Hampshire Greens Golf Course in Silver Springs, Maryland: A top quality muni near Washington, D.C.

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- Of the nine municipal courses under the umbrella of Montgomery County Golf, Hampshire Greens Golf Course has the most upscale feel, and it has little to do with the million-dollar homes that surround it.

Opened in 1999, Hampshire Greens is the newest course in the Montgomery County portfolio, and it has the conditioning and quality design to match its affluent zip code.

But the most compelling reason to play Hampshire Greens is its combination of convenience and price. Finding another muni of this pedigree 10 miles from the Beltway in Washington, D.C., is downright impossible. In addition, the long-awaited and recently completed ICC toll road, which connects I-95 to I-270, makes Hampshire Greens even more accessible as it streaks by, just a chip shot to the south.

From the attentive service upon arrival, to the roomy clubhouse, to three-tiered driving range with grass stations, it is clear that Montgomery County Golf had a grander vision for Hampshire Greens.

Hampshire Greens Golf Course: On the course

By the time players reach the first tee, they realize the layout is a departure as well. Many courses open with a simple, straightaway par 4. But that's not the style of designer Lisa Maki. Her first hole at Hampshire Greens takes a 90-degree left turn uphill to a well guarded green.

Welcome to a course full of twists and turns, jagged edges, tilted fairways and blind tee shots. Some have taken Maki to task for her design philosophy, but there's no denying the thrill factor that comes when playing one of her courses. They're never dull, or short on ideas, innovation or ambition.

The result at Hampshire Greens is a challenging course with a great variety of holes. Consider the closing stretch. No. 16 is a 335-yard, downhill par 4 that will tempt some to try to drive the green. The prudent play, however, is a hybrid to the fairway, clearly is the best and safest way to make a birdie as it eliminates the knee-high fescue on the perimeter, a constant concern at Hampshire Greens.

No. 17, a 538-yard par 5 with a wide fairway that bends left to right, can be reached in two by big bombers, but humps and hollows present danger as off-target shots can kick every which way.

No. 18, the longest par 4 at Hampshire Greens at 428 yards, plays every bit of it with a significant tee-shot carry over a scrub-filled retention basin, then an uphill approach to a green fronted by pot bunkers.

Sand is the primary defense at this links-style course. Many of the bunkers are severe as they lie far below the raised greens. Players may be out of their comfort zone standing in a trap and contemplating an explosion to a green that's above eye level.

Measuring 6,837 yards from the back tees, Hampshire Greens might sound manageable, but the canted fairways and blind shots have a cumulative effect. For those who play it conservatively for fear of the unknown, the course will play long.

The four par-5 holes are examples. All are between 536 and 578 yards but none can be described as a two-shot opportunity.

Oddly enough, the longest par 5, no. 2, plays the shortest. It also is the best and most scenic hole on the course, though not representative as it is completely visible from the tee, playing gently downhill. The second shot, to a narrowing fairway, is a great test of decision-making. Even for bombers who can consider a go at the green, there are two routes -- one over a vegetation-filled basin, the other a shaped shot, right to left, which shirts the basin and uses the natural terrain.

Another fun choice awaits at no. 5, a 417-yard par 4 over water to a diagonal fairway where players must decide what line to take off the tee. A bold, well-executed drive will produce a short-iron approach. A timid tee shot can leave players with a fairway wood or hybrid approach, a tough way to go to one of those raised green/deep bunker complexes so prevalent at Hampshire Greens.

While no. 5 is a well conceived hole, it would be much better with an elevated back tee, providing a view of the fairway. Instead, the tee shot is a guessing game as players wonder what exactly lies beyond the tall fescue in the distance.

By contrast, the emphasis on the scoreable, straightforward par 3s is on the aesthetics as all play to picture-perfect green sites, three of them downhill, and none competing with the environment.

Hampshire Greens Golf Course: The verdict

Builing on featureless land that was formerly a landfill provided some challenges for the creators of Hampshire Greens. But there are some dramatic vistas and plenty of other reasons to enjoy Montgomery County Golf's most modern, opulent and interesting course.

Kevin Dunleavy is a longtime resident of northern Virginia, a graduate of George Mason University, an award-winning reporter covering golf, colleges, and other sports for the Washington Examiner, and a single-digit handicap still seeking his elusive first hole-in-one. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KDunleavy.

Related Links

Hampshire Greens Golf Course in Silver Spring, Md. has dramatic twists and turns; canted fairways; deep, sprawling bunkers; undulating greens and several blind tee shots. Playing longer than its 6,837 yards, Montgomery County Golf's signature facility is a rigorous challenge, especially for a first-timer.
12 Images
RedGate Golf Course is gaining traction under the direction of Billy Casper Golf Management. Few courses in the Washington, D.C., area can beat its convenience or price. And none can match the neighborhood feel of the traditional 6,378-yard, par-71 track, which dates to 1974.
12 Images
More from the author
3 Min Read
November 4, 2016
Ocean City has become a bona fide golf destination, with enough stellar public courses to fill even a weeklong trip. And one of them is Ocean Pines Golf & C.C.
4 Min Read
November 23, 2015
There are many stay-and-play options in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C region, but none can match the combination of upscale amenities at a reasonable price, the private-course conditions, the diversity of courses and the Interstate convenience of Turf Valley in Ellicott City, Md.
3 Min Read
June 9, 2015
Since it opened in 1995, family owned Wetlands Golf Club in Aberdeen, Md. has been favored by locals for its fast greens, interesting risk/reward layout, Scottish accents, cozy Cape Cod clubhouse and, most of all, its value.
4 Min Read
January 7, 2015
While golf should never be confused with war, Paul Azinger did learn a valuable lesson from the Navy SEALs for the 2008 Ryder Cup.
3 Min Read
December 5, 2014
As a public course under the new ownership of developer D.R. Horton, the fortunes of Cobblestone Park Golf Club have turned. The evidence is the elegant clubhouse -- in construction limbo for years -- which was finally completed in the fall of 2014.
5 Min Read
December 4, 2014
The seven counties of South Carolina known as the Olde English District is a paradise for golfers who like to play fast, pay less and take the road less traveled.
8 Min Read
November 12, 2023
The rise of artists launching their own companies has changed the way golfers use wall art that impresses their co-workers on Zoom.
3 Min Read
November 30, 2023
We share travel tidbits from Asia, London, Greater Zion and more in our latest column.
4 Min Read
November 15, 2023
The streaming giant picked golf as the medium for its foray into live sports. How did it go?
3 Min Read
November 30, 2023
For six days in early spring, The Old Course at St. Andrews will open its "reverse" routing, offering a completely different experience at one of the world's great golf courses.
Now Reading
Hampshire Greens Golf Course in Silver Springs, Maryland: A top quality muni near Washington, D.C.