Lodestone Golf Club (McHenry, MD on 10/10/15)

After my morning round I made the 10 minute drive up the hill to Lodestone. I was excited to play Lodestone for multiple reasons, but mostly because it was the 500th different golf course that I’ve played! I didn’t need to celebrate that milestone at any place super fancy, but thought that Lodestone was worthy of that honor, especially this time of year with all the color! Each year the course gets rated as one of the top public courses in Maryland and it has been on what I’m calling my “Mid-Atlantic” wishlist!

I had quickly finished my morning round, but had no trouble getting out early as it wasn’t busy. I ended up playing in 4 hours and 15 minutes but could have played faster. It’s a big course and it was cart path only which slowed me down. That, and all my picture taking and getting my thoughts for my blog into words takes some time! It isn’t a place that I’d expect to hustle around though.

Lodestone was designed by professional golfer Hale Irwin and is the first course of his that I’ve played. The course is newer (opened in 2009) and is what I’d classify as a “modern” golf course, when it comes to aesthetics, routing, and playability.

As I mentioned the course is large! The course stretches nearly 7500 yards, but I opted for the more manageable gold tees which play 6874/73.3/133. You can find the scorecard online, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple sets of combo tees! The fairways, greens, and bunkers are large which is unusual considering the mountainous terrain. Plus, the holes are spread out through the upscale community, although just a couple homes can be seen. It is a pretty natural setting for such a new course with all the tree lined holes, some rock outcroppings, and plenty of nice views. I’m glad I caught it on a clear day as I was able to see Deep Creek Lake from a few holes.

After playing the course, I’d say that it was designed with high level amateur, or even professional, play in mind. Because it is such a big course, there is plenty of real estate to track to wayward shots which the pros (and me!) like. Losing a bunch of balls on drives shouldn’t be a worry, but it is a very involved course off the tee with split fairways, a few blind shots, and plenty of bunkers. Overall, I’d call it fair from tee to green, just watch out for the endless number of bunkers and plenty of mid-length par 4’s.

However, I cannot begin to describe all the slopes, bowls, and ridges in the greens! At times, I thought the greens had too much slope, but it could just be me. You will encounter some roller coaster putts so it might be worth rolling a few on the moundy putting green! In order to score here you have to be very good around the greens. Getting anything close requires more than just landing it in the right spot. It means getting the  spin right, the flight right, and the shape right! To make even a par, it seemed the course required a level of perfection that I rarely achieve throughout the year, even as lower handicap. There is plenty of elevation change and slope in the fairways which add to the challenge.

The conditions here were very nice, certainly representative of one of the top ranked courses in the state! There were more wet spots than I would have thought, but the tees and fairways were cut short, full, and lush. The greens rolled good and were quick, especially downhill. Short fescue grass was on the tongues of many bunkers and around the tees which added a rustic look to the already “pretty” course.

Unfortunately, my review from playing Lodestone just once is going to miss quite a bit because there is so much going on with each hole and each shot. It was a bit too difficult for me to love it, but certainly worthy of being my 500th course! It is pricey, especially during peak season and to be honest, I’m not sure it is worth $100+. But, only a handful of courses are worth that to me. I played it for ~$60 which made it a good value given its pedigree. Lodestone has a cool signature hole (the 17th) and is easy to access off I-68.

#1 (386 yard par 4):

The 1st is one of many mid-length par 4’s and gives an idea of what to expect the rest of the round. It is a tree lined, heavily bunkered hole with a wide fairway. The fairway slopes from left to right so landing the ball on the left half of the fairway is best. The fairway narrows and starts to downslope with ~130 yards to go so laying up isn’t a bad play. The green angles slightly from front left to back right which helps to receive a shot from the cut stance. It is a friendly opening hole!

1-2 1-4

#2 (406 yard par 4):

The 2nd is straightaway up to the green, but it plays as the #3 handicap. I think the more difficult ranking is deserved because the hole goes slightly uphill, which added a few yards and affected my ability to visualize the perfect shot. The fairway is the widest at the distance past both bunkers on the right (farther carry on a line more to the right), but then it narrows again. The front half of the green is narrow while the back half probably doubles in width.

2-1 2-3

#3 (522 yard par 5):

The 3rd is a dogleg left par 5 and is going to the easiest of the four par 5’s to reach in two. It also offers a bunch of options, especially on the second shot. The drive is from an elevated tee and like many tee shots at Lodestone, plays to a wide fairway. The bunker through the fairway is ~270 yards to reach so plan accordingly. From there the hole turns left and the fairway runs down to a creek and then rises back up to the green. If laying up then someone will have to decide to layup short of the creek (on a downslope) or try to carry it and leave a flip wedge into the green from an upslope. I laid up short of the creek and had an uncomfortable approach, a short iron from a downhill lie. The green hooks around the left bunkers so the pin location might determine the best place from which to play the third.

3-2 3-3

#4 (395 yard par 4):

The 4th plays slightly uphill and is tricky because it features a split fairway. The right half of the fairway is hidden over the furthest fairway bunker on the right. The bunkers on the left are ~230 yards to reach so there are a couple possible lines off the tee. I’d suggest playing to the right fairway and got lucky as I found my slice over there! I estimated that it is probably an extra half club into the wide green (which isn’t very deep). There is a ridge in the center of it (just over a bunker short) that divides the green into left and right sides.

4-2 4-4

#5 (151 yard par 3):

The 5th is the shortest hole at Lodestone and good opportunity for par or birdie! Oddly, no bunkers guard the green but it is long and narrow which still means a precise iron is needed. There is a back tier too which would make for a tiny target, even with potentially a short club. The best error is out to the right, where there is some grass.

5-2

#6 (393 yard par 4):

I found the 6th to be a very tough hole, although on the scorecard it isn’t much. It is one of the tee shots at the course that could derail the round so I’d be careful. The drive plays to a split fairway that is narrow on both side. I don’t think the tee shot sets up particularly well for any shot shape (except a straight one) because of the trees all over the place! It might require picking a line that flirts with the trees. I played down the right side, but it looked like the left fairway leaves the best angle into the green. The left side didn’t look much narrower either. The bigger hitters might be able to carry it to the part where the fairways join. The green slopes towards the back and has five bunkers surrounding it (three of which are over the back). There is a tiny section of green on the right side which looked almost impossible to access. Good luck!

6-2 6-3

#7 (598 yard par 5):

The 7th is the #1 handicap and one of the holes at Lodestone that seems like it was designed for a scratch golfer. The hole moves a little to the left so the best shot shape (on the drive) is a draw to avoid the big bunker to the left. That might get some extra roll as the fairway slopes from right to left. It is a wide fairway so the trouble could start on the layup, as the fairway narrows. It is a long hole, even from the white tees (550 yards) so I’d wager that not many amateurs are going to be inside 150 yards for the third shot. Unfortunately that is the narrowest part of the fairway. The layup area widens some inside 150 before getting to three cross bunkers, but that is going to be two huge shots for most golfers. Plus, it is a hook lie on the second with trouble left. The green sits slightly above the fairway so I couldn’t see all of the surface.

7-1 7-4

#8 (195 yard par 3):

The 8th is the course’s longest par 3. It is one of those holes where it feels like you are on top of the world, so make sure to pause and enjoy! The distance wasn’t overwhelming for me, but the green complex was. The green is deep and curls around some bunkers, including a small pot bunker, to the right. I’m not sure how the average golfer would access the any pin, except a front one, with a long iron because of some of the slopes in the green. Thankfully, that is the pin I got!

8-1 8-5

#9 (391 yard par 4):

The 9th is a fun hole that can yield a good score! It is a mid-length par 4 that plays significantly downhill to the green. My drive went any extra 30+ yards compared to normal so the bigger hitters might want to consider 3 wood as the fairway runs out into some rough. The tee shot is awkward looking because of the blind landing area, but the best line is actually out over the left half of the rock outcropping. There is fairway out to the right over there and it slopes from right to left. I ended up with an uneven lie for my approach into a green that slopes from back to front. I had just a short iron so it felt like a scoring chance!

9-2 9-4 9-5

#10 (433 yard par 4):

The 10th is the #2 handicap and longest par 4 at Lodestone. It plays uphill which adds to the difficulty! The hole features another split fairway, but it is a large target when you account for both fairways. The left one allows for a  better view of the green while the right one has some cross bunkers which left me with a blind shot. Definitely add a club on the approach and favor the left side of the green. Anything to the right can kick out of play. The green has a small back tier, where the pin was located the day that I played.

10-2 10-4

#11 (396 yard par 4):

The 11th could offer a chance to knock the approach close, if you get a favorable pin, so keep that in mind. The tee shot is pretty looking on this par 4 with a couple rock outcroppings and the fescue grass around the tee boxes. A fade is the best play as the fairway slides right and it narrows the farther that you hit it. The green is the most interesting part of the hole as the left side is higher than the right. The right side has two lower sections that create a bowls so it doesn’t have to be a perfectly struck approach to get close to those flags.

11-1

#12 (428 yard par 4):

The 12th is a long, straightaway par 4. It is another fairway that narrows the farther that you hit and a rock outcropping to the left cuts more into the fairway than I initially thought. Like the last hole, the green is interesting you can use it to your advantage, at least if the pin is in the center. The green doesn’t have bunkers around it, but it is deep, and narrower towards the front. It gets wider towards the back but it has a large valley in the middle. There is enough slope to use as sideboards if chipping. The green is surrounded by chipping areas and I actually had my chip go sideways!

12-1 12-4

#13 (582 yard par 5):

The 13th is ranked as one of the more difficult holes on the course, but I think that’s just due to its length. It is another par 5 that creeps up on 600 yards, but it plays significantly downhill to the green. The landing area for the drive is blind, but there aren’t any tricks except for the somewhat hidden fairway bunker on the right. If you are bigger hitter, and want to go for the green in two, then there is some fairway short and right of the green that would leave a great angle to pitch from. It could be another uneven lie with a short iron and I’d suggest not missing over the back of the green.

13-2 13-6

#14 (312 yard par 4):

The 14th is the shortest par 4 on the course and an opportunity for a good score! It is ranked as one of the easier holes (#16 handicap) and was my only par on a terrible back nine! The green is right over those fairway bunkers, but another split fairway allows for some options off the tee. The widest part of the fairway is ~215 yards and then it separates into left and right sides, with the elevated right side offering a better view of the green. Someone can lay up or try to drive it into one of the narrow ribbons of fairway (the first fairway bunker is ~240). Keep in mind that the hole plays uphill and I wish that I would have hit one more club off the tee. The green has a small false front and a back tier which requires a pinpoint short iron to get it close.

14-1 14-4

#15 (152 yard par 3):

The 15th is a mid-length par 3 and was one of my favorite holes to play at Lodestone, at least when it comes to design! The hole is ranked as the easiest on the course, but I think that just proves how tough all the others are! It shouldn’t be a long club but the deep, narrow green is guarded by a creek which cuts across short of, and then to the right of the green. You can bail out to the left and play from a chipping area, but that most likely will mean a speedy chip that has to land on a downslope. You can hit one good shot, doesn’t matter which one it is, and still make a par!

15-1 15-5

#16 (408 yard par 4):

The 16th is one of those holes that you probably need to play a couple times to get comfortable with. It is straightaway to the green, but the landing area in the fairway is blind. Plus, there is some right to left slope in the fairway so aiming down the right half is best. That makes it a tough tee shot and the approach doesn’t any easier! The green angles (from front left to back right) to receive a fade while the fairway sets up best for a draw. Anything to the left of the green is almost certainly going to kick off a bank and down into some fescue. Missing short of the green isn’t too bad if you don’t have the perfect club. The green has a ridge in the middle to further complicate things. I wasn’t too upset with my bogey!

16-2

#17 (192 yard par 3):

The 17th is the signature hole at Lodestone! Unfortunately, it was directly into the sun when I got there! It is a beautiful par 3 that plays over a ravine to a narrow green. Lost ball trouble surrounds the green except to the right and you might consider an extra club. Missing to the right at least allows you to find the ball, but getting it up and down from there is almost impossible. The fairway over there is well above green level and the right edge of the green slopes severely towards the center so I couldn’t keep my chip on the green! I wish the designer would have made the green a bowl so that sideboards could be used from multiple places. I don’t think the 17th is very playable for the average golfer, but it sure is pretty!

17-2 17-6

#18 (559 yard par 5):

The final hole is a long par 5 that plays uphill. Right away you have to pick a line off the tee because of some bunkers. The bunker in the center of the picture is the one I was concerned with and I tried to hit my drive to the skinny part of the fairway to the left. It is ~225 yards to get to that first bunker and ~240 to carry it. Remember the uphill part if you want to carry it! The layup could be blind and plays to a narrow section of fairway. There are wider parts of the fairway closer, and farther, from the green to layup to. Like much of the course, there is a lot that needs to be considered!

18-4 18-5

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