Thursday, October 8, 2009

Course Review: PB Dye Golf Club

PB Dye Golf Club, which opened in Ijamsville, Maryland in 1999, is currently the 11th ranked course in the state according to Golf Digest. "PB" is the son of legendary course designer Pete Dye and this is touted as his "only signature course". Greens fees run $79 during the week and $99 on the weekends.

Last week I got a text message from a friend of mine that he received a special offer email to play PB Dye for $30 per person. The catch was that we play at 8:00AM on a Monday. Not being one to pass up a bargain, I took the day off from work and we made the trek to Ijamsville (which is about an hour west of Baltimore) bright and early on Monday morning.

The setting is beautiful, especially in the morning as the sun rose over the mountains of Western Maryland. The weather this past Monday was just about perfect, with the temperature in the low 50s to start the day and gradually creeping up to around 70 degrees. I played in pants, a short-sleeved shirt and a wind vest, which was helpful with the wind gusting over 20 mph at times during the morning round.

The facility is nice, with a modern clubhouse that is basic but more than adequate. It's pretty much exactly what you expect with any newer course that's not quite a "country club for the day" type, but isn't exactly a municipal course either.

The range was definitely a disappointment, as the bent grass portion was not opened and we hit off of the absolute worst mats I have ever seen at any driving range. That's quite an accomplishment because I hit balls a couple times per week at a Baltimore City run driving range near Pimlico that hasn't gotten new mats or balls in at least a decade! The mats at PB Dye were obviously stored outdoors all the time and were water-logged, uneven and distorted to the point that you couldn't even keep a ball from rolling all over the mat when you were trying to hit. With that said, we weren't there for the range, so I didn't let it bother me.

The putting green was the exact opposite of the driving range, as the Penn-G2 bent grass surface was lightning quick and perfectly manicured. My club is renowned for firm and fast greens, but these were the absolute fastest public course greens I have ever seen!

Standing on the first tee, we decided to get the full PB Dye experience and play from the tips. We're three 20-somethings who play to single-digit handicaps, so 7,036 yards with a par of 72 shouldn't present an unreasonable challenge. With only three players we opted for a modest skins game and set off to enjoy the beautiful setting, perfect weather and take each others money.

I won't go blow-by-blow and bore you to tears, but the first hole basically sums up my round and the entire course. I hit a great drive right down the center of a massive fairway followed by a solid approach to the middle of an extremely large green. I was then faced with a putt that you usually only find when there is a windmill or clown's mouth on the putting surface, leading to three putts and a bogey.

The fairways and greens are massive. There is almost no trouble on the entire course and very little thought is required on any tee shot. The greens, however, are completed tricked out, mini-golf nonsense. I'm probably bitter because I hit nearly every fairway and every green and didn't have the slightest clue as to how to putt these greens. However, I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be.

There were definitely a few memorable holes at PB Dye, with the par-3 11th hole, pictured above, standing out. It's 169 yards straight downhill to a green surrounded by water. Visually, it's a gorgeous hole and the 20 mph wind directly in our face made it play very difficult.

The 448 yard 9th and 442 yard 18th holes are the two best par 4s on the course. They both end at the clubhouse with two ponds and a waterfall between the greens. The setting is very picturesque from both greens as you look out at the changing leaves on the trees on the surrounding hills. The holes are both tough, but fair; giving you the opportunity to make birdie with two great shots, but punishing you for a bad shot. That's the kind of holes I like and would have liked to see more throughout the entire course.

After finishing our morning round, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and played another 18. The replay rate is only $25 and we figured a little experience with these greens would go a long way.

We were paired up with a local yokel, who basically epitomized everything that drives me crazy about playing public course golf. After complaining incessantly about the pace of play, he would then proceed to take eight practice swings before each shot. Every bad drive resulted in a mulligan and each putt got the full Ben Crane treatment. Brutal!

Regardless, it was still a very enjoyable day. In the future, I would probably pair a morning round at PB Dye with an afternoon round at one of the other nearby courses. It was a nice layout, but it's not even close to the 11th best course in the state of Maryland.