October 29, 2004
There’s a surefire way to tell if you’re playing golf at an upscale public golf course.
Take a look at the golf balls you find while searching for your own in the rough or at the edge of the woods.
If nearly every one of these lost balls is a Titleist Pro-V1 ($45-50/dozen), this is definitely a layout for those with a little extra cash.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Last week I joined eleven other Cape Region and Sussex County golfers on an outing to the beautiful and challenging Bulle Rock golf course, near Havre de Grace, Maryland. It is the site for next spring’s LPGA Championship, which for those great women golfers will most likely be played from the 6360-yard white tees.
It is also unquestionably Titleist Pro-V1 territory.
According to the scorecard, men with handicaps between 12 to 25 strokes should play from the whites. Those with even higher handicaps are strongly urged to play the red tees, at 5426 yards for the par-72 course.
Most of the bunch I played with experienced Bulle Rock from the white tees when they played it last year. This time the “rules committee” decided we should all play from the blue tees, at 6843 yards, even though these tee boxes are recommended for those with handicaps from 4 to 11.
I’m currently an 18- or 19-handicapper. For me and several others in our group, therefore, playing from the blues was not a pretty sight.
Sometimes my drives didn’t even make it to the fairway, even if they were well-struck. The ground was saturated from the prior three days of rain, and even longer hitters such as Bill Schab sometimes saw their drives land in the fairway and then back up.
Gene Bayard told me to pay particular attention to the 453-yard par 4 fifth hole, and the 459-yard par 4 eighteenth hole. As he put it, “If you play these holes in double bogey, you’ve done well.” I met that goal on the 5th, but shot a 7 on the 18th.
Despite the wet conditions, the greens were the fastest I’ve ever played. They were built to drain quickly, and architect Pete Dye’s undulations made them a real test of touch. I made our group’s only birdie putt on the 171-yard par-3 17th hole, and that required curling the ball at least 6 feet on a 23-foot putt. That just doesn’t happen very much on Cape Region golf courses.
Schab’s first putt on the ninth hole ran the entire 37-yard length from front to back, and then into a pot bunker. He’s a very good golfer, and he wasn’t the only one stunned to see this happen.
Despite our high scores, there is much to admire about Bulle Rock. The views are tremendous. The Chesapeake Bay was visible on the far horizon, for example, looking east from the 10th tee.
The course meanders through 235 acres of hill and dale, with streams cutting across several fairways. We were lucky enough to be there when the forested areas were ablaze in fall colors.
Several holes are deceptively wide-open, with deep rough awaiting erratic swings. In fact, some of this rough would be called “hay” on a farm, and “prairie” in the Midwest. On the other hand, there were very few blind shots, and the potential trouble spots were easy to see. Consistently staying out of that trouble was another story altogether, however.
The bunkers are hard-packed sand, firm enough to satisfy a picky PGA Tour player. The rangers and other staffers are unobtrusive and helpful. The concession stand was well-stocked, and both the pro shop and restaurant were impressive.
At about a two-hour drive from Lewes, Bulle Rock is probably on the outer edge of my preference for a day trip to play golf. On the other hand, it was a fun, memorable day, and I look forward to playing it again—but next time, from the white tees.
For more information, click on www.bullerock.com, or call (410) 939-8887.