I’ve had this review saved as a draft for almost forever now! I’m finally going to tie a few paragraphs together and post it. Because so much time has passed it won’t be as complete as I’d like, but at least there will be some nice pictures! Plus, the completionist in me will feel better!
Whiskey Creek was the final stop on our short holiday trip to Maryland. There are some high quality courses in the Frederick area and Whiskey Creek is another one. I find it interesting that there are so many in this area! I’ve got a golf friend who lives near Fresno, CA where there are 500k+ people and Frederick puts their course selection to shame!
Whiskey Creek isn’t actually in Frederick, it is in a town called Ijamsville which is a short ride away (on I-70 or I-270). The course is an Ernie Els design and always gets ranked as one of the top public courses in the state. Needless to say, it was on my Mid-Atlantic bucket list! As a high-end course, it carries a premium green fee which will be somewhere around $100 during peak times. Of course, being a budget golfer, I found our times for half that using a discount website!
I’ve never heard much about the Big Easy as a course designer, so I was anxious to see what he put together! This was the first Els creation that I’ve played and might remain the only one for a while. I looked around online and most of Ernie’s work appears to be private or outside the United States. I suppose that makes sense though as he was a well traveled, international golfer.
The course opened in 2000 and as you may expect, it has a modern feel to it. It is on a pretty piece of property, void of any homes. The course has a mix of wooded and open holes, some wetlands, and plenty of elevation change. The course starts out in an open area before much of the front nine plays through the woods. The back is the opposite with the start in the woods and then the closing holes are in a meadow area. The holes are framed nicely by bunkers, fescue grass, and even rock out croppings. The bunkers had some grass grown up on the tongues which I like! Visually, the highlight of the course is the 18th hole which has some ruins from an old farmhouse! Those can be seen from the clubhouse so you might want to take a glimpse when checking in to get an idea of what to expect. It is an impressive course to look at!
We played the Blue tees which are 72.1/136/6525. Off the tee, I thought that Whiskey Creek was a good course. I wouldn’t call it a great though as I didn’t like the 12th or 18th tee shots. For the most part, the fairways are generous and you can pick any number of lines with any number of clubs. There always seemed to be an “easy” line to a wider part of the fairway or a “difficult” line to a narrower section. That yardage is a bit less than I prefer, but I wasn’t about to play the Black tees on a holiday weekend when the course was packed! I laid up quite a bit, especially on the front nine which is only about 3100 yards. I probably could have swung the driver a few more times but it didn’t seem like the percentage play. The back hits you with some 400ish par 4’s where you will get to hit driver more and will need to be on your toes!
The trouble comes on the approaches! There are numerous approaches where the green surfaces cannot be seen from the fairways. That’s tough because there is plenty of slope in the greens! Apparently we got a gift pin location on the 1st hole as the slopes of the green fed towards it. After that though, we encountered some brutal pins in tough to access areas or just over ridges! I’ll admit the tough pin locations put me in a bad mood. Knowing where these pins are and the slopes around them will help you get it close.
There are some memorable holes at Whiskey Creek. On the front nine, the 5th (a mid-length par 4) is the hole that stands out. It drops ~100 feet down to the green and because of that drop the fairway the blind from the tee. It has great views of the area and as difficult of a green as you could ever want! The green has a small false front and the back edge falls off, which made it almost impossible for us to access the back left pin.
On the back nine, the unique hole is the 18th which is a reachable par 5. It was almost dark when we got there so my pictures aren’t great. But, the hole is so unique that you should be able to find plenty online! It plays downhill and the drive needs to avoid some ruins of an old farmhouse that is in the middle of the fairway! If you cannot carry it, then you need to go to the left or right. My drive ended up in the sliver of fairway to the left of the ruins and I went for the green in two. Even if you cannot get to the green in two, playing short and left of it can leave a good angle for the pitch. There is some water in play which needs to be avoided too. I think the ruins are great, but wish the fairway was a bit wider.
Considering the hefty green fee at Whiskey Creek, it looks like it gets a lot of play! It was in nice shape considering the beating that the course has taken from golfer after golfer, but there’s no way it is worth full price with all the ball marks and divots and that we encountered. If you look at the pictures of the tee boxes, you’ll see what I mean. The fairways were better, but if I ended up in a low spot then I was concerned about having to play from a divot. The greens were super fast and something that you’d find come tournament time. The rough was thick and a penalty when I had to play from it.
Whiskey Creek is a good course with some uniqueness to it, but it has a few quirks. Overall, I ended up disappointed with my experience as I was hoping for a more playable course with better conditions. I guess with all the attention that the course gets, I may have had unrealistic expectations. I’d be interested to see how different pin locations may have changed my opinion about the playability!
#1 (381 yard par 4):
#2 (363 yard par 4):
#3 (169 yard par 3):
#4 (532 yard par 5):
#5 (371 yard par 4):
#6 (323 yard par 4):
#7 (134 yard par 3):
#8 (359 yard par 4):
#9 (509 yard par 5):
#10 (364 yard par 4):
#11 (173 yard par 3):
#12 (413 yard par 4):
#13 (398 yard par 4):
#14 (411 yard par 4):
#15 (191 yard par 3):
#16 (516 yard par 5):
#17 (402 yard par 4):
#18 (516 yard par 5):