Typically if I am traveling more than two hours (one way) I like to stay the night somewhere and golf the whole weekend. That’s what I did this weekend and I decided that it would be a great opportunity to check out the two courses at Bay Creek Golf Club. Bay Creek is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and about as far south as you can get on the Delmarva Peninsula.
From where I stayed in Chesapeake (near I-64) it took about 45 minutes to get there, but it was an interesting drive! Cape Charles, where Bay Creek is located, is maybe only 40 miles north of the Hamptons Roads. However, getting there requires that you go across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay! Major rivers such as the James and the Potomac drain into the Chesapeake Bay and as you can imagine, it is a large body of water to cross.
To get across this section of bay (for cars) requires using the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. It is a fascinating piece of engineering! The bridge is ~20 miles long and has a couple tunnels which let ship traffic pass over, instead of going under a traditional bridge. In fact, a massive cargo ship went over a tunnel that I was driving in while I was headed home! I won’t continue to bore you with design information about the bridge, but I enjoy some nerdy stuff like that. Keep in mind though it is expensive to cross as I paid $15 to get there and $15 to get back. I believe there is a discount (on a return trip) with the EZ-Pass so if you have one I’d bring it!
I picked Bay Creek because both of the courses get ranked among the top public places to play in the state. There are two courses (the Palmer & the Nicklaus) on a gorgeous piece of property and they are located right next to each other. I just parked my car when I got there, played 36 holes, and turned it on when I was ready to leave. From that perspective, it was relaxing for me because I normally do some traveling when playing two courses in a day. I believe there are some accommodations on-site, but I didn’t look into that.
Before I breakdown the Palmer course, I will say that everything about Bay Creek oozes class. Awesomely, if that’s a word, I was able to make an online tee time as a single! Range balls were included with the green fee, there was plenty of domestic vegetation and flowers, my name was on the cart, and there were bottled waters in a cooler on the cart. There was a nice GPS system and the staff were all very relaxed. Everything was done to ensure that I had a great time!
The Palmer course was the first to open in 2001 and its nines are on opposite sides of the clubhouse. The front nine has some holes that play along the Chesapeake Bay and it has a coastal feel. The setting for the front nine is brilliant so make sure to take a little extra time to enjoy. The back nine is inland and works its way through some lakes and homes. The back nine seemed like it could be found anywhere and it wasn’t too special in my opinion.
For reference, I played the blue tees which play 73.3/137/6832. I typically don’t mention my score when reviewing a course and that is for a reason. I don’t want anyone to think that it influences my reviews! I try hard to be objective and realize that others like different golf course features than I do. But, I think including my score in this case will help illustrate how tough the course played. First, I will say that I had a 10 foot putt for par (or less) on 14 of the 18 holes so I wasn’t completely hacking it around. The putter went cold towards the end of the round and it all added up to an 87. I hit a couple bad shots that caught up in the wind and ended up out of play. Needless to say, I found the course very penal.
There was a couple club wind when I played and my $0.02 is that course wasn’t designed to accommodate it. I’d think it would be windy all time with the bay and ocean nearby. There is water in play on about half the holes and on a few holes it runs from tee to green. If you knock it into the water on one of those holes then you could be facing a similar shot after a drop. There were plenty of forced carries, both over hazards and bunkers so I didn’t see much point trying to flight shots lower through the wind. I wish the course was more receptive to playing the ball lower and using more of the ground. One good thing is that the fairways were pretty wide. Something else that made it tough is that the course had more slope than I expected in the fairway and on the greens. I struggled around the greens and for whatever reason, it seemed like most of my chips had to land on a downhill slope.
The rate for a “local” during peak season is $85 which offers some savings off the rack rate of $115. Either price is a tad expensive compared to other local courses. However, when you compare the rates here to other top ranked courses in the state, it feels a bit like a deal. Plus, if you can play 36 holes there is a very reasonable replay rate of $38. All in all, I paid $123 for 36 holes of golf a premier facility in the state. Now that is a good deal! One thing to be aware of if you want to play both courses is that one course each day is reserved for member play in the morning. Because of the location and the laid back atmosphere I don’t see the pace of play being much of a problem. I played through one foursome and made it around in 3 hours and 15 minutes.
As would be expected for the price, the maintenance was very good! The course drained great considering all the recent rain, and I could take the cart out into the fairways. The greens were on the firmer side, but still receptive to a nice iron or chip. The smooth greens didn’t look all that fast, but they were. I had a couple putts get away from me before I adjusted to them being so speedy! The only blemish were some spots of winterkill in the fairways. Outside of those areas, there were plenty of nice lies to be found.
Couple tips if you play here! Make to factor in the heavy, ocean air because I didn’t think my shots went their normal distances. Also, for what it is worth I over-read a handful of long putts.
#1 (549 yard par 5):
The opening hole is the longest hole on the course and it is one of the few on the property that has some elevation change. The best tee shot will favor the left side to avoid some bunkers and then the best layup will favor the right side to do the same. The third shot plays about a club uphill into a long green. I think getting the distance right on the third, so early in the round, is going to be tricky.
#2 (391 yard par 4):
The 2nd has an intimidating looking tee shot, but the fairway is wider than it looks. I think those two trees off in the distance would be a good aiming point. I missed it right in some fairway bunkers and had to hit a great shot to get it short of the green. There is gorse short and right of the green which can come into play. This is my favorite hole on the Palmer course because of the views on every shot!
#3 (438 yard par 4):
The 3rd is the #1 handicap and it can either be a great challenge or a little too difficult. It is a long par 4 with a tough drive and maybe a low percentage second shot. The best drive will carry that bunker and end up in the narrow fairway. I hit my tee shot to the left and ended up on a mound. I had the distance to get to the green, but as you can see in the second picture it was all carry over water to get there. There wasn’t a good spot to layup so I just chipped it down the fairway and had 140 yards into the green for my third shot. The green slopes from right to left so there isn’t any reason to challenge the water left. For what it is worth the guy behind me also had to lay it up.
#4 (194 yard par 3):
The 4th is another tough hole. It is the longest par 3 on the course and plays to a green that is surrounded by trouble. Off to the right is a hazard, a bunker, and possibly even the bay could come into play. Off to the left is another hazard that starts up towards the middle of the green. The only good spot to miss is short and left. That’s where I was and I squeaked out a par, phew!
#5 (366 yard par 4):
The 5th is a short par 4 and it should be a good chance for a par or birdie, especially after the last two holes. The wind was strong when I was playing it, but should only be a drive and a mid or short iron into a bunkerless green complex. The right side of the fairway slopes towards a low spot so the left side might give a better view of the green on this dogleg right.
#6 (492 yard par 5):
The 6th is a short, straightaway par 5. There are some bunkers to deal with off the tee, but if you can carry the right bunker the fairway is very wide. There is a chance to run a second shot up near the near, but make to favor the left side because of some left to right slope. A ball ending up just short or right of the green should be fine because the green slopes from left to right. I’d try to avoid the left side around the green. This is one of the better birdie chances on the course!
#7 (189 yard par 3):
The 7th doesn’t look all that interesting because there aren’t any bunkers in play. However, the green is fairly large and slopes from left to right. Plus, there are some grass mounds around the green which could leave an odd chip. I hit the green and had a long birdie putt, so a nice lag putt could be what is needed for the par!
#8 (384 yard par 4):
The 8th is a mid-length par 4 that moves to the left around some pine trees. The fairway is out to the right but I’m sure some bigger hitters can carry those pine trees. The fairway slopes from left to right towards the water which runs up to the green. There isn’t a good place to miss the green as there are bunkers short and left and a chipping area long.
#9 (446 yard par 4):
The 9th is one of the tougher holes on the course. It is a long par 4 that played into the wind when I was there. The landing area is slightly uphill so my drive didn’t go very far! I had a long club into the green which is blind from the fairway. As you can see, the approach is played out over a dune. There are spots short and right of the green from which to play. A draw is the best shot shape for the second shot.
#10 (404 yard par 4):
The 10th is a mid-length par 4 that moves ever so slightly left. The left fairway bunker should be avoided and then it should be a mid-iron into the green. The green angles from front right to back left around some mounds. I ended up on the downslope of one of the mounds and couldn’t keep my chip on the green because it ran away in the back left section.
#11 (516 yard par 5):
The 11th is potentially reachable par 5 depending on the wind. The fairway is massive and much of the large green is hidden over a bunker. It offers a chance for a good score!
#12 (146 yard par 3):
The 12th is the shortest par 3 on the course. That is good, because there is plenty of water in play! I didn’t get a chance to survey the green as I was playing through the group in front, but it is a longer carry over the water to a right flag.
#13 (401 yard par 4):
The 13th is defined by water that runs the entire length of the hole up to the green. The water cuts in for the tee shot and the approach. I hit my tee shot in the water and wasn’t sure that I could carry it all the way over the water again with a long iron after my drop. The green is deep so I would suggest erring long if in-between clubs on the approach. You might have to avoid being too aggressive after a poor shot on this hole.
#14 (461 yard par 4):
The 14th is the longest par 4 on the course and it is another difficult hole. It moves a little left and there is a bunker that can catch tee shots. Even if finding the fairway it will be a long shot into the green. I hit it just short of the green in two which turned out to be a good spot, but still faced a putt that was uphill and then back downhill to the flag. The 14th, a 461 yard par 4, isn’t ranked as one of the toughest holes on the course and I think says something about the difficulty of the others!
#15 (152 yard par 3):
The 15th is a short par 3 that plays to a green where some of the surface is hidden from the tee. I could only see the top half of the flagstick over on the left side. There is a ridge in the center of the green that separates the left and right sides. My ball landed on a downslope on the front of the green and rolled to the back edge. All that made tougher to hit it close than it seemed.
#16 (357 yard par 4):
The 16th is a short par 4 and is one of the easiest holes on the course. It doglegs left and there are some bunkers in play off the tee. If someone can drive it over the left bunkers then that should be in perfect position and leave just a short iron into the green.
#17 (403 yard par 4):
The 17th is a straightaway par 4. The fairway runs out into a large bunker maybe 275 to 300 yards off the tee. That wasn’t a concern for me, even with the tees up, because of the wind! Getting to a left flag probably will require going over some bunkers so the right side of the fairway would be best in that case.
#18 (543 yard par 5):
The 18th is a segmented par 5. The tee shot plays to a peninsula shaped fairway that runs out around 265 yards. From there the layup should be played to the right of a long bunker that runs along the water line up to the green. The back quarter of the green, where the flag was located, slopes towards the back of the green so it will take some quality shots to walk away with a par.