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Summary of DC/Baltimore area public courses and Staten Island Chuck

Golfers don’t need Punxatawny Phil or Staten Island Chuck (NYC’s copycat groundhog) to tell them when to go play. DC and Baltimore area players are chomping at the bit now with this warm winter.

Public golf in DC usually averages about $95, which as we all know is too steep. To maximize your golf dollars, here is a review of the best public courses in the DelMarVa area. (That’s “Delaware – Maryland – Virginia” for those of you scoring at home.) All ratings are out of seven stars.

While we’re on the topic…”Staten Island Chuck???” I wouldn’t be caught dead taking advice from somebody named “Staten Island Chuck.” Sounds like some chump with bad season tickets to New York Knicks games.


Whiskey Creek (Ernie Els) – Four and ½ stars

Els’ first design work. It’s an interesting take on a heathland links and feels like the moors on dark blustery spring or fall days. Some holes are memorable. The wall in the middle of the 18th fairway is….interesting…

Augustine (HHHH HHHHHH) – Five stars

Fantastic front nine, but a more sedate back nine. The front is memorable, but the back can’t reach the same peaks as the front.

Beechtree (Tom Doak) – Six stars

A warm, inviting and serene course. Definitely Doak’s most relaxing design. Just like you envision your home country club. The routing is the star here and not the individual holes or features or natural setting. Back to back par-5s on the front, an epic sequence at 13-15, including Doak’s self-described best Eden hole and two of his strongest par-4s. Convenient to both DC and NYC and only seven miles from Bulle Rock. It’s a great study for architecture students. They can learn how to design around the difficult portions of the property and make the most of tradeoffs (see the water on 1-2 and the short par-4 3rd as balanced by the rest of the front and the great par fours of the later back nine.)

Bulle Rock (Pete Dye) – Six stars

Home of the LPGA Championship, and featuring strong hole after strong hole, it narrowly defeats Beechtree for first place in the design category. Some of Dye’s best bunkers here go unappreciated because the player is too concerned with the water hazards on the other side. That’s how they end up in the bunker after playing the shot – they aimed right for it. (Especially on 12…)

Stonewall (Tom Jackson) – Four stars

An expensive hit or miss affair. Houses crowd a pedestrian opening trio, then we get a few good lakeside holes, then it’s back to the houses again. Lake, houses, lake, houses – lather, rinse, repeat.

Packsaddle Ridge (Russell Breeden) – Two and 1/2 stars

The dreadful first seven holes need to be walked single file. Over 350 acres to build on and there’s nowhere to hit the ball. Too many long uphill par-3s and 90 degree dog-legs. Some of the uphill holes are just screwy. I hope they get someone a little younger with more design features in his bag of tricks to build the second course. With the extremely sharp topography of the site and over 220 more acres, they really should consider Jim Engh. He’d certainly give something more creative than “narrow, narrow, narrow, uphill, uphill, uphill.” PLEASE tear up that ridiculous 12th hole…a four club uphill par-3 that starts at 190 yards long…after we saw the same thing five holes earlier.

Back Creek – Three and ½ stars

A bland but convenient and inexpensive collection of holes. A pleasant course for a low impact round, but nothing special.


Whiskey Creek – Five and ½ stars

Augustine – Five and ½ stars

Beechtree – Six stars

Bulle Rock – Six and ½ stars

Stonewall – Five stars

Packsaddle Ridge – Five and ½ stars

Back Creek – Four and ½ stars


Whiskey Creek – Four and ½ stars

Augustine – Five stars

Beechtree – Five and ½ stars

Bulle Rock – Five and ½ stars

Stonewall – Five stars (The lakeside holes are amazing, the houses detract.)

Packsaddle Ridge – Five stars Built on the side of the mountain, it’s a murderous walk.

Back Creek – Four stars


Whiskey Creek($95) – Four Stars

The second-best value for a high priced course, behind only Beechtree.

Augustine ($70 max, more often $50-55) – Five and ½ stars. The best value.

Beechtree ($95) – Six stars

It’s still too much for golf, but the design is stellar and there is only one other Doak course nearby (Atlantic City) and that’s a redesign. You simply must play here if you want to see a Doak design. The alternative is a plane to Michigan or Oregon…or New Zealand…)

Bulle Rock ($145) – Four stars

It’s a shame more people can’t enjoy this course. The design is terrific, but the price should come down to $120.

Stonewall ($115) – Two and ½ stars. Boy, those lakeside holes are expensive.

Packsaddle Ridge ($50-$60) – Four and 1/2 stars. Good value, but you’ll lose what you saved in golf balls on the screwy front nine.

Back Creek ($60 max) – Four and 1/2 stars.


Whiskey Creek – Five Stars

Augustine – Five stars

Beechtree – Six stars

Bulle Rock – Six stars

Stonewall – Three stars

Packsaddle Ridge – Three stars

Back Creek – Four stars

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