The Club at Patriots Glen

Course makes up for poor entrance

Before the first peg went into the ground on the first tee, I was all set not to like The Club at Patriots Glen, not even a little bit.

At a glance
Getting there: The Club at Patriots Glen is at 300 Patriots Way, Elkton, Md. Call 800-616-1776 or 410-392-9552. From Philadelphia, take Interstate 95 south into Delaware. Take Exit 1A for Route 896. At the first traffic light, turn right onto Old Baltimore Pike. Follow for 3 1/2 miles.

Greens fees: Friday through Sunday and holidays, $55 with cart; Monday through Thursday, $45 with cart. Senior, junior, twilight and nine-hole rates are available.

Carts: Walking is permitted anytime, but cart fees are included.

Amenities: Comfortable, casual and friendly clubhouse with deli-style menu. Driving range, putting green, well-stocked pro shop.

Rating: A strong new entrant in the best-value category of courses. If you like Frog Hollow and Back Creek, you will love Patriots Glen.

Web site: http://www.patriotsglen.com

Information accurate as of 8/04/2003

It had nothing to do with the golf course. I didn't know a thing about the place, other than that it was less than a year old, it was near the Maryland state line off Interstate 95, and it took its historic-sounding name from actual Revolutionary War events that occurred on the site.

What I did not like, right off the bat, what struck me as wrongheaded and even potentially dangerous, was the entrance road into the place.

Never mind that Patriots Way, as it is called, was choked with dust from all the home construction going on; that is only temporary. But why route the busy entrance to a golf club down a residential street that will soon be teeming with young families and children on bicycles and Big Wheels? Is that not asking for trouble?

So, as I stood on the first tee at Patriots Glen last week, I wondered, if they can't get the entrance right, what's the golf course going to be like? As it turned out, just fine.

No debate, no mincing words, Patriots Glen joins the very short list of courses in the area that are great values for the money.

At its top rate of $55 (weekend, with cart) and a midweek rate of $45, Patriots Glen is worth the money and the drive. It's not another posh, country-club-for-a-day facility, and it is not pretending to be. There was nobody waiting with a smile and an upturned palm at the bag drop. And, come to think of it, nobody seemed too concerned with how my day was going.

But so what? The clubhouse was comfortable and casual, not to mention brand-new. And besides, I was springing for $45, not $145.

"We are marketing this course as the best value in the area," said Trent Wright, director of golf. "What we want is a $85-$95 course at $55."

So far, so good. Although Patriots Glen is less than a year old, Washington Golf Monthly has already named it one of 100 must-play courses in the mid-Atlantic region, and it has been nominated as one of Golf Digest's best new public courses.

If there is a reason to be concerned, it is probably about whether the owner, developer Morris Wolf, is going to eventually choke the course with houses nestled right up against the fairways.

Wright says no. "Over the next four to five years, they are going to build 400 houses," he said. "But they will be built away from the course. The fairways will remain tree-lined." So far, so good. There is only one hole on which houses are even seen.

The course sort of sneaks up on you. No. 1, a 400-yard lazy dogleg left, was OK, but no superstar hole. Same thing for No. 2, a 380-yard, straight-away par 4, slightly uphill, with imposing fairway bunkers off the tee.

Midway through the front nine - after a very intriguing, almost driveable par 4 at 315 yards (No. 3), a solid risk-reward par 5 involving scary fairway bunkers (No. 6), and several sprawling, saddle-shaped, bent-grass greens - who wouldn't begin to sit up and take notice?

By No. 8, the No. 1 handicap hole, a long par 4 where you must negotiate water off the tee, waste area and woods to the left of the fairway, a stingy landing area and a green tucked behind a retaining wall, I was becoming a fan not only of Patriots Glen, but also of its architect, Jeff Matthai.

The course never disappointed after that. There is very little water on the course (except for the wrap-around par-5 17th), so Matthai uses mounding, waste areas and creative bunkering as defenses. There is not a lousy hole on the course.

At 6,730 yards from the tips, and a slope/rating of 133/72, Patriots Glen is plenty of golf course, even for single-digit handicappers. Even with several forced carries, as long as they play from the proper tees, even high handicappers will sacrifice a few golf balls, but not their dignity.

Matthai's name may not loom large now, but if Patriots Glen is any indication of what he can do, it eventually will. His early career was spent as an apprentice and underling for bigger-name architects. Now he is out on his own, living in Maryland and working as the designer at Morris and Ritchie Associates Inc., an engineering consulting firm.

Matthai's first full-blown design project was Mountain Branch in Joppa, Md., which he did in conjunction with owner Davis Sezna. As his first solo effort, Patriots Glen should land him enough work to stay busy for a while.

Contact Joe Logan at 215-854-4604 or jlogan@phillynews.com.

Continue Reading