When Whiskey Creek opened in June of 2000, I really wasn’t playing golf all that much. When I did play, I was limiting my rounds to the lower-end muni courses (looking at you, pre-reno Falls Road, Patuxent Greens, Needwood). While I enjoyed my lower-end golf, part of me wondered what these high-end tracks were like.
Fourteen short years later, I finally got my answer. On a whim, I made a tee time at Whiskey Creek for an early Sunday morning round, and I hoped to see what all the fuss was about- was Whiskey Creek this golf nirvana, or was it simply a tarted-up muni course? Ernie Els designed it, but what does that mean to me on the day, and to the bulk of golfers?
Most of my drive to Ijamsville was in light to steady rain, leaving me glad I had my rain gear with me (it would come in handy as it rained for just over half the round). It let up as I pulled in, leaving me cautiously optimistic that my round would be a dry one.
A polite gentleman checked me in, and let me know where the driving range was (range balls are included, but on the day I was there it was mats only- they appear to have grass tees that they use at some point). The starter hadn’t yet showed up, so the first group (the one in front of us) went off (we would see them on pretty much every shot).
By the time our group was ready to tee off the starter was there, but not before he told us their pace of play policy (which is great, except when your first group off (who didn’t get this speech) plays at a glacial pace- we waited on them on pretty much every shot).
On the day I played, the course was in fantastic shape; tee boxes and fairways were lush (any divots on the tee boxes had been filled), greens were in great shape (rolling pretty quick despite the wet), and the bunkers were well-maintained.
After a couple mundane holes, the course starts to show you what it has; the 4th hole is the first par 5 and it’s the #1 handicap hole. A tee shot through a chute of trees leads to a fairly open fairway before the hole tightens up, and ends with a well-protected green with little bail-out.
The 5th hole features an elevated tee that offers some scenic vistas; it’s a dogleg left so if you can play a draw you’re pretty well set up (or you can do what I did and bomb it straight into a bunker).
The 9th hole (sorry, no photos- it was pouring at this point), is a great par 5 that, if you bomb it off the tee can be reached in 2; I played conservatively and walked off with a good par.
After a relatively benign 10th, the 11th is the first of their “signature” holes; a long par 3 to a long skinny green. Go long and you’re chipping with the ball well below your feet trying to land on a narrow green. If you’re guessing that this is what I did…congratulations.
The 12th is another signature hole that requires a fairly long (160-170 yards) over a ravine/waste area.
The round ends with their true “signature” hole, the famous 18th that has an old building in the middle of their fairway, and is reachable for a long hitter. The two locals I played with gave me the local knowledge; by that, the left side, while riskier, offers a better angle at the green while the right side is a “safer” play. They also assured me that they’ve never seen anyone hit the house before. Somehow, I managed to aim left, hit left, and with a 300+ yard drive, gave myself a manageable second shot to the green and a putt for eagle.
Two putts later, I carded a round-ending birdie and felt pretty good about things.
Despite a somewhat slow pace of play that didn’t seem to be overly-policed, it was a fun round. Tee to green I played pretty well, but I never did figure out the greens. There’s not any dramatic elevation in them, but there is a lot of subtle break in them that will challenge the vast majority of players. Overall, Whiskey Creek is a good example of Maryland golf; Golfweek magazine has it ranked as the 4th best course you can play in the state (Bulle Rock retains the title as #1 overall). If you want to challenge your game and see a few scenic vistas, you could do a heck of a lot worse.