 yards is at the high end of my wheelhouse and there’s only one par 4 more than 420 yards (my cutoff).  The par 5’s are your yardage hogs; the shortest one is 527 yards and the longest one is a robust 551 yards.  The whites come in at 6,104 yards and will give most golfers plenty to deal with.

Pro shop and clubhouse at Rattlewood.  The carpet is from Caddyshack and is spectactular

Pro shop and clubhouse at Rattlewood. The carpet is from Caddyshack and is spectactular

After a fairly pedestrian opener, the second hole provides a stiffer challenge at 440 from the tips.  The photo doesn’t show that it’s raining, but it still is on #2.  The tee box is elevated so it plays shorter, but it’s still a lot of golf hole.  The rough wasn’t terrible when I played it, but given all the rain we’ve had it’s not hard to see how it could get pretty lush.  One thing I didn’t like- no collar or intermediate rough…you’re either in the fairway or in the deep stuff.

Second hole at Rattlewood from the rough.  Don't go right.

Second hole at Rattlewood from the rough. Don’t go right.

The third hole is the first par 5, and at 528 from the tips and uphill the entire way, it’s a 3-shot hole for sure.  The first two shots are all about position for the third shot (it doglegs to the right for your third shot; the greens are all fairly small and well protected but most holes have a run-up area that is a good miss); my third trickled on the green and I was able to 2-putt for a par.

Third hole at Rattlewood.  Really pouring here.  And uphill.  And maybe a bear and a shark.

Third hole at Rattlewood. Really pouring here. And uphill. And maybe a bear and a shark.

A couple fairly mundane holes lead you to #6, which, though having an elevated tee, requires a carry over water that shouldn’t be an issue, but we know how water can intimidate even highly skilled players.  If that wasn’t enough, I had to land my second shot on the green in between a dozen geese who were kind enough to leave their “mark” on the green.  Do you get free relief from goose shit?  Just asking.  The hole doglegs to the left; the green is just past the bunker on the left.

6th hole at Rattlewood.  I think you get a free beer if you hit a goose.  Maybe.

6th hole at Rattlewood. I think you get a free beer if you hit a goose. Maybe.

The front side closest with a tough par 5 (551 from the tips); it doglegs to the left twice (it’s the #1 handicap hole on the course if that sort of thing is important to you) to a slightly elevated green.  A good miss is right as it’ll typically kick left.  I felt pretty happy to 2-putt for a par.  The back side starts with a second difficult par in a row (see photo below); this one requires a pretty hefty carry over a hazard (it’s 521 yards from the tips).  I ended up in the left rough, left my third shot in trouble and 2-putted for a bogey.

10th hole at Rattlewood.  I'd suggest clearing the hazard, but I'm not a pro.

10th hole at Rattlewood. I’d suggest clearing the hazard, but I’m not a pro.

The 12th hole (below) is a long par 3 (224 yards from the tips); for me that’s a full 3-wood.  From the whites it’s “only” 209 yards (plays slightly downhill but there’s a big bunker on the right that clearly must see a lot of traffic.  I cleared the bunker but was just off the collar; chipped and 1-putted for a very happy par.

12th hole at Rattlewood.  A beast of a par 3.

12th hole at Rattlewood. A beast of a par 3.

After a couple 3-putt mishaps, I managed to par the last four holes (getting up and down on 3 straight holes to save par) to come in at a 79 (my first sub-80 round this year).  If I were being honest, I’d give some credit to my new big stick (a Titleist 915D2 driver that is at least 15-20 yards longer than my 910D2).

17th hole at Rattlewood.  Do. Not. Go. Left.

17th hole at Rattlewood. Do. Not. Go. Left.

Scores on the doors:


Scorecard from my round on July 11th.  Feels good to break 80.

Scorecard from my round on July 11th. Feels good to break 80.

One of the issues with the golf scene in the area is that the public courses are starting to separate themselves.  You have your “member for the day” tracks like Whiskey Creek, Raspberry Falls, Lake Presidential, and the like.  Then there’s your top end public tracks (Northwest Park, Laurel Hill, Blue Mash, Waverly Woods come to mind).  And then what?

The Sligo Creek, Trotters Glen, Gunpowder courses serve a specific market, but in between I feel like we still have varying levels of mediocrity.  Cross Creek is slowly sliding into this end of the spectrum (and the infinite gong show that is Timbers at Troy is slowly heading down this path whether they want to admit it or not).

The course has a serviceable driving range (mats only), a short game green for chipping and a practice putting green.  The clubhouse is accessible at the turn should the need for sustenance come up; I don’t know if they have a beverage cart or not.  They have a pro shop that has the sort of things you’d expect to see at most public golf course pro shops.  The starter and the young man working in the pro shop were very polite and friendly.  Not sure what else you can ask for.

So my advice?  Stop…take a chance on the unknown.  You never know what you’ll find.  You may find something you needed, even if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  I needed Rattlewood today.  I just didn’t know it.  Sometimes you just have to get out of the way, and see things for what they are, and not what you might want them to be.  It was a great reminder of why I love this game, and the beauty that comes from a course you don’t know, and just you, a new sleeve of Titleists, your clubs, your swing, and your imagination.

Is Rattlewood perfect?  No, but neither am I.  The greens were a bit slow and were a touch bumpy (understandable given how much rain we’ve had), but in the end, I had a great day out, and really- isn’t that why we play?

Would I go back to Rattlewood?  In a word…yes.

Your song of the day is courtesy of Gordon Lightfoot (mock it and I’ll beat you with a bag of hammers).