I’ve lived in Howard County for well over a decade, and whenever possible, I want to promote and help golf courses in Howard County.  It’s frustrating that I can count on one hand the number of public courses in the county, but I want them to be successful and I want them to be part of growing the game.  Seeing the options grow would make my weekend mornings improve by not forcing me into driving 40-60 minutes out of the county to tee it up.

With that being said, golf in this county is, to put it politely, terrible.  I don’t write this with glee and I don’t take any pleasure pointing out the state of affairs here.  We have three public courses and several limited access or private tracks.  For a growing county with our affluence, this is ridiculous.

But it was with hope and optimism that I set out to Waverly Woods in hopes of seeing my home county show that it can hang with the big boys.  Waverly Woods is the sister course of Blue Mash (located in Montgomery County).  I came away realizing that I’ll have to continue trekking into Montgomery County for my golfing fix because the people that run Waverly Woods can’t see the forest from the trees.  Letting your so-called members run amok while doing everything possible to scare off non-members is a recipe for disaster.

I wanted to have a great experience.  I wanted to tell people that no, it’s a great course.  With that being said, it’s a good layout with a wide variety of holes, and a lot of elevation changes.  It will challenge your game for sure.  They have a range with grass tees, a practice putting green and a chipping green to get you warmed up before your round.  I checked in at the pro shop and paid my green fee (paid $79 to ride on a weekend morning); didn’t exactly get a friendly welcome (I’ll point out that the Montgomery County courses all have friendly folks who are at least hospitable).  Didn’t get warm fuzzies from the starter about how they needed my cart so I’d have to pair up with someone.  Is being friendly that difficult?

I was paired up with a threesome (a family of really nice folks whose company was, if nothing else, enjoyable- they were fine folks and I enjoyed meeting them) and being the second group out, I was optimistic of a fairly good-paced round.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

Practice Green.  Great chance to chip, putt and hit sand shots.

Practice Green. Great chance to chip, putt and hit sand shots.

The trouble started at seeing the foursome in front of us with three walkers.  Slow walkers.  VERY slow walkers.  On a course that, frankly, isn’t really walkable due to the topography and some long hikes between holes.  To put three walkers out first…there’s a word for this.  If that wasn’t bad enough, we had fog for most of the front nine.  And by fog, I mean “holy crap am I back in San Francisco?” next to no visibility fog.

2nd hole at Waverly Woods.  I think.  It's out there somewhere.

2nd hole at Waverly Woods. I think. It’s out there somewhere.

As the lead group, you’re setting the pace.  In this case, they played 18 holes in four hours and 45 minutes.  With NOTHING in front of them.  If you were in the 7:00 a.m. group and you’re reading this, YOU NEED TO PLAY FASTER.  OR LET OTHER GROUPS THROUGH.  OR PLAY LATER IN THE DAY.  A four-ball should get around in well under 4 hours, especially if you’re members and know the course.

Of the holes on the front side, #2 is probably the toughest.  A big dog-leg par 5 to a well-protected green; it’s a three shot hole.  Period.  The 8th hole is the #1 handicap hole; it requires three good shots to a well-protected green.  The fairway is open off the tee but the hole tightens up.  It’s a great hole.  The 9th hole is a long-ass par 4 that plays into the prevailing wind (no chance of that).

Waverly Woods 9th hole.  Starting to be able to see a bit.

Waverly Woods 9th hole. Starting to be able to see a bit.

After the 9th hole we were hoping to be able to bypass the slow-pokes in front of us, but no chance of that.  And that’s when things went from bad to worse.  One of the guys in our group was also a member, and complained to the marshal (a useless nitwit who served zero purpose) and someone that was working in the pro shop.  To hear someone say that 2 1/2 hours as the first group out is an acceptable time for 9 holes doesn’t understand pace of play (he blamed the fog, but there was no fog on the back nine and it still took these rubes 2 hours and 15 minutes to get around).  If you’re adding that up, that comes out to 4 hours and 45 minutes for the first group of the day.  Read that sentence again and then wonder if slow play is a problem.

For a course to allow members to play a four-ball in just under 5 hours as the first group of the day is letting the inmates run the asylum.  If the marshal isn’t willing to tell them “guys you’re playing way too slow- you need to pick up the pace” then the marshal serves no purpose.

11th hole at Waverly Woods.  Waiting on the group in front of us.

11th hole at Waverly Woods. Waiting on the group in front of us.

The back nine starts out seemingly easy with a short par 4 to an open fairway (naturally I hit my one big power fade and ended up in the trees) before moving to a tight par 5 to an elevated green.  Got up and down from a crappy lie (they had aerated around the greens so I was dealing with mud pellets most of the day) to save par, which was nice.

The first par 3 on the back side is a toughie; you have to clear a ravine to a well-protected green; I was happy to 2 putt for a bogey here (you’ll see our slow-pokes on the green in the photo below…a recurring theme).

13th hole at Waverly Woods.  There's a green out there.  I swear.

13th hole at Waverly Woods. There’s a green out there. I swear.

The sun came out after this hole and then it warmed up.  The 15th hole was the last par 3; a seemingly easy hole that had all kinds of hazards waiting.

15th hole.  Group in front of us taking forever.  Guys, WHILE WE'RE YOUNG!

15th hole. Group in front of us taking forever. Guys, WHILE WE’RE YOUNG!

The last 3 holes might well be some of the most interesting.  16 and 17 share a super-wide fairway, while 16 has pine trees that wouldn’t look out of place in the sand hills of North Carolina.

16 hole.  If you miss the fairway to the right...take up tennis.

16 hole. If you miss the fairway to the right…take up tennis.

A fortunate birdie on 17 by your humble scribe led us to 18, which is a fantastic finishing hole.  A good second shot made up for a poor tee shot, and I was able to close with a par.

18th hole.  That took way too long.

18th hole. That took way too long.

It’s a shame, really, that this is what has become of Waverly Woods, because it’s a fantastic layout.  Conditions weren’t the greatest but I’d put that down to the greens having been punched and the weather hasn’t really been that cooperative.  One thing- for some reason people here don’t seem to care about replacing divots or ballmarks (including their precious members).  I’d also point out that whoever is cutting their holes on the greens isn’t that good at it (judging by the mess that their earlier efforts looked like).  With all that being said, a less-than friendly atmosphere and borderline negligence at willingness to enforce pace of play doesn’t exactly equate to me rushing to come back.

I wish Waverly Woods the best of luck, because eventually, they’ll need it.