Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Highs and Lows of Delaware Golf

Well, I have concluded my yearly Labor Day week-long trip to the Delaware Shore. While my wife was hitting the beaches of Lewes, I was hitting the local links, with rounds at Baywood Greens, Marsh Island and The Rookery. My game experienced some highs--long accurate tee shots with my new TaylorMade Burner Driver and a couple of birdies at Baywood--and some lows--a 10 on a Par 4 at both Baywood and Marsh Island and eight lost balls at Marsh Island. I also hit the local golf shops, but didn't find anything to buy. I did, however, pick up three pairs of Under Armour sports briefs at the Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach. I was hoping to get in a fourth round at either Jonathan's Landing in Magnolia, Del., or a second round at Marsh Island, but a family emergency prevented it from happening.

Here are my rounds and reviews of the courses I played:

Baywood Greens
Long Neck, Del
Yards: 6088, Par: 72
Score: 55/48 = 103
Date: August 31, 2007

Baywood Greens bills itself as "the Augusta of the Northeast" and it is easy to see why. The course is beautifully landscaped everywhere you look. The fairways are green and lush and the greens are fast and true. Our golfing experience started off when we were greeted at the bag drop. Our clubs were placed on the carts while my cousins and I went into a beautiful Pro Shop to pay our greens fees. Baywood isn't cheap. We paid $75 after 1 p.m. (we had a 1:18 tee time). Upon exiting the Pro Shop and showing our receipts, we were directed to our carts and told to go to the practice range to hit "as many balls as we wanted" and we would be called when our tee time approached. They also had a putting green, as well as a green with practice bunkers, something I wish now I had taken advantage of because I think I spent more time in the sand that day than my wife. Once we were directed to the First Tee, the starter gave us the rules of the day: which fairways prohibited carts, which areas and flower beds we could take relief from, etc. He also gave each of us a Baywood Greens bag tag. The carts at Baywood are equipped with the GPS system that shows you the hole, the distances to hazards, the green, etc., and even tells you when another cart is in the fairway up ahead in case you can't visually see it.

I drove the ball beautifully most of the day and was often the longest off the tee. However, my short game was non-existent. And I think I found half of the sand traps on the course. I managed to play out of them, but just barely as most had a very, very shallow level of sand. I made a very disappointing 10 at the Par 4 4th Hole after I played ping-pong by chipping back and forth over the green a few times. The most interesting hole at Baywood is the 385-yard Par 4 14th Hole. Standing on the tee, you play over water with two options to the green. You can play the longer route around the large lake as a long dog-leg left, or you can take take the shorter direct route by hitting to a small, narrow island fairway. I was hitting the ball really well with my driver and easily hit the island, leaving me just a pitching wedge to the green. However I three-putted for a 5. I followed that with a disastrous 8 at the 145-yard uphill Par 3 15th Hole by topping TWO tee shots into water in front of the tee. I did redeem myself on the next two holes, the 452-yard Par 5 16th and the 346-yard Par 4 17th Hole by making back-to-back birdies! On 16, I laid up on my second shot, then dropped a wedge about 18 inches from the cup. At 17, I canned a 70-foot putt from the front right fringe to a back left hole location.

While I doubt if I will be playing Baywood Greens on a regular yearly basis, it is a course I will look forward to returning to sometime in the future.


Marsh Island

Angola, Del
Yards: 4738, Par: 65
Score: Practice Round
Date: September 2, 2007

Marsh Island is a short little course that runs along Love Creek just west of the Lewes-Rehoboth Beach area. But don't let its length lull you into a fall sense of security, especially if the wind is blowing. While largely open in the front area of the course, the back features numerous protected wetlands that can reach out and easily snare a wayward shot. The course features some long, moderate and short Par 3s, short Par 4s, and two Par 5s. There are, however, a couple of holes that just don't quite feel like they belong on this course. One is the 271-yard Par 4 7th Hole. Even from the very back tees, all that is required is a 9-iron at most. But you must place the ball strategically because wetlands stand between the end of the fairway and green, with about a 10-yard opening to hit over the wetlands to a raised green. I made a 10 on this hole. Lucky Hole #13 is a 129-yard Par 3 from a slightly elevated tee to a very narrow green with water in front and wetlands to the right and behind the green. Choose your club wisely on this hole. Hole #15 is a 301-yard Par 4 which requires a tee shot of about 175 yards over wetlands to a fairway that doglegs sharply to the right. Go too far and you are in a narrow bunker to the left and short of the green, which again, has wetlands and Love Creek behind. Hole #16 is a 225-yard Par 3 in which the green sits about behind 30-yards behind a very narrow opening in the trees that stand about 185 yards off the tee. I often feel like a field goal kicker looking at a 55-yarder with 3 seconds left to win the game as I stand on the tee. Marsh Island is a great little course that will test your patience, as well as your short- and long-iron game. I should know, I lost 8 golf balls during my practice round!


The Rookery

Milton, Del
Yards: 6139, Par: 71
Score: 45/46 = 91
Date: September 4, 2007

The Rookery is a challenging golf course that was conceived and is owned by Pete Oakley, the 2004 Senior British Open Champion. It is a long, very-wide open course that features plenty of hazards, including water, wetlands and sand traps. It can be especially difficult if the wind is blowing, but I was lucky and played it on a calm, but humid day. I walked, as I usually do, and The Rookery is favorable to those who lug theirs bags rather than riding in a cart.

I continued to hit my driver extremely well at The Rookery, which was probably one of the keys to my round. I managed to have short irons into a lot of the greens, but I couldn't make a putt to save my life. The front nine at The Rookery features two very quirky holes back-to-back. The Par 4 4th Hole is 290 yards from a raised tee, bit a large pond sits in the middle of fairway. It takes a tee shot of about 260 yards to clear the water, so I usually lay up with nothing more than an 8-iron off the tee, then another 8-iron to the large green. The 385-yard Par 4 5th Hole is a sharp dog-leg left that requires a lengthy tee shot to clear the woods on the left side of the fairway. If you do manage to get out to the dog-leg, you want to be on the right side of the fairway or else you have to hit over four or five pines that guard the green from the left. The back nine features three Par 5s, #s 10, 13 and 18, with 10 and 18 being 575-yards and 566-yards respectively. Holes #14 and 15 are both Par 3s, with 14 being 200 yards and 15 being a short 140 yards to an island green.

I have been playing The Rookery since it opened in 2001. It is a well maintained course and, although long, always a joy to play. It has been on my Delaware Labor Day week play list every year and I don't see that changing any time soon.

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