First off, happy Father’s day to all the dads. My father never played golf and didn’t have any desire to take up the game- he played professional baseball (minor leagues), and prior to my arrival in his world he played doubles tennis but wasn’t a golfer. While I prefer whiskey, bourbon and Scotch, my father drank a gin martini every night and God help you if you screwed with that (I don’t dislike gin, but I prefer other spirits). He passed away more than 20 years ago, and I miss the stubborn SOB all the time mostly because we could argue and disagree on a level that I cannot possibly put into words (which happened pretty much all the time).
I mention this because it was on Father’s Day that I went back to Timbers at Troy for the first time in 3 years when the course had fallen into a state of disrepair. I do remember playing at Timbers on Fathers Day in 2007 or 2008 and getting paired up with a father/son playing together. I tried to avoid being a third wheel, but the father seemed to gravitate towards me while the son was a weepy, pathetic mess of humanity seeking an “experience” with his father (if you’re that son and reading this, just enjoy each day for what it is. Be your own man.
When Timbers closed for renovations and repairs last fall, I didn’t know what the next chapter of this course would look like. The course I remember from 3 + years ago was one with washed out hardpan bunkers, chewed-up tee boxes, fairways that had seen better days, and greens that were inconsistent. I’ve long complained about the state of affairs for Howard County public golf (the CA courses are at best a mixed bag, Waverly Woods seems to have its act together, while Timbers at Troy is still the big question mark).
So it was on a peak summer-like hot and steamy morning that I made that familiar drive off MD-100 to see what seven months’ closure had done.
Whether you play off #1 or #10, both starters are among the toughest holes on the course; long par 4’s that require two accurate shots to reach the green. Whatever optimism I had about the state of affairs took a punch to the gut fairly quickly. The fairway on #1 was a soggy, spongy mess and the area around the green had several spots that should have been Ground Under Repair (the bunkers on either side did look quite good).
Unfortunately, the 1st hole was fairly consistent with what I saw most of my round. Either heavy overnight rain or over-watering (I didn’t have any rain at my house yesterday but I suppose it’s possible that Timbers got a deluge) made most of the fairways fairly wet and heavy. The tee boxes were a mixed bag; some were in great shape and others looked like they’d been used by a rugby team for scrum practice. Roughs were also inconsistent, however several areas had the obvious signs of being re-sodded.
If there’s hope with the course conditions, it’s on the greens. The surfaces were hardly US Open level speeds, but they were smooth and consistent (which 99.9% of golfers will gladly take). Hopefully, others will make sure to repair pitch marks and ball marks (if you’re not then shame on you). I was impressed with the greens.
The layout is unchanged. It’s certainly not the longest track in the area (from the tips it’s under 6700 yards, and from the blues it’s less than 6200 yards but has a rather stout slope rating of 133) but it demands accuracy. For all of its shortcomings, it’s still a great layout with a nice variety of holes and lengths. The longest par 5 is just over 510 yards from the blue tees but wild shots are punished. The elevation changes aren’t overly dramatic other than the 14th hole (a shortish par 3 that plays 1-2 clubs shorter), but they are noticeable.
One other improvement was the staff. The pro shop, the starter and even the ranger/marshal were all if nothing else friendly (and I firmly believe this goes a long way). This was not always the case; more than once I can remember going to the pro shop or dealing with the starter and thinking I was an intrusion and not a customer.
So overall, conditions are improved at Timbers but they have some work to do. The bones are there; now they just need to take it to that next level.