By Matt Hombach
Nestled in the genteel countryside of northern Baltimore County lies one of the most challenging golf holes in the metro area and maybe even in all of Maryland. The outcome of many professional tournaments, and more than a few Saturday morning Nassaus, has been determined on the par-5 18th hole at Hayfields Country Club.
After feasting on a fairly straightforward par-5 on the 16th hole and surviving a somewhat tricky tee shot on No. 17, the final hole at Hayfields is no “gimme.” The gorgeous finishing hole plays nearly 600 yards from the tips and sets up a classic risk-reward situation.
The finishing hole at Hayfields Country Club plays nearly 600 yards and sets up a classic risk-reward situation. (Courtesy of Matt Hombach)
According to Hayfields professional Doug Hamilton, too many golfers think the risk-reward scenario plays out with the second shot.
“If you want to try to hit the green on 18 in two, you have to take your chances off the tee and aim toward the left side of the fairway,” Hamilton said. “The hole plays a bit shorter that way and can set you up for a shot at the green, but there is plenty of trouble up the left side you have to watch out for.”
The entire left side of the fairway is guarded by an environmental area that is marked as a lateral hazard. If your ball enters the staked-off area, you aren’t allowed to enter it to look for your ball and you’ve gone from looking for a chance at birdie to being elated with a score of five. The environmental area extends up the left side and eventually cuts the hole in half as it runs through the fairway to the rough on the right hand side.
A well-struck tee shot down the left side that steers clear of the environmental area may still find the dense, healthy rough at Hayfields. According to Hamilton, getting close to the green in two from the high grass is a remote possibility at best.
If you’re looking to play it safe off the tee on No. 18, your bail-out, if you will, is the right-hand side of the fairway.
“There’s definitely more room on the right side to land your tee ball safely,” said Hamilton, “but it plays much longer from there and two large fairway bunkers run up the right edge of the fairway.”
If you’re still in play after your tee shot, the second shot doesn’t get much easier. According to Hamilton, there are pretty much three options.
“You can grab your fairway wood or low-lofted hybrid and advance the ball as far as you can toward the green, or you can take a lofted hybrid or iron and hit it strategically to the landing area on the far side of the hazard to a yardage you are comfortable with for your third shot,” Hamilton said.
If you aren’t confident you can clear the environmental hazard in two, Hamilton’s advice is to take a short iron and lay up and face a long, albeit safer, approach shot.
When Ault, Clark and Associates designed the 18th hole at Hayfields, they didn’t let up on the challenges when they mapped out the green. The number two handicapped hole at Hayfields features a green fortified by several massive bunkers. The green’s generous slopes tend to feed slightly off-the-mark approach shots to a collection area to the front left of the putting surface.
Hayfield's No. 18 includes plenty of trouble up the left side for golfers who don't play a safe tee shot. (Courtesy of Matt Hombach)
Whether hitting a longer approach shot or trying to pitch it close to save par, it’s important to keep the ball below the hole on the green to allow the chance to be aggressive with what will hopefully be your only putt and final stroke for your round at Hayfields.
Opened in 1998, Hayfields Country Club is one of the most historic spots in all of Baltimore County. The unique buildings on the club’s campus-like setting date back to the 18th Century. Several of the original structures were made with Beaver Dam marble, the same stone used to erect the Washington Monument.
Located right off I-83, but a world away from the hustle and bustle of Hunt Valley, Hayfields is one of the most conveniently located country clubs in Baltimore. The club is popular with event planners as an ideal location and setting for business and social functions, not to mention a scenic and challenging round of golf.
Issue 2.18: May 3, 2007