I was in the Frederick area earlier in the month and intentionally avoided Musket Ridge. That’s because I had plans to meet up with a friend this weekend to play it!
Musket Ridge was one of those courses on my Mid-Atlantic wish list and I arrived at the course prepared to pay the $75 green fee. I had even booked us a time shortly after 11am to save some money! The normal weekend morning price of $95 isn’t unheard of when Musket Ridge is compared to a couple other high end courses in the area. The course is expensive, but we were treated to a nice surprise as my friend got to play for free on his birthday! I’ve found that free birthday green fees have many restrictions, but there appear to be fewer than normal at Musket Ridge. If you can golf on your birthday, make sure to give the course a call!
Musket Ridge gets advertised as a premium course and it is well liked by the golf magazines. Depending on the year it can get ranked in the top five or ten public courses in Maryland. I may have had unrealistic expectations, but I walked away thinking that Musket Ridge wasn’t as premium a course as advertised. I certainly don’t think it is worth $95! I say that for two reasons. First, there were a few “extras” that seemed to be missing from the experience. Range balls were included, but there wasn’t even a pin chart! Something like GPS on the cart would have been a nice touch too. Second, the greens looked terrible. More on the conditions in just a moment though.
I wouldn’t let the above two things keep anyone away though. In fact, Musket Ridge is my favorite course in the area. It has many things that I enjoy in a course. It has great views, elevation changes, some strategic par 5’s, and the yardages varied drastically from the gray tees where I played (73.4/140/6902). I hit everything from a pitching wedge to a 3 wood on my approaches into the par 4’s. My one beef with the design is that there are too many bunkers! It looks pretty, but a bunch of them were washed out.
Musket Ridge has an open feel to it. I’d say the layout is similar to Maryland National or Worthington Manor in the fact that quite a few other holes are visible from the high spots and no homes bother play. I found Musket Ridge more forgiving than other local courses, including the ones I just mentioned. I wouldn’t say the fairways are wide here, but there are more than enough spots to miss. Most of the holes at Musket Ridge are separated by domestic trees, fescue, and mounding. Those features separate the many parallel holes from each other.
I mentioned that the greens looked beat up and I think that’s because of the extra water used to combat the summer heat. They were soft which meant that they held footprints and plenty of ball marks. Surprisingly, they rolled very well and were on the speedy side. The rest of the course was lush and the tees and fairways were in good shape. I could play from the rough, but it could easily shut down the face.
We played on one of the hottest days of the year which seems to have kept the masses away! It took use 3.5 hours to get around and that included me taking some extra time for my blog. I liked Musket Ridge a lot, but I think I would have loved it if we got some easier pins. It seems like every pin we played to was tucked on top of a ridge! That’s just luck of the draw though. If you are a course nut in the Mid-Atlantic and haven’t played Musket Ridge, I’d suggest checking it off your list!
#1 (408 yard par 4):
The 1st hole is a downhill, mid-length par 4. The tee shot is inviting because of the wide fairway. Someone doesn’t need driver off the tee and the bigger hitters probably should avoid it because the fairway runs out into a pond. That pond shouldn’t come into play on the approach (for most pins) unless someone hits a terrible shot (like me!). It is a chance to start the day with a par.
#2 (168 yard par 3):
The 2nd is the shortest par 3 on the course. The green is deeper over to the left and surrounded by bunkers. It played about a half club uphill to a green that has a back tier.
#3 (400 yard par 4):
The 3rd is a dogleg right that is a pretty good design. That bunker is a good spot to aim, just make sure not to run through the fairway and into it. I’d say it is 250 or 260 yards, but the fairway slopes towards the tee which should help keep shots out of it. It looks like there is tree trouble to the right, but there is actually room to find a slice. The fairway sets up for a cut lie into the green which angles from left to right around a bunker. I’d favor the left side around the green.
#4 (450 yard par 4):
The 4th is the course’s longest par 4 and #3 handicap. There is a fairway bunker to the right which should be avoided before it will most likely be a long club into the green. There is a bunker short and right of the green and a chipping area to the left. Left is definitely the better miss on the approach.
#5 (391 yard par 4):
The 5th is a straightforward par 4. It moves a little to the right and has a generous fairway. Accuracy is important on the approach because the green falls off on the right and there is a bunker left.
#6 (520 yard par 5):
The 6th is a reachable par 5 that is a good risk/reward hole. It is one of the perimeter holes with trouble all down the left. It moves a little left so challenging the trouble can shorten the hole. After a good drive someone can get near the green in two, but it will be a semi-blind shot over some bunkers (which will push layups to the right). The green is below approach level and has chipping area short and right of it. That chipping area is a good three feet below the green, so it could take some creativity to score.
#7 (448 yard par 4):
The 7th is a long par 4 that plays even longer because it is uphill. For comparison, I hit driver and a 3 wood near the green on the last hole and driver and 3 wood on the green here! Because of the rise from tee to green, views of the fairway and the green are obstructed. This is another perimeter hole with trouble down the left. It is going to take a couple good hits to get pin high here.
#8 (215 yard par 3):
The 8th is the longest par 3 on the course and it plays slightly uphill. The green is large and a bunker left of the green was sodded over, both of which add some forgiveness. The angle from the gray markers is a bit more intimidating than the other tees.
#9 (567 yard par 5):
The 9th hole is the longest par 5 on the course and it continues the uphill climb to the clubhouse. The fairway is super skinny and there is some slope from right to left. The fairway looks to be half the size of the nearby 10th. I’d suggest trying to land the tee shot on the right side of the fairway. There is fescue to the right and a depression of rough to the left. If missing the fairway (like me!), it is going to take a great shot to get it back in play. There is a cross bunker that needs to be carried when laying up. The green continues the narrow theme and has a back tier. This hole didn’t seem too well thought out. To me it is crammed in-between the 1st & 10th holes and that cross bunker is more penal than I prefer.
#10 (543 yard par 5):
The back nine starts out with a fun, and scenic, par 5. It plays downhill and probably could be reachable even for an average hitter after a couple good bounces. I didn’t hit it far enough to take advantage of a downslope, but I still had a couple options from long range. I opted to hit a 3 wood as far as possible, but I could have laid up to a favorite distance. The green is heavily bunkered, especially to the left with a massive bunker. Therefore, I’d suggest missing short and right of the green.
#11 (358 yard par 4):
The 11th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it plays downhill. It moves left and much of the fairway is blind. I was hoping there was more fairway to the left that couldn’t be seen, but most of the fairway is out to the right. It becomes almost unhittable skinny in-between six fairway bunkers. It seems the sweet spot when it comes to distance off the tee is 215 to 230 yards. The approach plays into a fairly large green considering the length of the hole. I like options on a short par 4 and there aren’t too many here. However, if someone can avoid the fairway bunkers then it is a chance for a good score.
#12 (505 yard par 5):
The 12th is a reachable par 5 so make sure to take advantage of it! It is a bit of a double dogleg as it goes left off the tee and then slightly back right to the green. The best tee shot is going to be draw off one of those bunkers. The right bunker is ~240 yards and the left one is ~270. I hit a good drive and had a chance to get to the green in two. The green is tucked off to the right and guarded by bunkers short, right, and long. I looked at my GPS and thought that short and left of the green would be the best spot, which is where I hit my 3 wood. That left a great angle on my chip from a bit below green level. I’d factor in some extra distance on the shot into the green.
#13 (188 yard par 3):
The 13th is sneaky tough. It plays just enough uphill so that the green’s surface cannot be seen. The bunkers sit down from view too so I had no idea that the front pin was in an area the size of a counter top! It is a tough section of green to play a short game shot to, let alone a full shot. I’d try to make sure you get the ball into the middle of the green or miss short left with that flag. There are a lot of different distances which can find or miss the green depending on the line.
#14 (401 yard par 4):
The 14th is a mid-length par 4 that moves left around a fairway bunker. This hole should set up well for someone who draws the ball because the green angles from front right to back left. I’d suggest hitting driver because the fairway widens the farther that someone hits it. There is actually some short grass over the fairway bunker if someone can carry it.
#15 (360 yard par 4):
The 15th is a short, uphill par 4. I’d suggest laying up off the tee because the fairway narrows around 235 yards. The second shot is into a green with a back tier. There is trouble all down the right side.
#16 (413 yard par 4):
The 16th is the #2 handicap and it was a formidable opponent. The hole moves right and the tee shot plays through some trees. The left side of the fairway is higher than the right so a tee shot can chase out a bunch. The approach plays downhill into a bunkerless green. Make sure not to miss short of the green because that area is well below green level.
#17 (185 yard par 3):
The 17th plays about a club uphill into a green that best sets up to receive a draw. It played about a club uphill for me and the pin was on a back tier that made it very difficult to access.
#18 (382 yard par 4):
The 18th is a modest closing hole. Even though it plays a bit uphill, I still had just a short iron into the green. There is plenty of fairway out there too. The difficultly is going to be judging the distance on the approach because only the top half of the flag can be seen from the fairway. There is a back tier on this green too which is impossible to see from the fairway.