By Matt Hombach
This week, we'll take a closer look at two relatively new courses in the Baltimore Area, Compass Pointe's East Course in Pasadena and Gunpowder Falls in Kingsville.
Compass Pointe East
Compass Pointe offers golfers two separate 18-hole courses to consider, broken up into four separate nine hole tracts -- North, South, East and West. The first to open were the North and West nines in October 2003. The South nine opened in 2004 and finally the East nine opened in July 2005, completing the 36-hole public golf facility. The North and East nines are now combined to create the Northeast course with a more open and links-style feel. The South and West nines are matched up and offer a tree-lined, parkland setting.
Compass Pointe East (Photo Courtesy of Baltimore County Golf)
Legendary golf course architect Lindsay Ervin created the master plan and undertook all golf course design work for Compass Pointe. It bears the hallmarks of an Ervin layout, including picturesque and challenging bunkering and aggressively contoured greens. Compass Pointe boasts bent grass playing surfaces throughout the four nines along with a rough that quickly urges golfers to keep their balls in the fairway.
Like many Ervin-designed courses, the par-36 Compass Pointe East offers five sets of tees to make the course playable for golfers of any age or ability level. From the tips, the black tees measure 3,470 yards and from up front, the red tees go just under 2,100 yards.
The opening hole, a short par-4, can offer golfers both a fast start and a false sense of security. The hole measures only 288 yards from the White Tees and even has a generous slope leading up to the green. If golfers are at all on their game after playing the first nine on the North course, a decent drive and a very short second shot can leave them with a good chance for birdie on the opening hole of the East nine.
The reality check comes on the next hole, a difficult par-4 measuring 364 yards from the whites, and the challenge continues throughout the rest of the nine. Undulating greens force golfers to keep the ball below the hole on their approach and chip shots. Strategically placed sand and grass bunkers and collection areas test golfers' mettle and force them to pull seemingly every club in their bag.
A variety of elevation changes throughout the nine, both obvious and subtle, put a premium on distance control and course management.
The East Nine ends as it began with a relatively short par-4. While the first hole offers a tremendous scoring opportunity, the purse strings can tighten a bit on the finishing hole, though it measures a seemingly pedestrian 301 from the Whites. From the tee box, the hole looks as innocuous as the first, but even a well-hit drive may end up in big trouble off the tee. The green in guarded by a well-placed water hazard and accompanying bunkers. If they find the drink or the beach, golfers will be happy with a bogey. Even if players are hitting it well, they'll be wise to lay up off the tee on the finishing hole and leave themselves a wedge in to the green and a chance for a strong finish.
Compass Pointe has all the trappings of an outstanding public facility including, a full service clubhouse, pro shop and grill area. A 10,000 square foot practice green and driving range with artificial and natural turf hitting areas provides an ideal spot for golfer's to hone their skills.
Baltimore County Golf operates six public golf facilities throughout Baltimore County, but Gunpowder Falls golf course in Kingsville represents a new offering that is unique to the six courses. The course was purchased by Baltimore County Golf and re-opened in 2004 after formerly operating as Mt. Visa golf course. Gunpowder Falls is nestled on 65 acres of rolling farmland in eastern Baltimore County.
Gunpowder Falls (Photo Courtesy of Baltimore County Golf)
While Gunpowder Falls is an 18-hole layout, it is considered an executive-style or mid-length course playing to just under 3,500 yards from the tips and a par of 60, 12 strokes lower than the standard par of 72.
One visit to Gunpowder Falls will change the way people think about executive-style courses. Turf conditions and amenities are on par or better than some outstanding daily fee courses in the area. Gunpowder Falls is an ideal spot for experienced golfers to get in a quick 18 holes and hone their swing and skills with short irons.
"Possibly the best part about playing at Gunpowder for lower handicappers is getting used to making lots and lots of pars and more than the occasional birdie," said Bill Cullum, the head PGA golf professional at Gunpowder. "Too often when golfers 'get it going' and go to a couple under in their round on a full-length course, they get out of their comfort zone and their game goes downhill. Playing a round here where they can expect to score around or under par much of the time helps them get more comfortable going low."
Of course Gunpowder is a terrific place for beginning golfers to play the game and challenge their skills in a low-pressure atmosphere while learning and observing proper golf etiquette. It offers patrons three sets of tees to choose from, standard white and red and "novice" tees that are set up with yellow markers.
"The novice tees will offer even shorter shots for first time golfers to allow them to enjoy playing the course while maintaining the pace of play," Cullum said. "Facilities like Gunpowder Falls are a very valuable and necessary part of the golf industry because they are attracting and creating new players to the game.
Gunpowder Falls' layout contains six par-4's, twelve par-3's (ranging from fairly simple holes of less than 100 yards to tougher tests of up to 180 yards). Ponds set throughout the property provide protection for the large, well-manicured greens at Gunpowder Falls.
Gunpowder Falls also offers a full length driving range and expansive practice green for golfers looking to work on their game or warm up before a round.
9010 Fort Smallwood Road
Pasadena, MD 21122
Northeast course 18 hole rate with cart
Weekend: $70 Weekday: $55
11101 Raphel Road
Kingsville, MD 21087
18 hole rate with cart
Weekend: $27 Weekday: $25
Issue 1.5: May 25, 2006