I recently had my first opportunity to visit Ocean City, Maryland. As Golf Magazine had not included any of the local courses on my original top 100, there had been no reason to visit. Recent changes and a review of Golf Digest’s list, however, prompted a quick swing through the area on my way from Williamsburg to Boston. Unlike the rest of my vacation, this side trip offered no historical interest.
The Links at Lighthouse Sound ( Lighthouse Sound) and Bayside Resort in Delaware (Bayside) are both located within close proximity to the ocean oriented mecca of Ocean City. This community offers its own multitude of golfing alternatives, albeit far less numerous than Myrtle Beach. (Each locale is overbuilt with miniature golf facilities.)
The Links at Lighthouse Sound is an Arthur Hills design that takes advantage of the Bay between Ocean City and the mainland before turning inward after number 7. The opening hole is fairly pedestrian leaving one to wonder about the high rating. Once away from the clubhouse, however, the fun begins. In particular, holes 4 thru 7 are spectacular. When you reach Number 6 be sure and go back to play it from the tips. The tee box is a small peninsula in the bay, with a modest carry to reach the fairway. Number 7 is a very challenging par 5. Number eight is similar to, and parallels Number 1, followed by the “longest cart bridge in golf” as it heads across the tidelands and into a more forested area. The back nine is not as dramatic as the front, but is more difficult, leading up to 18, a short par 5, that even a short hitter like me could reach with a drive and mid iron.
The condition of the course was average when I played. I am not sure if this was due a very hot summer, or excessive rain preceding my visit, but the areas around the green were spotty, making chip shots particularly difficult. The greens were slow. Overall, however, The Links at Lighthouse Sound was a very playable course in a great setting. There were visual similarities to the Atlantic City Country Club, but I preferred this venue. It was fun playing with Mark and Dave, as they were able to give me some tips on my upcoming visit to Gettysburg.
Absolutely Must Play? If in the area, yes, but I would not travel across country. My rating: 8, based largely upon the excellent design and setting.
Bayside Resort is situated in Delaware, also across the bay from Ocean City. This Nicklaus design is not for the faint of heart. The large number of water hazards and heavy brush are likely to result in the loss of numerous golf balls. The course starts strong (maybe too strong) with a dogleg left par 4, where you must determine how aggressive a line you wish to take over the lake. Too aggressive, like me, and you have lost your first Pro V1 in the water. It never seems to get any easier. I am not sure the course can be had even if your ball striking is great.
Once you hit a green, you must contend with very difficult undulations. On the day, I had four three putts and was only able to make par on only four of the holes. By the time you get to 18, if you have any balls remaining, you are faced with an impossibly, long par 4, with an island green. This one should be played as a par 5. My favorite holes were 2, 12, 14 and 15, although I did not play any of them well.
Ultimately, the setting was terrific, but like several other Nicklaus courses I have played the difficulty level was extremely high. The course absolutely wore me down and the finishing holes were unbelievably tough. The condition was okay, although, like The Links at Lighthouse Sound, there was some weather related stress. I would like to have another shot at Bayside Resort, although I fear the results would be similar.
Absolutely Must Play? No, unless you have a sadistic streak. It is just too tough. My rating: 8, as this would be a really good test for a low index player and the setting/views are terrific. In addition, the individual holes are exceptional.
So, Myrtle Beach versus Ocean City? I would stick with the former if golf is your priority. The Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Myrtle Beach is the best course in either area. Also, there are plenty of other nice options as well. Further, green fees in Myrtle Beach are significantly cheaper, with better stay and play packages. Both are tourist meccas that are too crowded in season, with little character. The beach and dining may be better at Ocean City, but that is largely irrelevant to the Golfaholic. I get plenty of sand from golf, such that I do not need any more beach time. Further, there are few good dining options if you look in Myrtle Beach. If you have had enough of Myrtle Beach, by all means head north. I would certainly take Ocean City over Atlantic City.
Weekly Observation: I expect very little from Tiger next week at the Safeway Open golf tournament. In fact, I expect little else. Please my recent post End of Tiger's Career.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He is in the process of completing the story of his journey to play America’s top 100 courses. Please visit this website regularly for more (im)practical information.