Fantasy Valley Golf Course (McHenry, MD on 10/10/15)

I haven’t played much golf recently so I wanted to get away for a weekend. I was hoping to take advantage of off-season rates this time of year and see some fall color! I got up early on Saturday and drove through West Virginia towards Western Maryland. My goal on Saturday was to play the two courses that are part of Wisp Resort, a four season resort located next to Deep Creek Lake. The area has a lot of touristy things to do and reminded me of Lake Tahoe,  just on a smaller scale.

My morning tee time was at the lower course, Fantasy Valley, and I got there about 8:30am. I struggled to find the proshop because it wasn’t marked well, but turns out it is right behind the hotel! I was hoping to take a few swings at the range before playing, but Fantasy Valley doesn’t have a range. If you are interested in warming up then I’d suggest driving up to the Lodestone course to use the range there. It is a 10 to 15 minute car ride each way so that could be planned accordingly. I could have probably hit a few range balls, but I opted to get out before a group of 12. That was a good choice as I blew through the round in about 3 hours!

Fantasy Valley is located at the base of the ski slopes, and as you’d probably imagine, there is some elevation change and nice views. I wouldn’t call it a mountain course, but there were plenty of elevated tees and holes that ran across the hillside. I’d definitely suggest paying attention to the high side on each hole and favor that. The routing is a little choppy and I think that’s because holes 10 thru 13 were added later. Early on, getting to the next tee required driving past a couple “skeleton” holes that were dropped in favor of the more modern stretch from 10 thru 13. Those were my favorite holes on the course!

I played the blue tees which play 70.7/135/6446. Fantasy Valley actually plays as a par 70 so it isn’t as easy as the numbers indicate. The nice thing is that there are still four par 5’s! There is chance for a good score because someone should have plenty of short irons into the greens. The challenges come from narrow fairways, small greens, and some forced carries. There are a couple ponds that had me scratching my head about their placement. The course closes with a par 3 with is something that I personally like!

The course was in very nice shape for this time of year. The maintenance crew was out blowing leaves so I didn’t lose any balls unnecessarily. The only trouble spots in the fairways were those in the shade where the grass didn’t get enough sunlight. Other than that I had nice lies. The greens were gorgeous and although soft, rolled smoothly. I always thought I had a chance to make a putt! For what it is worth, I over-read the break on most of my putts and lots of the green slope from back to front.

I would have liked Fantasy Valley more if it wasn’t for two or three goofy holes with some long forced carries. The addition of holes 10 thru 13 adds value to the course, but if you’ve only got time for one round at Wisp, you will want to play the Lodestone course. It is more interesting and memorable than Fantasy Valley, but I don’t think too many people would dispute that. I enjoyed a beautiful fall morning and this turned out to be a good morning selection for $59.

#1 (525 yard par 5):

The 1st hole is the shortest of the par 5’s. I guess some of the longer hitters could get there in two but it should be a three shot hole for most because it plays uphill.  The tee shot is a bit quirky because there is a tree in the fairway that needs to be avoided. My tee shot rattled around in it before dropping out. From there the hole doglegs left for the layup, which plays to a left to right sloping fairway.  The green slopes from back to front.

1-2 1-4

#2 (379 yard par 4):

The 2nd is one of the narrower holes on the course.  The skinny fairway is pinched by a bunker on the left ~170 yards to the green. The hole plays longer than the yardage because it is uphill. I’d favor the right side because that is the higher side and could yield a good bounce. Missing left is not good at all.

2-1

#3 (183 yard par 3):

The 3rd is the first of six par 3’s! It plays about a club downhill to a green that has a very narrow front section. Deeper into the green is probably the best play.

3-1 3-3

#4 (548 yard par 5):

The 4th is a borderline long par 5 and the #3 handicap. It doglegs left and it has a few tricks. The first trick is to know to use the slope to the right of the fairway to kick tee shots down to it. Don’t mess with the left side! The yellow tree in my picture is probably a good line. The second trick is to get the layup in a spot where you can find it. I hit a good drive and still had a long carry to get over a pond which occupies a lot of space (from 140 to 200 yards into green). That is too long of a carry if you ask me. This is another green that slopes from back to front.

4-1 4-4

#5 (125 yard par 3):

The 5th is the shortest part 3 on the course. It is a bit of an improvisation too! The tee is in the middle of an old fairway. I’m not sure if this is going to be the long term setup or not.  The green is large and clearly designed to receive a longer club. Take advantage of this one while you can!

5-2

#6 (382 yard par 4):

The 6th doglegs left and has a blind tee shot. I tried taking it over the trees with a driver and missed way left.  I found it,  but a line over the pole or just right of it (which I failed to see) is best. It doesn’t have to be driver off the tee either.  If the drive finds the fairway then it should be an easier approach and a chance for a good score.

6-1 6-3

#7 (582 yard par 5):

The 7th is the longest hole on the course and the #1 handicap. It doglegs left and while I don’t hit it far enough to get through the dogleg,  even with driver,  some of the longer hitters may. I’d favor the right half of the fairway as that leaves the best angle for the layup. There are trees left and some left to right slope to deal with when laying up. The fairway runs out into a pond (~120 yards to the green). I think it is a tough,  but fair hole.

7-1 7-6

#8 (419 yard par 4):

The 8th is one of the longer par 4s on the course. It requires power because of its length but also some strategy because it is a tiny double dogleg. I’d try to play to the right half of the fairway for the best angle into the green. That is tough to do though because of a hazard that lurks to the right of the cart path. If someone is on the left side then trees are in play. The approach plays about a club uphill into a green complex that falls off to the right. The best miss is left of the green.

8-2 8-3

#9 (180 yard par 3):

The front nine closes out with a downhill par 3. The hole is about the same distance as the 3rd, it just plays the opposite direction. Like the 3rd, I think it is about a club downhill. If there is no wind then I think hitting the same club should work out well. The green was larger than it looked from the tee.

9-1 9-4

#10 (431 yard par 4):

The 10th is my favorite hole on the course! The scenery and a risk/reward second shot make it a brilliant hole. The tee shot is pretty easy because it is plays downhill to a wide fairway. If the course is playing firm then someone may have to watch out for a fairway bunker. The approach is downhill too, but requires an accurate shot (possibly with a long iron). The green is guarded by hazards left, long, and right so the only decent spot to miss is short. The green is deep and there is a large swale in the middle of it which makes attacking a back flag a bold play.

10-3 10-4 10-7

#11 (212 yard par 3):

The 12th is the longest par 3 on the course and it doesn’t look like much trouble, at least for a 200+ yard par 3. There aren’t any hidden hazards around the green which is nice, but a small false front and a chipping area to the right make the green a small target with a long club.

11-1 11-4

#12 (323 yard par 4):

The 12th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it should offer a good chance for a par. I laid up off the tee, short of a fairway bunker that starts ~120 yards in. I don’t think playing left of it is a good idea because the fairway is so narrow, but if someone can carry it that should leave a short shot. The hole plays uphill so factor in that. There is a ridge that divides the front and back of the green, which curls left around a greenside bunker.

12-1 12-3

#13 (411 yard par 4):

The 13th is the #2 handicap. It is one of the longer par 4s on the course and plays a few extra yards because it is uphill. The fairway is narrow and there is a hazard to the left that runs the length of the hole. My tee shot landed in the left rough and kicked into the hazard so I’d  favor the right side,  which is the higher side. The approach is blind into a narrow green,  but some slope to the right can feed the ball towards the green.

13-1 13-3

#14 (397 yard par 4):

The 14th is what I would call a quirky hole. It is a mid length par 4 with a couple forced carries over water. The tee shot should be hit at least about 210 yards to carry one pond but not much farther than about 250 yards to stay short of another pond. The nice thing is the fairway is wide but some wind could complicate controlling the distance.

14-2 14-3

#15 (390 yard par 4):

The 15th is tree lined and doglegs right. The dogleg is around the 150 marker so the longer hitters might want to layup. The green slopes from back to front so I’d  try to be below the hole.

15-1 15-4

#16 (190 yard par 3):

The 16th is a relatively simple hole. It plays through some trees and slightly uphill to the green. There is a bit of back to front slope in the green so I wouldn’t expect the ball to release once it lands. Like some other greens at the course the front has a narrow section.

16-2

#17 (562 yard par 5):

The 17th is the last of the par 5s and snakes its way towards the clubhouse. The tee shot is a bit downhill and can be played short of or in-between two fairway bunkers that are about 235 yards off the tee. It gets skinny,  about 15 yards wide, between the bunkers so an accurate drive is important. After the tee shot, the hole moves right to the back to front sloping green.

17-2 17-7

#18 (207 yard par 3):

The 18th is a closing par 3, which is something that I personally like. It is a long par 3 with water in play and it drops at least a club to the green. Missing right of the green leaves the easiest chip because the green slopes downhill off the left bunkers.

18-1 18-3

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