Much like Whiskey Creek, when Worthington Manor golf course opened in 1998 I wasn’t in the market of playing upscale daily fee tracks. It looked good and certainly got its share of accolades. Golfstyles magazine has repeatedly given it accolades as has Golfweek magazine (full disclosure- I subscribe to both publications) in their “best you can play” rankings.
Since I’m trying to expand beyond the usual tracks I play at, I took another flyer of sorts on Worthington Manor to find out how good it really is. How good of a course is it, and despite the fact that it’s been used for US Open qualifying on several occasions, does this still translate to a course that regular players can play on?
On a chilly summer morning (which we’ve had quite a few of- no complaints as I’ll take having to wear a windshirt over searing heat and humidity every day of the year) I got in the golf wagon and headed west (it’s in Frederick but only about 10 minutes from Whiskey Creek- you could, I suppose, play both tracks in the same day if that sort of thing had appeal).
Check in at the pro shop was quick and friendly (and I have to say that for whatever reason, I’ve had great luck this year by not running into your Golf Police types in the pro shop). They asked if I’d like to donate for Patriot Golf Day (I’m happy to say I’ve donated every year I’ve played over Labor Day weekend…it’s a worthy cause and worth a couple bucks if you’re so inclined).
If nothing else, Worthingon Manor seeks to provide value. Range balls are included, and there’s a serviceable short game area in addition to a practice green. My only complaint on the day I played was that the range was open for mats only. If we hadn’t had the best summer (weather wise) I can remember I’d totally understand (i.e. drought, course was waterlogged, they’d had fungus issues, etc.) but the range was green and lush. A friendly starter paired me with another twosome (very friendly guys…if they played faster it would have been perfect) and we were off.
While most courses give you something of a handshake opener, Worthington Manor immediately tests you with a forced carry over a ravine to a fairway running 45 degrees to the left of the tee box. It’s just enough to get inside your head and make you think about trying to make a good shot. From the back tees it’s soil yourself time, but from the blue tees (where I played) it wasn’t that bad.
The second is similar to the first hole; a forced carry at an angle. While not a particularly long hole, a wayward shot will get punished. The third hole is one of their “signature” holes, a long par 4 that plays shorter than the number on the card due to an elevated tee box (the view, seen below, is really nice). A second shot brings a large tree and another ravine into play. One oddity of their course- no intermediate rough. Your ball is either in the fairway or in some fairly lush and think rough. I didn’t care for this since several of my drives were in the cabbage by a foot or two. I’ll be polite and simply say I didn’t like this.
Four straight par 4’s to start was a bit boring, if we’re being honest. The par 3’s on the front along with the 9th are the gems, in my opinion. The sixth hole is the first par 3; a carry over water and a long bunker to a well-protected green. The 8th is a longish, uphill par 3 to a plateau green. Number 9 is a great par 5; a true 3-shot hole (the third requires a carry over a ravine to an uphill green; the number on the card might make a bomber think about going for it in two, but the green is very well protected).
The back nine is fairly mundane; 10 is a short par 4 with a green protected by water (another short and/or right is getting wet). 14 is a short par 4 that long hitters might try to reach (the elevated tee makes it play short). The closing holes are the best of the bunch. 17 is a classic downhill, tree-lined par 3 to a tiny green well protected.
All courses should have a home hole that gives you something to remember, and Worthington Manor doesn’t disappoint. A tee shot through a chute of trees to a fairly open fairway that splits for the second shot, all leading to a well protected green (left is dead, right is heavily bunkered, and long is dead as well). I’d like to say my finish brought honor to my round, but I took a pedestrian bogey at the 17th and was lucky to save par at the 18th.
There’s a bar and grill if an on-course 19th hole is your thing (I played early so they weren’t open); they have a pro shop that, while small, had a decent if not great selection of balls, hats, tees, and a couple racks of shirts and the like.
Course conditions were good; greens had clearly been punched but otherwise rolled fairly true and didn’t lack for speed. Fairways were in good shape, and the aforementioned rough was lush, thick, and deep (again, not having an intermediate rough or collar didn’t get me all giddy but the superintendent and his staff should be given credit for taking full advantage of favourable summer weather.
The course has four sets of tees- the blue tees measure just over 6500 yards on the card, which is my upper limit. The white tees were just over 6000 yards (the black tees are over 7000 yards and should be avoided unless you’re a scratch golfer). A set of forward (red) tees are just over 5200 yards and still offer plenty of challenge.
Comparing one course to another is, at best, subjective, however it’s worth noting that Worthington Manor’s prime weekend rate is more than $10 below that of Whiskey Creek (I played on a Friday and paid substantially less). Both courses are among the best that the state offers.
All in all, I had a great time. Would I go back? Yes. A friendly staff coupled with great conditions and a challenging layout puts it as an option for me to consider.