Of the many appealing aspects of the Gunpowder Golf Course, none surpasses the modest green fees for those inclined to play later in the day.
Here's how it works.
For a measly $5 the course is yours from 90 minutes before sunset until you finish nine — or even 18 — holes on the nearly half-century-old parcel adjoining Fairland Regional Park in Laurel.
It's difficult to believe that there's a better deal anywhere in the area.
Meanwhile, duffers and scratch players alike can take advantage of the other reasonable rates Gunpowder charges for a round: $24 on weekends, $19 during the week — except for seniors (60 and over), juniors (10 and under) and uniformed personnel (military, police, fire and EMS), who can play for just $10 on a 6,061-yard, par-70 Scottish-style layout.
To put it simply, the oldest golf course in Prince George's County is not only an oasis in the increasingly densely populated Baltimore-Washington corridor, it may also be its best bargain.
Part of that population base is now on Gunpowder's doorstep with the new Bentley Park development on 210 adjoining acres, featuring town homes and single residences.
Gunpowder managers Linda and Tom Milligan are welcoming the project, even though it is uncertain how many new customers will patronize the course owned by the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission.
"The luxury homes in this park-like community make for a fine neighbor to our affordable golf course, and we hope to gain some new players," said Linda Milligan about the $400,000-plus price tag for Bentley Park town homes and the $500,000 required to purchase a detached residence.
That said, the developers put an end to years of uncertainty about what kind of project would be built on the land that sold for $28.5 million.
"The citizens and golfers in the area believed that this park-designed community far surpassed the original layout of the high-end, championship, golf course housing development proposed by Artery in 2001," Tom Milligan said.
Milligan was referring to the time when the Artery Development Company and The Ryland Group were hoping to redesign Gunpowder into an upscale championship course, morphing into "a public-owned, daily-fee facility as part of a 465-acre residential community," according to cybergolf.com.
The entire project was to be renamed the Fairland/Gunpowder Golf Course with a commensurate meteoric rise in greens fees.
The proposal did not set well with the senior community or its representatives in the state legislature, given the proposed fee hikes on a public course subsidized by tax payers. The plan was ultimately squelched because of the outcry and for other reasons.
The current development will have no affiliation with the course, other than being good neighbors.
The old-school golf course — described in its website as being "designed and built by Robert 'Bob' Milligan, and operated by the Milligan family" ever since — and its new neighbors are in the business of building a harmonious relationship.
In fact, when a sewer line was installed in the middle of the course, Tom Milligan said that family-run course is none the worse for the wear.
"Trees that were removed for utility installation were all replaced as well as additional trees that were planted around the course," he said.
Bob Milligan's design in 1956 was a simple one and one that owes its look and feel to the sport's Scottish origins. It has stood the test of time.
"Tom's father used to say that Gunpowder is a 'finesse course,'" Linda Milligan said. "Players will want to use every club in their bag. Club selection is key to a successful round."
Dale Leith, the Gunpowder golf professional and director of golf, said the course has "a lot of links flavor to it."
He added that Gunpowder's length is not all that important.
"It's a very interesting course," the 1967 Laurel High grad said. "It's a real test."
While there are some narrow fairways bordered by trees that beg for accuracy above power, other parts of the course are wide open, he said.
"The course has really been coming into its own the last couple of years," he said. "There are parts that have lots of trees and gorse. It's a shorter course, so it has to be protected."
Leith's knowledge of the course goes back to high school when Bob Milligan provided the Spartan star with ample practice time.
"He made sure I always had golf balls and a course to play on," the Laurel resident said.
Leith said that area golfers hardly missed a beat despite a deluge that curtailed play on Aug. 12.
"We had 4 inches of rain in two hours," he "But the next day we had a very busy day. The course was in beautiful shape."