Whoever the wag was that said golf is “a good walk spoiled” no doubt had a 20-plus handicap.
Yes, the idea of chasing a ball around a series of fields with a stick to knock it into a hole hundreds of yards away is preposterous. How can that possibly be easy, or fun?
But that stick is a custom-fitted weapon of forged steel with tight grooves for scientifically-designed loft and lift; a rubber grip endorsed by the best golfers on the planet; and, sometimes, a very serious price tag. The ball in question is a dual-dimpled wad of high-tech material encased in a thin urethane cover and designed to scream off the tee with a satisfying snick, and continue its flight until it is out of sight.
And that “spoiled walk” would be healthy, like walking your dog, but boring, like walking your dog, without the sport behind it. Finding and hitting the ball again and again gives the workout purpose. A round at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace is 7,375 yards over 235 acres of exquisitely manicured bayside fairways. If you play 18 holes, that’s a lot of ticks on your pedometer.
Golf in Harford County is accessible from all directions, forgiving for beginners, and affordable for duffers who want to enjoy a pressure-free round in unpretentious settings.
Here’s our guide to help you decide where to take that walk.
Geneva Farm Golf Club
217 Davis Road, Street
410-452-8800 | genevafarmgolf.com
Who can play: Public
Cost to play: About $52 on weekends
What makes this one special: The 18th-century burg of Street still boasts a plethora of rolling farms, but as of 1990 there was one less. That’s when this all-purpose course was developed on mounds amid trees and fields of the old Geneva Farm. Even beginners won’t have too much trouble finding the fairway — or their balls — during a round on this forgiving course.
Extras: Driving range, putting green, pro shop, restaurant and bar, banquet facility, pavilion, GPS carts.
Insider’s tip: Soft greens with subtle breaks.
Bulle Rock Golf Course
320 Blenheim Lane, Havre de Grace
410-939-8887 | bullerock.com
Who can play: Public
Cost to play: $130 for 18 holes, $68 for 9 holes
What makes this one special: Caddies! This is one of the few playable public courses offering caddie services; pool your funds for a forecaddie for the party at $130 plus $25 a bag (three bag minimum), plus gratuity.
Extras: Silks Restaurant is a destination in itself. Service lives up to the premium price.
Insider’s tip: “Pete Dye, the architect, never wanted to hear ‘signature hole,’ and I think Bulle Rock is the perfect example,” says Richard Rounsaville, general manager and director of golf. “There are many signature and memorable holes here.” So many, he points out, that “we’ve been the No. 1 rated public course in Maryland since opening in 1998 and we’re listed in all major golf publications’ ‘Top 100 Courses in America You Can Play’ lists.”
By the way, it’s named for the first thoroughbred horse brought to America.
Mountain Branch Golf Club
1827 Mountain Road, Joppa
410-836-9600 | mountainbranch.com
Who can play: Semiprivate, open to the public
Cost to play: $40 to $74
What makes this one special: Even if you knock your ball into the deep woods, you won’t mind so much as the scenery will ease the pain. Elevated tee boxes provide views of lush trees and deep green fairways.
Extras: Practice facility, lessons, elegant full-service restaurant with vaulted ceilings.
Insider’s tip: “This is a solid layout, fun for all levels,” says head pro Damon Klepczynski. “We have six or seven holes that seem to be favorites, but the par-5 No. 18 finishing hole has a high risk-reward. It’s tempting to make it to the green in two.” And you know what usually happens when you try that.
Holes: 18 for Ruggles, 9 for Exton
Par: 72 for Ruggles, 71 for twice around Exton
Yardage: 6,833 for Ruggles, 5,764 for twice around Exton
Who can play: Active-duty military, retired military, Department of Defense civilian workers and contractors, family members, and Harford County residents.
Cost to play: From $18 to $32 on Ruggles (carts extra), $7 to $14 for 9 holes on Exton
What makes this one special: Your tax dollars at work! Got to keep the military sharp yet relaxed, and the only way to do that with golf is to make sure the course is standing at attention.
Extras: Driving range, putting green, chipping area, pro shop, restaurant.
Insider’s tip: The course opened in 1918, and the layout hasn’t changed much; expect long putts and the occasional challenge by water.
Wetlands Golf Club
740 Gilbert Road, Aberdeen
410-273-7488 | golfwetlands.com
Who can play: Public
Cost to play: About $38 to $55
What makes this one special: One of the few family-owned, -operated and -designed courses we know of. The Smedley family takes pride in keeping things to a high — but affordable and playable — standard.
Extras: Driving range, putting green, chipping area, practice bunker, restaurant, clubhouse.
Insider’s tip: “The 600-yard, par-5 No. 18 gets a lot of attention,” says Richard Marts, the course’s PGA pro. “And we like to point out that we’re close to Ripken Stadium. You can hit a drive and a 3-wood into the outfield.”
Bel Air Golf Center
3103 Belair Road, Kingsfield
410-817-3103 | thebelairgolfcenter.com
Holes: None, it’s a practice facility
Par: None, but you can pretend
Yardage: Mere feet
Who can play: Beginners and scratch golfers of all ages
Cost to play: Buckets of balls are $6 to $15
What makes this one special: Two PGA pros on hand. A short game area and close-in target greens help with short game techniques of 100 yards or less. There’s also a practice bunker for working on sand shots.
Extras: Private and group lessons are readily available. You’re not likely to get any better unless you take the occasional lesson. And remember, once you figure out a kink, your score doesn’t go down by just a few strokes, it goes down by a ton.
Insider’s tip: If you really just want to goof off, there’s a miniature golf course, $7 for grown-ups, $6 for kids. Remember, keep your head down.
Note: Greens fees vary by time; the ones above are for 18 holes and include cart but could change. Double-check when you call to set a tee time.