The Glade Valley Open

It’s been close to a year (well, 9 months but I promise no one is counting) since my last post about Langston Golf Course. I was inspired last weekend to write about what I think is a national treasure—Glade Valley Golf Club.

Glade Valley is nestled among the corn fields of Walkersville, MD. It’s a par 72 measuring out to just less than 6800 yards from the tips (Blue tees). I’ve played this course more than any other course in the DC area. It’s around an hour and fifteen minutes from Capitol Hill and there are plenty of options for fast food before the round on the way. Side note: one of my golfing buddies introduced me to the Sheetz sandwich. The total lack of human interface in the experience is worth far more than the $4 for the sandwich. Beautiful.

When you arrive at the club, the 17th green and the entire 18th hole are to your left. This is a great opportunity to note the location of the pin on number 17—important because, as I’ll discuss later, the 17th is the most deceiving greens on the course. The parking lot is ample. I’ve never had trouble finding parking and, the lot doesn’t have that vast feeling that other golf course parking lots can have. The driving range, while I’ve never used it, has plenty of hitting space (mats and grass) for a course that doesn’t specialize in tournament play. The range is adjacent to the parking lot so it gains points for convenience.

The clubhouse has what I’m learning, a mid-Atlantic home feel with a decent pro-shop, friendly staff, and a good selection of golf balls. The mainstays for a golf course that focuses on golfers, not on shoppers. The attendant behind the counter is always friendly, smiling, and mindful that your purpose is to get on the course, not chit chat. The Glade seems to take pride in simplicity and “getting the job done.”

Let me take a few seconds to talk about proper practice green design. Practice greens should give you an opportunity to warm up, hit a few flat putts, get yourself in the right frame of mind, sink a few routine four-footers to build your confidence, and give you a chance to hone your rhythm. They should also prepare you for the putts you’ll face on the course. We’ve all been to courses that do only one or the other. My home course in high school had one flat putt; my home course in college was undulation free. Neither satisfied my simple request. Sadly, there are a multitude of courses that, either because they don’t think it’s important or through oversight, completely miss the point of the practice green. Glade Valley isn’t one of them. On the edges, there is plenty of undulation and in the center you have 360 degrees of flat putts to work on. I always spend a little more time than usual putting and, as my best says, hitting some socially unacceptable chip shots.

The starter fits the stereotype: an octogenarian that spends the majority of his day at the course and who doesn’t have time to really offer much more than “good morning” and “you’ll be going off right after this foursome. I’m putting you with a single. Hopefully it’ll be a nice pace out there. I’ll call you when it’s your turn.” What more do you want from a starter?
It’s our turn on the tee. This particular round, my partner and I decide to live-tweet the round under the hashtag #GladeValleyOpen in honor of our usual third player.

The first hole is a fantastic hand shake hole. 350 yards, a little dog-leg right at around the 100 yard marker, some traps on the right so you don’t get too greedy on your first drive and a pretty wide fairway by the Glade’s standard. I just got a new driver and this would be the first time that I hit it on a course so I just play for a little cut down the center. I get what I wanted; my partner (we’ll call him Matt) hits a bit too much of a cut and knocks it into one of the traps on the right. I’m not going to go through every shot – that would take too long. I am, however, going to say that, even being in the trap at 100 yards out, Matt was, at least, able to salvage bogey which is a testament to the fairness of the opening hole.

Number two is a more “let’s see what you’re bringing to the course today” hole. It’s 375 yards, water in front of the green with a serious slope down to the pond. If you’re short on your approach, you’re probably dunked. The good news is that you can bail out long and not really have difficulty getting up and down.

Hole 3 is a straightforward par three with the largest green on the course. Seriously, it’s almost comical how big this green is. I would guess that left to right we’re talking about 30+ yards. Matt got to enjoy every one of those yards with his miss to the right. At 175 yards, that can be expected. Beware the “play to the middle of the green” mind trap.

Four is a par four with some interesting mounding on the left and right. If you miss the fairway, the low-hanging limbs of the trees can make things interesting. Number five is a fun driving hole. The fairway drops a good 20 feet and slopes right to left. If you can put a little draw on your drive, you’ll be a happy camper on your second shot. Hint: bail right, do not try to overcook a draw. As I’ve proven time and time again, that ain’t good.

Number six is the signature hole on the course. At least, it’s the signature hole for Matt. We’ve played the course maybe a dozen times and damn near every time he hits a slice into the middle of the cow pasture just to the right of this hole. It’s usually a spectacular meltdown. This time, to the crowd’s disappointment (and a little bit to his disappointment) he put one down the pipe. I nearly flew mine OB right but got a lucky kick off of one of the trees. It’s a pretty decent par five but rather toothless once you get past the drive. It’s only hazard is temptation to hit more than necessary for a layup at the risk of soaring your second shot into the field right next door.

Seven, or “Jurrasic Park,” takes you into the woods where the tee box is a chute to an astonishingly wide fairway. It’s a short hole at only 350 yards but there’s always a chance of catching a tree branch with a slightly off center drive.

Number eight is a par three that is deceivingly short. I always hit far too much club. I should remember this post next time I play. I probably won’t.
Number nine is a short par five that basically lets you know that a hot dog is coming. Hit the drive with all your might—the payoff is far greater than the risk.

The Dog. Nothing special about the dog. I like that they have hot pepper sauce, dill relish, and onions out for you. Frankly, the BLT was a win; that’s probably my go-to snack for the course from here on out.

The back nine at The Glade is tremendous with a ton of variety. Hole 10 is a pretty long par 4 that plays much shorter than it actually is. The hill that bisect the fairway provides some significant forward roll off the tee that you should only have a mid-iron in. A raised green makes club selection a little tricky, but adding a half club is all we’re talking about. I typically hit a 7 iron when I’m only an 8 out.

Number 11 is a great opportunity to let the big dog eat. It’s a 500 yard par five and, last Sunday, I was 180 yards out. Great opportunity squandered when I didn’t respected the slope of the green. Pay attention to the prevailing lay of the land. When in doubt, the greens break to the east.

Twelve is a straightforward break from the two previous and the two following.

The 13th—my nemesis. 13 is a par three. I take pride in my ability to tame par threes on golf courses. I know that on most, I’m all but guaranteed a par. This hole gets me every time. It’s an 8-iron, 150 yards. What’s so tough? The severe slope left to right leaves every putt an uphill putt. I don’t wanna talk about it anymore. Moving on.

The 14th. Now this is my kind of golf hole. Narrow fairway, tree lined, short (only 312 yards), a sliver of a green, water on the left, a five foot drop off the right, gorgeous. You’d be silly to hit driver, but I always do and it almost always pays off. I have only a 40 yard wedge in. Cake. Never have I even come close to sniffing a birdie on that hole. One of the great frustrations. Like I say, twelve gives you some respite from what’s to come.

If number 12 is a vacation, 13 and 14 are the days immediately back to work, 15 is the Wednesday you take off when you realize that you were just taking a break before all hell broke loose. It’s a run-of-the-mill par 3 that lets you take a bit of a breather. Don’t get cocky and decide to relax, though. The bunkering on this hole will turn a standard par three into an impossible up and down for par.

Number 16 is a par 5 alongside another corn field. The drive is fair; the second shot is tricky. The green is tucked to the left, making the layup more difficult than you’d expect on a hole that’s only 530 yard. If you give yourself plenty of room on the third shot, say 100 yards, you’ll do fine. Don’t waste your time tempting the bunker at 50 yards out.

17 is your first interaction with what my friends and I call “Ray’s Burn.” There’s a shallow, narrow creek that runs through 17 and 18 fairways. It really doesn’t come into play on 17 but it’s there. Remember at the beginning of this diatribe me mentioning the pin position on 17? Well, this where paying attention on the drive in becomes important. The green is deep and the slope from back to front is substantial. If the pin is on the back, add at least a club and a half. If it’s on the back, take away a club and a half. Do not miss right.

Ah, at long last, number 18. Ray’s Burn is definitely in play on the drive. Matt flies it over every time; I do well to hug the Burn on the short side. The green is a monument to itself. Relatively flat, with the exception of the false front, it’s guarded by three bunkers—one to the right, one on the left, and one back left. Not surprisingly, the pin is usually on the left. This is a whole that I strongly recommend just playing to the center. Worst case scenario is that you have a twenty-five footer.

Here’s what I love most about Glade Valley: you can play an inexpensive round on a course that’s designed to challenge you but not make you hate the game. In our usual threesome, we have a guy that shoots regularly in the mid-80s, a guy that shoots in the mid-90s, and a guy that can put together a upper-70s round. Every one of us has a blast on the course; not just because we enjoy each other’s’ company but because the course is never in bad condition and always fair.

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