Most golf courses have a signature hole — a picturesque layout that has a way of lingering in a player’s memory bank long after a round is over.
At Rocky Point golf course in Essex, the downhill par 3 11th hole surrounded by water certainly fits the bill.
However, in reality, it’s not just that one hole that separates itself on the par 72 layout. It’s instead more of a signature stretch.
Early in the back nine, from the tee box on the par 4 10th through the green on the par 4 13th, the intermittent views of the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay are as abundant and unique as they are memorable. In the outskirts of Baltimore County, it’s a scene that proves itself plenty worth the drive.
“Making the turn here and leaving the front nine, you go over to No. 10 and that’s where the water views really come into play,” said Rocky Point Head Golf Professional Jeff Bell. “The back drops of having the water behind the greens on 10, 11 and then again on 13, it’s really unlike anything else in the area.”
Opened in 1971, Rocky Point is one of five Baltimore County Golf courses and succeeds in striking a balance between being both challenging and manageable for all skill sets at an affordable price point.
The course’s peak rate on the weekends are $59 including cart.
Bell, who has been on staff for the last 15 years, says the playability of the course and tranquil setting has made it a popular destination for corporate outings and charity events.
“The golf course sells itself and it’s a great value, which is why the events seem to be coming back year after year,” he said. “Also the venue itself, with a outing pavilion that will seat up to 140 players right there alongside the river, is just a great place to host an event in addition to the golf.”
Aside from the back-nine views, the course’s other distinguishing features include large greens, wide fairways and plenty of natural wetlands.
There is some kind of water — whether it be a pond, stream or bay — in play on 13 of the 18 holes. And still, even with all those hazards, the only hole with a forced carry is on the par 5 15th.
It all comes back to the course balancing beauty with difficulty.
The front nine is certainly the more straight forward, with a first four holes in particular that allow players to settle in to the round without the danger of losing balls. The opening stretch features no hazards, outside of a handful of sand traps around the greens, and the trees are spread out more than anywhere else on the property.
“It’s certainly an easier and playable start to the golf course in the sense that you can spray it a little bit and still score. Those wayward shots aren’t punished maybe the same as they might be once you hit the middle portion of the round,” Bell said.
There is only one par five on the front, which plays to a par 35.
In contrast, the start to the back nine is filled with dog legs, elevation changes and dense wooded areas. That trend continues all the way through the closing hole, which rises up a hill with the clubhouse in the background. There are three par fives on the back, which plays to a par 37.
Rocky Point, along with all of the other Baltimore County municipal courses, received brand new E-Z-go gas-powered golf carts in February that are equipped with rain-guard technology and USB chargers.
As for additional amenities, the facility features a 16-station driving range, chipping green with a sand trap, and a separate putting green. There is also a full-service pro shop and the staff is equipped with the latest club fitting technologies.
As one of the five Baltimore County Golf courses, the Woodlands offers several discount opportunities. The Advantage Card, Frequent Player Card and Loyalty Reward Program each provide unique savings opportunities for regular players. Visit www.baltimoregolfing.com/rewards for more information.
Address: 1935 Back River Neck Road, Essex, MD 21221
Miles from downtown Baltimore: 15
Driving Range: Yes (16 mat stations - $5 for a bucket with 50 balls)
Putting Green: Yes (medium-sized surface next to driving range)
Chipping Green: Yes (small green between clubhouse and driving range with one flag that also features a sand trap for practicing)
In-season weekday morning round with cart: $49
In-season weekend morning round with cart: $59
Full rate breakdown: http://www.baltimoregolfing.com/course/rocky-point/rocky-point-rates
Locker room: No
Best Par 3: 11th hole
While this is the shortest hole on the course, it’s also the most memorable. From the elevated tee box, players can see all the way across the bay on a clear day. With the water running down the entire right side and then behind the green, it’s worth pausing to take in the scene before hitting. From a playability standpoint, the water is far enough away that it only comes into play on particularly errant shots and the green is incredibly large — making this a legitimate birdie opportunity.
Best Par 4: 13th hole
This is another hole with a great backdrop, with players teeing off up and over the crest of a hill toward a fairway that dips ever-so-slightly to the left. The approach then goes down toward one of the course’s smaller greens framed by another pretty view of the bay in the background.
Best Par 5: 15th hole
There’s a little bit of everything on this slight dog-leg to the right that is reachable in two for longer hitters. The fairway is lined by thick trees and an environmental area down the entire right side. A good drive that misses the trouble will then afford the decision as to whether or not to try and carry Long’s Creek that runs roughly 50 yards short of the putting surface. The green is elevated and guarded by a pair of bunkers.
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Overview: Don’t let the inconspicuous first couple holes fool you, this is a course with plenty of character. There’s enough variety, particularly during the second half of the round, to keep a player’s attention throughout. The par 3 11th hole, running along the coastline, has been dubbed by some as being the “Pebble Beach of the East.” And while that may be a bit of a stretch, the views are definitely captivating. It’s certainly not something you would expect from a municipal golf course just 15 miles outside the heart of Baltimore. Also adding to the experience is the wild life, as during a random day in mid-August rabbits, geese, ground hogs, deer, blue heron, egrets and an an eagle can be seen making their way around the property. The greens run on the slow side, but they are well maintained — something that can be said for the entire course from tee to green. There’s plenty of green grass to go around. One thing to note, though: Definitely bring the sun screen and bug spray. Flies and mosquitos become more and more prevalent the closer you get to the water. It’s about the only thing that can potentially detract from those beautiful vistas.