The Brits and Scots like to argue that the links-style layouts on their "side of the pond" are unlike anything to be found in America. Here's a news flash for them. Maryland's Eastern Shore -- where really good fish and chips are served -- is part of the good 'ole USA. And Great Hope Golf Course, located just off Rt. 13 in Westover, is every bit as daunting as the ones over there.
Crafted by noted architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan in 1996, the course combines the design elements associated with Old World golf with the rugged honesty that comes when the natural features of a site are preserved.
At first glance, Great Hope is deceptively open and barren. But look again. Wetlands, a creek and the property's seven lakes bring water into play on 16 holes. And Scottish-style bunkers, sculptured mounds and native grasses -- knee-high in some places -- border the closely-cropped fairways. If you hit your tee shot too far off line, you'll need the strength Popeye and Brutus combined to hack it back out.
Great Hope occupies 200-pus acres of former farmland. The four holes closest to the clubhouse were carved through woodlands. The rest of the layout is sequestered in a bowl-like setting that is treeless and exposed to the four winds.
Hurdzan, who has designed many of the Mid-Atlantic's top courses, did a remarkable job of laying out a track so that nearly every hole forms an enclave or pocket of its own, often out of sight of the surrounding holes. As a result, Great Hope seems to have more pitch and roll in the terrain than what actually exists.
Both natural and man-made hazards abound at the Somerset County-owned course. But not to the point that the layout is unfair or unplayable. The fairways are wide enough to accommodate hitting driver off the tee and the greens are large and inviting with clevery-placed bail out areas placed nearbly when forced approach carries are required. Still, you can expect to enouncter a small range bucket of shots that will test your nerves and courage.
The tee shot at the long, 565-yard No. 6, for example, is played to a narrow landing strip guarded on the left by a lake and on the right by scrub and other natural vegetation. A miss-hit, here, almost inevitably brings an expletive to the tongue. the second shots at Nos. 9 and 18 -- a pair of par 4s that run side-by-side toward the clubhouse -- can also tighten the stomach. Both of these approaches must carry a ditch that runs in front of the greens.
If you're fond of challenging par 3s, you'll be completely enamored with the 167-yard No. 7. It is played over a lake and wetlands to a half-blind green nestled between mounds, sand and scrub brush. This is one of the few holes where a golfer may be elated to find his ball plugged in one of the two bunkers placed at the rear of the green.
While some tough shots can't be avoided, others can. And here lies one of Great Hope's greatest assets. Almost every hole presents the golfer with a risk-reward option. It is up to you how much or how little you're willing to gamble.
Greaet Hope easily ranks as one of the most beautiful golf courses on the Eastern Seaboard. Even better, the course participates in the Tee Time Golf Pass which allows members to save $10-$50 every time they tee it up. It is just one of many courses on the Eastern Shore and around the Ocean City area that welcomes Tee Time members. Other favorites include The Bay Club, Deer Run, GlenRiddle, The Links at Lighthouse Sound, Nassawango, Ocean City Golf Club, Ocean Resorts, Rum Pointe Seaside Links, River Marsh, Blue Heron, Queenstown Harbor, Great Hope, The Easton Club, Harbourtowne, Horse Bridge and Nutters Crossing. So whether you are travelling to or from the beach, Tee Time has you covered.
In fact, throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, Tee Time Golf Pass members will find hundreds of courses ranging from local favorites to regional and destination hotspots like Atlantic City, Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Pinehurst and Myrtle Beach.
For more information, visit www.TeeTimeGolfPass.com/mid-atlantic.