My original thought when setting up the tee times for Sunday was to play Locust Hill in the morning and then find a place to play on the way home. But, I wanted to play a nice course to take advantage of the afternoon rates so that had me looking at courses near Frederick. I was running out of time on Saturday night so I booked a 2:20pm time at Worthington Manor. I regretted it almost immediately because I committed myself to go a half hour out of my way to get there and then the same half hour back once I finished my round. Combine the extra travel time with a late tee time and I was looking at a late night.
Unfortunately, that is how things panned out as the course was packed. Foursome after foursome made their way around the course and there was actually a fivesome in front of our group that was being held up! I lost my tee shots on the 17th and 18th because of the fading light and it was completely dark when I turned the car on about 6:45pm. The proshop was able to get me out early and I teed off at 2pm with some members. However, if I would have completed the round then it would have been about 5 hours which is too long to spend on the course. I have no idea if slow play is typical but had I known how the afternoon was going to go then I definitely would have played elsewhere.
The course is in a good location, south of Frederick just off of I-270 and out in the farmland. Maryland is an expensive state and from what I hear, Frederick is a desirable area so it shouldn’t be any surprise that the normal weekend rate is $89. That green fee isn’t out of line with other nice courses in the area though so it makes me thankful that I don’t live in a major metropolitan area anymore. The course should be pretty accessible from D.C. and Baltimore so that probably allows the local courses to charge a little extra. The course typically falls just outside the top 10 public courses in Maryland and it has hosted U.S. Open Qualifiers. It is well ranked by local golf magazines so the $45 rate proved to be too much of a temptation for me when I booked my time.
From the clubhouse quite a few holes are visible because of the open, compact layout and it immediately reminded me of nearby Maryland National. Most of the holes play across some cleared out rolling hills without too many trees coming into play. The holes are separated from one another by mounding, fescue grass, and what looked like pine trees. The bunkers were highlighted by high fescue around the edges which created a somewhat rustic feel. There was a nice flow from one hole to the next and an even mix of holes going across and up and down the hills. Because the holes are close together it would be a good course to walk, but the flip side is that play from other groups can be a distraction.
The course is pretty forgiving off the tee when it comes to being able to find the ball, but I wouldn’t say that the fairways are wide by any means. A lot of the time I was faced with a blind approach after a wayward tee shot. I think that this is perfectly fair and a much better penalty than ending up out of bounds or in a water hazard. Since the course is so hilly it is going to be important to pay attention to the slope on the hole. I’d suggest trying to favor the high side of the fairways and greens in hopes for a bounce towards the low side. From tee to green, I enjoyed the course.
Unfortunately, I think some crazy green complexes spoil the otherwise fair design. I try hard to be objective in my reviews, but there are four greens here which I think are poorly designed. It wasn’t just me though as one of the members made a comment about them too. One guy in the group landed a chip in the rough and it still rolled out 30 feet and off the other side. Another guy hit a long iron on a green that rolled all the way to the back edge and then ended up a foot from the front flag. I chipped at least two across the green and had a putt start to roll backwards after it stopped. It felt like all the slope in the greens inflated my score. If you think that you’ve heard something similar from me recently, then you are correct! Little did I know that I played two Ault-Clark courses the same day! They have designed some courses that I’ve enjoyed a lot, but a few of their courses that I’ve played recently (Woodhaven, Locust Hill, and here) seem to have green complexes designed for pros.
It was a very windy afternoon so our group had our hands full playing the black tees. It was one of those days where I had to try to read the wind on the greens. The blacks play 74.7/145/7034 and because the course played firm there were some birdie holes out there. The par 5’s offered a good chance to score and there are some short par 4’s. If someone can navigate their way around some of the greens and stay patient then the opportunity for a good score is out there. Even though the course was playing firm, there weren’t any bare spots and it was in pristine condition. The fairways and greens were as good as can be and a pleasure to play on!
Worthington Manor is one of those courses that I’d like to play a couple more times to decide if I like it or not. After playing it once, I’d lean towards steering people away from the course (especially for a premium price) because of the greens. But, I am a bit torn too because I like the open layout and some of the long par 4’s were a blast to play.
#1 (414 yard par 4):
This is a mid-length par 4 to open. The two fairway bunkers pinch the tee shot and the hole slopes from right to left with the hill. All that tightens the tee shot. The ideal shot would be a high fade into the narrow front section of the green, but the fairway sets up for a draw. I ended up about 40 yards short of the green for my third shot and had to hit a sky high pitch to get it close.
#2 (395 yard par 4):
The good news is that the 2nd hole is similar to the 1st. So if someone played the 1st well then this is a chance to make a birdie. If not, then it is a chance to try it again. The fairway slopes to the left so it is important to favor the right side. The nice thing is that there are two fairway bunkers to catch tee shots before they kick into the hazard. The green is one of the crazy ones and the pin was located on small back tier when I played.
#3 (437 yard par 4):
This is the longest par 4 on the front nine and the most difficult hole on the course. It played into a strong wind during my round so I couldn’t comfortably reach it in two, but there was some space where I could layup and salvage a decent score. The fairway is larger than it looks and, without a lot of wind, the drive should land down the right side for a kick to the left. A right to left tee shot can really chase out here for some extra yards because it plays downhill. The green sits on the other side of a hazard which can come into play with a mishit or if out of position off the tee. It is a good hole except for the green which I think has too much slope from back to front.
#4 (430 yard par 4):
I think that this is one of the best holes on the course. It is a longer par 4 that plays from an elevated tee. The ideal tee shot will avoid three bunkers to the right of the fairway and the longer hitters might be able to get away with a 3 wood off the tee. The approach moves right up a hill and is semi-blind into a flatter green. I missed my tee shot way to the right and ended up in a grass filled pit. From there I had a completely blind shot, but I was still able to recover with a nice second.
#5 (533 yard par 5):
The first par 5 on the course requires some local knowledge. The best play off the tee is a fade off of that fairway bunker. That should hit a downslope and kick to the right possibly leaving a chance to go for the green in two. If laying up then the left to right slope needs to be considered and there is a rise in the fairway about 110 yards from the green. I’d suggest trying to get the layup over that rise for a clearer view of the green. The third shot should favor the left side of the green for a bounce to the right. It is a good birdie chance, but someone needs to know what they are doing.
#6 (198 yard par 3):
This is a long par 3 with water that guards any pin on the left side of the green. The water short of the green shouldn’t come into play but a little bunker short of the green is likely to get a lot of action. Missing long is going to leave a quick, downhill chip but there is some room to miss to the right for a decent par chance.
#7 (372 yard par 4):
The fairway angles a little to the left over the bunkers and a good tee shot to the narrowing fairway opens up a clear view of the green. However, anything missing the fairway is going to leave a blind or semi-blind shot into the green. It should be a short iron approach so that is likely to yield some birdies.
#8 (175 yard par 3):
This is one of the holes that needs some work done to it. It is a mid-length par 3 that plays slightly uphill to a devilish green. The pin was in the back left section and it was almost impossible to get a putt or chip close. Multiple people in the group hit decent chips and they just rolled off the green and into the rough. I hit my tee shot just short of the green, but was told that it could have rolled back down that section of fairway and into the rough. It would be a much better hole if the green was flattened out.
#9 (556 yard par 5):
This is a good birdie hole because it plays downhill, but it might require a bit of luck. The big hitters are going to want to take the tee shot out over the left side of the fairway bunker because the hole doglegs right. That should allow for the ball to kick on a downslope and run a long way, especially if the course is playing firm. Two people in my group had just a mid-iron into the green for their second. The challenge is going to be catching the iron solid from a downhill lie, but anything over the hazard should work out just fine. In fact, someone’s second shot ended up at the back of the green and the ball rolled 30 feet back towards the flag because of all the slope. That left him a tap in eagle putt! The layup area is semi-blind and narrow so make sure not to have the layup run through the fairway. It is one of those holes that is fun to play, but seems a bit “gimmicky”.
#10 (379 yard par 4):
This is a pretty good par 4 and it features the only water hazard on the course that should come into play. Someone doesn’t have to hit a driver off the tee, but whatever club it is needs to be hit straight to avoid the bunkers. The green angles from front left to back right and any mishit could find the water leaving an awkward 4th shot. There is some room to miss short and left of the green which leaves a relatively simple chip. There are a couple different ways to play this hole which makes it a good one.
#11 (359 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4, and the easiest hole, on the course. There is a fairway bunker out there that needs to be avoided before it should be just a short iron into the green. The flag was on a narrow back section of the green when I played which added difficulty. The green also has a spine that separates the left and right sides.
#12 (459 yard par 4):
The course follows the easiest hole on the back nine with the most difficult. This is a long par 4 with a semi-blind tee shot and a long carry on the approach. The holes moves to the right so a tee shot out over the left side of that tee box (just over the cart path) is probably a pretty good line. There is a bunker to the left and the fairway runs out so it is pretty tough tee shot. The approach is probably a long iron into a green that falls off to the left. I’d say the best miss is short or right of the green. If the rough is grown up or if someone is in that fairway bunker then there isn’t a good place to layup.
#13 (555 yard par 5):
This is probably going to be a three shot hole for most players because it plays uphill. The best line off the tee is probably in-between the bunkers and that tree (that still has leaves) in the center of the picture. It is a skinny fairway and the green has a back tier so keep that in mind.
#14 (361 yard par 4):
The angle of the sun makes it tough to see the tee shot, but this is going to be a layup. I’d say try to hit the layup to the corner of the dogleg and that should leave maybe 115 to 130 yards into the green. From there it is going to be a short iron into a green with some sideboards to funnel the ball towards the center. It is a chance to hit one close and make a birdie.
#15 (193 yard par 3):
Much of the green cannot be seen from the tee on this par 3. The section of green behind the bunker is a little deeper than the front right section where the flag was located. The easiest miss looked to be to the right of the green, but I had a nasty downhill chip. It is going to be pretty easy to make a bogey here.
#16 (470 yard par 4):
I think that every course should have a monster par 4 like this one! It played directly into the setting sun and I couldn’t see the fairway from the black tees (it plays downhill), so I’m not positive on the suggested line. Something out over that cart in the picture might land on the left side of the fairway and kick a bit to the right. From there it is a long club which can be run onto the green. There is a grass mound short of the green which adds some thought to the approach.
#17 (223 yard par 3):
This is another good, long hole. It is the longest par 3 on the course but it plays downhill. Make sure not to go over the green because the ball is likely going to end up lost in a natural area. Left isn’t any good either because that bunker is deep. There is some room short and right to miss. I think it would be helpful to play this hole a few times to pick the right club.
#18 (525 yard par 5):
It was too dark for golf, but I tried to play the last hole anyway. I lost my tee shot in the rough and then just drove to the cart return area so I don’t have much advise for this one. I can say that the tee shot looks narrow but there is plenty of room to the right and some room to the left. The fairway splits for the layup but if someone catches the tee shot then the ball could end up in the tongue of rough with fairway on each side.