Furnace Bay Golf Course

Special to Baltimoresun.com

Furnace Bay is beginning to develop into a fine, home-grown course. More than 3,000 trees were planted before the course opened in May 2000, and they are beginning to mature -- although not to the point of affecting play just yet.

Furnace Bay was developed by Howard Neff and his family, who farmed the land for 27 years. The original stone mansion located on the property is now the clubhouse, having been lovingly restored by family and friends. In the past few years, Furnace Bay has added a snack bar and meeting rooms. This past year they paved the cart paths through the sixth hole.

The front nine is radically different from and more challenging than the back nine, at least until the trees come into play. The front nine is primarily in the woods, while the back nine is out in open farmland.

The course opens with a 395-yard par 4 followed by a 485-yard par 5 with a severe dogleg right once you cross a railroad bridge. Your second shot is like looking down the barrel of a rifle -- it's a narrow fairway to a green surrounded by woods.

The third hole is a par-3, 115-yarder over a ravine, with woods on the right. As you tee off, you look straight ahead at Furnace Bay, which gives the course its name. This green can be rough in places and the surrounding woods can leave enough litter on the green to hold up play while you groom it for your putt.

The par-4, 307-yard fifth hole is one of the most interesting you'll see on any course. Shaped like a "V," you have to hit between woods, 150 yards out over a ravine, to a sloped landing area. You need to either hug the trees on the right side, or else fade your ball. The second shot is 150 yards back over the ravine to the green, ending up just yards from where you started. Miss your tee shot and you'll need to punch out past dense woods just to have a clear approach shot.

A hidden pond comes into play on the fourth and sixth holes. Make sure to stay right on the fourth and left on the sixth to avoid going into the drink.

After the sixth hole, you travel back across a railroad bridge to complete the round. The seventh hole, a par-4, 319-yarder, requires a 200-yard drive to hit the fairway. If you end up short, you have a difficult, steep uphill approach.

The par-3, 170-yard eighth hole is trickier than it looks. For openers, there is a pond on the left. Secondly, your tee shot has to clear a steep down-and-uphill to land on the green. If you miss, the land slopes right-to-left toward the pond. Miss your tee shot and it will be nearly impossible to make par.

The par-3, 10th hole begins the wide-open back nine and a chance to score. The pond on the right is really not in play, but there is a hidden creek that is in play if you end up short of the elevated green. An old barn provides a picturesque backdrop on this hole.

There are no bathrooms on the 5,800-yard course. Women enjoy a 1,000-yard advantage. But the women's tees also cut off several doglegs and minimize more than a few hazards, making this course popular with women. The course sports a grass practice range and a respectable putting green. The fairways are in excellent shape and the bunkers on the course are well-raked, with good sand and few stones. You may need to consult the course layout on your scorecard periodically, since signage is a bit spotty on the back nine.

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