Friday, October 8, 2010

PB Dye: when is tough, too tough?

I will always list PB Dye, in Ijamsville, MD, as one of my favorite courses in D.C.  But god damn its hard.   Maybe even too hard.

Still, PB Dye is one of those courses you need to play if you ever get the chance.   Its a semi-private club that is located quite a ways out from the city, about 50 minutes from downtown, that often offers steal of a deals to entice people to come visit.  Standard rates will run you about $100 on weekends but if you play a bit later in the day its not rare to find tee times on GolfNow for about $50 bucks.  And at that price, it is far better than most courses at comparable rates.

PB Dye isn't hard in the sense that its long, or the greens are too fast, or the rough is too deep.  It's sneaky hard.  And it takes a while for you to realize it.  In fact, I've played the course a dozen or so times, and every time I play it again, it takes until the 8th or 9th hole for me to realize that it is actually extraordinarily freaking hard.  There is just some kind of X-factor that makes this a tough course that I am never going to be adequately able to explain. 

So I will quit trying for now, but just keep that thought in the back of your mind.

The course plays 6,292 from the blues and is set on the rolling hills Catoctin Mountains.  There is some decent elevation change that will make you think about your shot types, and club selections, but there are no dramatic elevation changes.  While lacking in the spectacular, I actually think that this lack of dramatic elevation change makes for a much better golf experience.  We have all had to play to many of those tee shots where we are 4,000 feet up in the air and there is nothing but fairway in front of us.  Sure it makes you feel great to hit a 300 yard drive in the fairway, but it is definitely a gimmick.

The one exception to the dramatic elevation change is the the signature par 3 11th.  It is a beautiful down hill 140 yard hole, that plays to a long narrow green.  What's signature about that you say?  There is water on three sides of the green and on the one side without water, there's a steep hill and that leads to a deep greenside bunker.  Trust me, this is a great hole ladies and gentlemen.  And last week, it was my only birdie of the round.  It felt great.

My favorite hole on the course is the par 5 4th hole.  You have to be a man among men to reach this bad boy in two.  The tee shot is simple enough;  thread your tee shot through a two hundred yard shoot, that is never wider than about 60 yards.  Assuming you've accomplished this, you will hit a generous fairway that runs out at about 300 yards.  Even with a great drive though, you will be left with hefty 260 yards way up a hill, across a river, and to a three tiered green that is protected by a large bunker just in front of the most common pin-placement.  Assuming you've hit the fairway, it sets up nicely for a 5 iron or hybrid layup shot then a short wedge in.  The fairway is severely undulating for the whole 540 yards, and the thick, brambly Forrest encroaches along the right hand side of the fairway, ready to consume an errant sliced ball.  Par here is an excellent score.

The hardest holes on the course are numbers 7 and 18.  The 7th hole requires a bit of local knowledge; you either have to hit your lay up shot 75 yards, or 210 yards.  In between that, your ball is lost.  You would never know it from the fairway, but there is a deep ravine/river that will eat up any ball that is left short.  There are tall groves of trees on either side of the fairway as well, that eliminate your ability to draw or fade the ball into the green.  It is a challenging approach on the best days, but on most, you should just take your medicine, chip the ball down the fairway, and try to escape with par.

Number 18 also provides the shorter players with an impossible challenge; even with an excellent drive there is still a forced carry of 190 for the approach shot.  Oh, and there is water right and a penal bunker left.  My dad hit the best drive of his round, 250 down the middle, but he couldn't carry it across the ravine.  That was certainly a case of tough being too tough. 

Overall the course is great.  It's in great shape, its a great layout, and it is reasonably priced.  I can't really fault a course for being too hard, especially when I can't even explain why.  I certainly recommend this course, and will continue to, but just be ready to get punished. 

Grizzly Golfer Rating:  7.5

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