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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Course Review: Maryland National Golf Club

One of my friends recently commented that every state seems to have a "National" course these days. It must be the new trend. Either way, Maryland National does a nice job living up to the grandiose name. It's a very solid layout -- for 17 holes. But I'll get to that in a minute.

I usually get a lukewarm feeling after playing Arthur Hills designs. Though I've only played five of his courses, I like Maryland National the best. It just edges out Blue Mash, which is one of our "go to" courses in the DC area.

Maryland National plays through rolling terrain that must have been farmland in the not-to-distant past. It's quite hilly, but it doesn't seem that way because Old Art used the land very well by creating a downhill par 5 (#2) , several downhill par 3s, and some downhill approaches to greens. The holes that play back up hills don't ascend abruptly; they move up slowly and gain most of their elevation around the greens. It's a pretty nifty trick.

The course is conditioned very well. It was pretty soggy out there, but the greens were firm and rolled very fast. My hands were made of lead on Saturday, so my short game suffered the speeds.

As I said earlier, all of the holes are well-designed except for one, the 16th. It's a par 4 that plays about 284 from the gold tees (second from the back). I usually love short par 4s because of the options one has off the tee. On the 16th, Art overreached.

We all had to hit 8-irons off the tee to put it about 130 from the green in the middle of the fairway. The other options we had were to try to fade either a long iron, a fairway wood or a finessed driver to a narrow strip of fairway that ran along the right side of the hole up to the green. This wouldn't have been so bad if the fairway didn't run along a hill and there weren't trees all over the joint. To the left of this fairway - the middle of the hole - is pure gunge and a creek. The gunge/creek goes all the way to the front of the green, leaving driver just about out of the question. One would have to hit a PERFECT drive with a 275 yard carry to hit the super narrow green. This is hands-down one of the goofiest holes I've ever played. No one should ever be forced to hit 8-iron on a par 4.

Other than that nightmare, Maryland National is worth the half day and 95 bones if you're in the Frederick, MD area. I give it 6 out of 10.


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