My friend and I made arrangements for an early morning tee time at Black Rock Golf Course, which is in Hagerstown. Black Rock is a municipal course that tends to get ranked as the top municpial course in Maryland. You probably won’t find it on any best in state lists but I still wanted to make it out here at some point to see what the all the hoopla was about! The course was about 45 minutes from where we were staying and we used our location as a chance to check out a “new to us” course. We are both kind of course junkies!
The course is on the southeast side of town, close to where the urban area changes to farmland. The course is unique in the fact that maybe half of it is bordered by the city while the other half backs up against the farmland. I certainly found there to be a contrast from the front nine to the back. On the front nine I could hear the bustle of a Monday morning while the back nine felt peaceful and tranquil.
We got our cart and rolled a few practice putts on what turned out to be a busy morning! Our tee time was at 8:15am and there weren’t any more times until around 10am. I figured that there was an outing, but I didn’t bank on it being so busy before we got going! It turns out that it was senior day and they all were lined up on the 1st tee. The spacing sorted itself out as we went along and I can only hope that will be me in 30 years! We played as a foursome and all in all, it took us about 4 hours 15 minutes. Anything around that time for a foursome is fine by me.
Like you’ll find at most municipal courses, the routing at Black Rock is all about efficiency. The course doesn’t occupy a lot of land and even from the Blue tees, which are 71.7/134/6757, it is a place that I wouldn’t have minded walking. The greens and tees are close together which makes it a great place to squeeze in a few holes after work. In fact, one of the folks we paired up with has league play here frequently. The course is a parkland style layout on rolling terrain, so if you decided to walk you really could take a “walk in the park”!
At first glance, Black Rock didn’t seem like anything special. Not that I was expecting a knock my socks off design, but there isn’t a bunch that will “wow” you at Black Rock. In the end though, that’s exactly what I think makes the course so great! After getting halfway through the front nine I noticed plenty of little things which caused the course to shine, at least in my opinion! First, the course has an excellent look to it! The fairways are well defined by trees on each side and even if you clatter a shot around in them you can still at least pitch it back in play. Plus, the course has a handful of rock beds that add a level of charm to the look. If I had to guess I’d say the name of the course has something to do with those rock beds! Second, there is a nice variety of holes that go left and right and uphill and downhill. It helps to shape the ball both ways, but isn’t needed except maybe on the 3rd. Finally, I was able to get creative! I tried bouncing an approach onto a green, flighting irons, and considered all sorts of lines before playing my shots. There’s a lot of fun to be had here with the full shots!
Although there are three or four water hazards that can affect play, most of the difficultly at Black Rock won’t come in the form of lost ball trouble. Two things about this stood out to me while I was playing, how tough it was on the approaches and how long some par 4’s were! The approaches are tough because of the small greens and all the bunkers that surround them. As you’ll see from the pictures, there are some almost temporary sized greens and most have two or three greenside bunkers which gobble up misses. I couldn’t always see the green’s surfaces on my full shots either.
The other thing that made the course tough were all of the long par 4’s. From the Blue tees there are par 4’s that play 430, 438, 427, and 437 yards. All of those come on the last ten holes! My friend played the White tees and commented that those same holes had some teeth from where he played too. All the long par 4’s are offset by shorter par 5’s where you can score.
The 13th, one of those long par 4’s, is a signature hole at Black Rock. It plays from an elevated tee and has nice views of the area. It is also the #1 handicap and one where some local knowledge is needed. It doglegs right with a large tree at the corner of the dogleg and a pond short of the green. I ended up on the right side of the fairway and had to hit a high cut over the tree. To do over I would have tried to hit my tee shot to the left half of the fairway. Some may argue the par 3 15th is the signature hole and I’d agree with that too!
The conditions were good and well worth the $35 that we paid. The course played firm which added a challenge that I’m not used! I tried to land all my irons on the front of the greens and didn’t always have the most success. The greens rolled well, but they were slower than they looked. The fairways and tees were full and the rough had some thick spots. The only area lacking were the bunkers which were rocky and uneven.
My friend and I both enjoyed Black Rock! It isn’t going to compete with some of the big dollar courses near Frederick, but I’d say Black Rock is worth a stop if you are traveling through the area. The only way my friend and I would make the course better is by turning some of the sand bunkers into grass bunkers!
#1 (487 yard par 5):
#2 (176 yard par 3):
#3 (482 yard par 5):
#4 (363 yard par 4):
#5 (378 yard par 4):
#6 (355 yard par 4):
#7 (195 yard par 3):
#8 (415 yard par 4):
#9 (430 yard par 4):
#10 (376 yard par 4):
#11 (438 yard par 4):
#12 (388 yard par 4):
#13 (427 yard par 4):
#14 (539 yard par 5):
#15 (185 yard par 3):
#16 (515 yard par 5):
#17 (171 yard par 3):
#18 (437 yard par 4):