I ended up in the D.C. area this weekend to meet up with a friend from the West Coast. We wanted to play a morning round of golf on Saturday before he attended to some other business. We were looking for a course that was in nice shape, but one that wasn’t going to cost a lot. I know those living the area are probably having a good chuckle after reading that because everything in D.C. is very expensive, including golf. The prices, the average terrain for courses, and the long rounds keep me away even though the area is only two hours from Charlottesville. As I start running out of courses in other directions I’ll probably take a few weekend trips to Northern Virginia to play, but for now I’m fine to keep my distance.
We saw that Blue Mash was rated well, and that it was “only” $69 for a morning time. I’m a course junkie and I had never heard of the course so I didn’t know what to expect. I drove up on Friday after work and thankfully the ride didn’t take as long as I thought it would. My friend and I caught up and found a place to stay close to the course. We had a time a little after 8am and the course was buzzing when we got there. Apparently everyone was trying to take advantage of the nice fall day and the course was booked solid for most of the day. We were paired with another twosome who were fun to be around and since we got one of the early tee times we didn’t have to battle any slow play (yay!). We played in about 4 hours which I think is very reasonable. The ranger made one comment about picking up the pace when the group in front was half a hole ahead. Not sure what that was about, but I wish that he wouldn’t have said anything.
Blue Mash is a little out of the way from the major cities, but it is still accessible from all of them. In fact, the course is kind of in the middle of Washington, Baltimore, and Frederick. The course is unique because it isn’t tree lined on every hole and there aren’t any homes in play. In fact, most of the layout is open and there are three distinctive styles that are incorporated into the course. About a third of the holes are links, parkland, and wetlands styles. The design is compact, which makes it a nice walking course. And, even with a full tee sheet, play from the other holes didn’t bother us. So while we could see other groups, the trees, water hazards, and mounding kept them at a distance. I’d say that if there isn’t any traffic, then the course is probably worth a drive from any of the areas mentioned above.
We played the blue tees which play 71.2/126/6502. The course plays as a par 71 and the back nine is shorter because of an extra par 3. That’s the way I like par 71 courses, with five par 3’s! That yardage is normally a little short for my liking, but I knew better than to play the gold tees because Arthur Hills designed the course. There are a couple designers that I’ll grumble about because their work can border on unfair. However, even though Hills designs some really tough courses, I don’t get in the car feeling defeated after playing one. I look back at my round and see that I missed opportunities, not that Hills took them from me. When I play a Hills course, I can hit a couple average shots on a hole, a great one, and still make a par. The great one seems like it could be a tee shot, approach, chip, or putt so it feels like I can manage my misses around his courses for a respectable score.
Blue Mash starts out and closes with a tough stretch of holes. The front nine opens with three of the four longest par 4’s on the course before closing with a long par 4, a par 3 over water, and the longest par 5. There are going to be some bogeys made on these holes because of their yardage, but the good news is that the holes in the middle should offer some birdie looks. Distance isn’t going to pose the only challenge though. In fact, various difficulties are spread throughout the course. Tee shots need to be accurate because of the water hazards and bunkers, but I didn’t find any fairways too narrow. The course tests someone’s ability to match up a line and distance off the tee to find the fairways, but I was able to play plenty of my crooked tee shots. From the fairways there are some semi-blind shots, but the main challenge for me was trying to get a handle on the greens. The is no other way to put it besides saying that the green complexes are treacherous! The good news is that some of their slope can be used to get a shot close, but if someone is on the short side then it could require a career shot to get it close. There are edges of greens that run off into the rough and ridges which made me try to flight a chip or pitch. My one wish about the course is that the greens weren’t as severe because I think that would make the course more fun to play.
Overall, the conditions were about what I expected, and I had read good things. The course was soft so that made it tough to catch anything solid and tough for the staff to cut everything with the mowers. Therefore, the fairways were a bit long but if they could have been cut then they would have been very nice. Combine the soft conditions with a lot of play and that resulted in divots and ball marks all over the place. They didn’t affect play in our group, but they made the course look worse than it should. Besides the ball marks, the greens provided wonderful rolls and were the standout part of the course. They were super fast, probably too fast for the average golfer, and smooth. I don’t know how much rain the course got recently or if it is usually wet, but I wouldn’t let that keep me away.
Considering the location, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course. The designer is top notch, the price is right, and on the right day the conditions will be great. There was even some thought put into routing the course around some power lines which run through the property. They aren’t very noticeable and don’t affect play. If someone doesn’t want to pay $100 for a weekend morning round of golf this has to be one of the top choices.
#1 (424 yard par 4):
The first hole is a one of those holes where I wouldn’t mind making a bogey to start out the day. It moves to the right and some mounding and bunkers are in play depending on the line. The most traditional line is a bit left of those carts in the picture. A long drive can run through the fairway, so it might be a 3 wood for certain golfers. From there it is going to be a longer, blind shot into a green with a back tier. There is a section of fairway to the right that cannot be seen from the tee. It is narrow, but it should shorten the hole.
#2 (428 yard par 4):
The fairway here gets progressively more narrow so someone has to be accurate if trying to hit a big tee shot. The approach is semi-blind but I would make sure to favor the left side of the green complex as a shot can kick off some slope towards the flag.
#3 (453 yard par 4):
This is the longest par 4 on the course and also the hardest hole. It plays a bit uphill which makes it even tougher. There is a bunker down the right side that has a narrow section which could lead to an awkward stance so I’d make sure to avoid it. The green complex offers a chance to chase a long iron or hybrid up near it because the only bunker is short and left of the green. It is a long, but fair par 4.
#4 (190 yard par 3):
Accuracy with a long iron is important on this long par 3. There is trouble left in the form of bunkers and the green isn’t very wide. Missing short or right of the green will leave the best chance for an up and down par.
#5 (533 yard par 5):
This par 5 is on the perimeter of the course and therefore it is tree lined down the left. The fairway is on the narrow side, but there are plenty of places to play from on the right side of the hole. I think it is going to be a three shot hole for most golfers because it is all carry to the green and it slopes from front to back. It is a tiny landing area for a wedge to try to get the distance right, let alone a 3 wood or hybrid. When laying up there is a large cross bunker that should be avoided.
#6 (143 yard par 3):
This is a short par 3 that offers a good chance at a birdie. The green slopes from back to front so carrying it the proper distance is important because, most likely, it won’t release.
#7 (386 yard par 4):
Thankfully the tees were up when we played and it was only a long iron and wedge for me. If the hole was playing its normal yardage then I think that it would be much tougher. It is one of the narrower drives on the course and the holes moves left. If someone doesn’t get it far enough out there then they could be blocked out by the trees on the left. The green feeds towards the back left where it falls off into the rough.
#8 (283 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on the course and it could be driveable. If someone hits a draw then there is a section of fairway about 30 yards short of the green which could be the best target. Trying to get onto the surface is risky because it is uphill and all carry. The hole doesn’t fit my shot shape so I laid up over the diagonal fairway bunker and left myself a wedge into the green. The green has at least five spines in it so getting the read right the first time playing was almost impossible for me.
#9 (522 yard par 5):
There is a lot more room to the right than it looks from the tee. The trouble on this par 5 is left all the way up to the crowned green.
#10 (367 yard par 4):
The back nine starts out with a short par 4 which is a good chance for birdie. The tee shot is probably going to be a layup to keep it short of the water. Anything just to the right of that fairway bunker leaves a straightforward second shot unless the flag is located on the back tier. Trying to get an approach or chip up onto and hold that back tier could be a challenge.
#11 (204 yard par 3):
This is a long par 3 with water short and right. I don’t think the water should come into except for a horrible shot so I like that about the hole. However, the green slopes hard from left to right so getting a long iron close to a flag on the left is almost impossible. Any miss to the left is going to leave an incredibly difficult short game shot.
#12 (476 yard par 5):
This short par 5, with water on the right, is one of my favorite holes on the course. The fairway is generous although the bunkers down the left pinch it a bit. Someone can go for the green in two but it is a narrow opening short of the green. If someone cannot carry it to the front of the green I’d suggest laying up about 40 yards short of the green in-between the cross bunkers and greenside bunkers. It is a classic risk/reward hole and short enough that the average golfer is going to have a decision to make.
#13 (160 yard par 3):
The green on this par 3 looks smaller from the tee than it really is. I hit a decent shot and it ended up catching a slope and trickling into the left fringe. From there I had a long putt that broke towards the back of the green. It is another tricky green.
#14 (360 yard par 4):
This is my least favorite hole on the course. I like a short par 4 to offer some options off the tee so that I can hit a driver, 3 wood, or hybrid off the tee. I don’t think that was accomplished here because it was about 235 yards to carry a fairway bunker. The fairway to the right of the bunker cannot be more than 10 or 15 yards wide but it opened up over that bunker. If someone hits it too far there is another set of bunkers that could come into play. The green has some false edges and I hit a decent chip that rolled off the other side.
#15 (400 yard par 4):
I got lucky and picked the correct line off the tee my first time here. However, I think there is some local knowledge that would be very helpful on this tee shot. The hole doglegs to the right at about 250 yards from the tee. There is a cluster of hidden bunkers that are about 230 yards to carry and then a couple more closer to the green. I’d try to play it 250 yards off the tee and favor the right center of the white tee box. It might kick off a downslope and end up in a perfect spot. The green is skinny in the front and gets wider towards the back.
#16 (445 yard par 4):
A right to left tee shot is the play here. There is a long fairway bunker that runs down the left side. It is a longer carry on the left because of the angle and the tee shot is similar to the 8th, only this one is with a driver. The green complex is well designed for a long iron because it is open in front.
#17 (177 yard par 3):
This is a pretty par 3 and probably the signature hole with water in play. I’d favor the left side of the green because it slopes from left to right. There is a panoramic view of the back nine and clubhouse off in the distance.
#18 (551 yard par 5):
From the blue tees, the closing hole is the longest on the course. It is going to be a three shot hole for most golfers because it plays uphill. A tee shot out towards those electric power poles should end up in good shape. However, a tee shot right of that lone tree has a chance of ending up in the lake that guards the 10th and 17th holes. The layup should be played to the top of a rise for a clear view of the back to front sloping green.