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If you need an excuse to drive to Cecil County for a round of golf, Chesapeake Bay Golf Club may be it.
Tucked away in tiny North East, Chesapeake Bay is part of a two-course ownership, the sister course being the former Chantilly Manor, now called Chesapeake Bay Golf Club at Rising Sun.
Chesapeake Bay Golf Club is a misnomer, since the course doesn't actually have views of the Bay. But, as soon as you drive up to the bag unloading area, you'll see some beautiful views. Over the first tee and the ninth green there is a large pond and some wetlands, providing the requisite water view. The entire scene is framed in thick woods, both near and far. In front and below is a dandy putting green. Putting before your round is a good idea since the greens can be very fast.
The elevated first tee plays straight to an elevated green. From there, you head straight for the woods. The course is carved around mature pines, dogwoods and hardwoods, although they shouldn't present much of a problem to most golfers.
More troublesome will be the bunkers, which seem to loom large in nearly every approach shot. The sixth hole, for example, is a long 560-yard par 5, with a dogleg left. Stay right of center on your tee shot to avoid two fairway bunkers in play. Adjacent to the green are wetlands, woods and bunkers galore. On your approach shot it's better to stay short since there is a huge drop-off and bunker in back.
When you leave the sixth green, it's a long drive to the seventh tee, which contributes to making this course a difficult one for walkers. The tee shot from here is like threading your ball through a cannon if you are hitting from the back tees or if the whites are set back. You'll need to stay straight off the tee to keep out of the woods. The second shot on this par-4, 308-yard hole is an approach to a long and two-tiered green.
The ninth hole is a doozy of a par 3. From the elevated tee, it looks like a deceivingly easy 164 yards away. Don't be distracted by the long bunker off to the right of the green. The real monster is a small kettle bunker on the left that you could stand in and not see out of, with little room to swing your club.
Between the 10th and 11th holes there is another long cart ride. Most of the paths are gravel throughout the course, but they are generally well-maintained.
On the back nine, use the par-5, 531-yard 14th hole to make up strokes. It's a long hole, but the fairway is wide and forgiving. Air it out and you could make par or birdie.
At 353 yards, the 17th is a typical par 4 for Chesapeake Bay. The fairway is banked right to left, with a fairway bunker on the left to make things interesting. There's another bunker on the right at the dogleg. The approach shot is straightforward, but there's a huge drop-off behind the green.
My favorite hole has to be the par-3, 136-yard 18th. The tee is from an elevated box, looking down at the green, with the pond beyond. There is a huge bunker on the left and no less than two bunkers on the right. However, if you hit straight, par is easily do-able. It's a great finish to an enjoyable round.
The service at the course is usually good. Bag assistants normally greet you at the drop-off and load your cart.
The course layout on the scorecards is tiny, and no distances are given. Yardage markers are scant. It would be helpful if the course offered a playbook with helpful hints and distances. There are restrooms on the course and water is provided at several holes. The scorecard indicates a 1,200-yard advantage from the women's tees, but it can be a good deal less. The forward tees do cut off several doglegs and minimized some hazards from the tee.
Aside from the nice putting green, Chesapeake Bay offers a large range, bunker and putting area used for golf instruction immediately adjacent to the course. But you have to drive there by car, so plan to arrive early enough to warm up at the range and double back to the start. The David Leadbetter Academy is also offered at the course.
The course is fringed by houses on several holes. One person in our group hit the roof of a house off an errant tee shot.
Chesapeake Bay offers a good quality restaurant, The Knickers Grill, for drinks and meals after your round. The Pro Shop features a surprisingly large selection of equipment, clothing and supplies.
The locker rooms are clean and nicely maintained. Also, be sure to check out their Web site, which is one of the best golf course sites around (www.chesapeakegolf.com). It provides views of every hole, along with some helpful hints for playing them.