Ocean Pines golf course near Ocean City, Maryland: A public play that still feels private

OCEAN PINES, Md. -- For decades, golfers traveling to the north end of Ocean City, Maryland got a tantalizing glimpse of forbidden fruit.

Along the thickly wooded Ocean City Expressway, visible for an instant through a gap in the trees, were two elegant holes of Ocean Pines Golf & Country Club.

In those days, you could look at the private club, but you better not touch, unless you were the guest of a member.

Adding cache to Ocean Pines was its designer, Robert Trent Jones Sr., the first of his field to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Opened in 1972 as part of a sprawling housing development, Ocean Pines was an elusive gem in an area sorely lacking in public golf options.

But that was then. And this is now: Thanks to a golf-course building boom, which began in the mid 1980s, Ocean City has become a bona fide golf destination, with enough stellar public courses to fill even a week-long trip.

And one of them is Ocean Pines.

The fact that anyone can play the golf course isn't news to golfers who reside on the Delmarva Peninsula. But it might be for visitors who have long written off Ocean Pines as unattainable.

True to its understated nature, word of the change was unadvertised and generally passed by word of mouth. The course still shies away from its status, calling itself a "private course with public play," on GolfNow.com.

Ocean Pines Golf & Country Club: The course

Traditional, tree lined and flat, Ocean Pines wends its way through woodlands and wetlands, through a development of modest homes, many with prized waterfront lots. This becomes clear on the uniquely set third hole, which runs along a lagoon where nearly every home has a motorboat tied to a dock.

Homes are visible on many holes but only by peering through thick woods. It would take a seriously off-line drive to reach any of them.

Robert Trent Jones is notorious for saying, "Every golf hole should be a hard par and an easy bogey." He was true to his word at Ocean Pines, which remains his only work on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The fairways are narrow and bending. While the greens are large, they are heavily guarded. Seven are bordered by water hazards. Many more are protected by steep-faced bunkers.

Fairway bunkers also are prevalent at Ocean Pines and can often convince players to leave their driver in the bag, especially on the dog-leg holes, of which there are 11. This makes the golf course a rugged test from the back tees, which play longer than their measured 7,074 yards, with a 74.8 rating and 135 slope.

Anyone without a single-digit handicap should step up at least to the middle (white) of five sets of tees (6,179 yards/69.3/125).

Ocean Pines Golf & C.C.: Highlights

Toughest hole: No. 18 -- the 415-yard par 4 has a narrow, sloped fairway, pinched by a bunker on the left side. The approach is over water to a wide but shallow green. "The second shot better be good, or you’re in trouble," Ocean Pines member Kevin Hughes said.

Best hole: No. 14 -- all the holes at Ocean Pines are named. This 90-degree-angled, dog-leg right has been appropriately dubbed Hell-uv-a Hole. With a good drive, players will have a choice to go for the green or layup. Either way, they must contend with a large pond that runs up the right side and woods on the left, framing a narrow, intimidating fairway.

Prettiest hole: No. 7 -- beautifully set with woods on all sides, the tee shot to this secluded gem is to an undulating green guarded by steep bunkers and a pond.

Ocean Pines Golf & Country Club: The verdict

Ocean Pines' classic lines have stood the test of time, though over the years, the course has required some agronomic tweaks.

It wasn't long ago that Ocean Pines would resort to painting over bare spots on greens. But that's no longer necessary. The condition of the smooth, fast bentgrass greens has greatly improved over the last five years after the removal of more than 1,000 trees, giving the course more air.

The facility retains its private feel as golf access is in the bottom floor and the rear of the clubhouse, hidden from view from the parking lot. With wooden lockers and a card table in the middle, the locker room has a retro feel. Same for the pro shop and grill with their clear glass walls.

The practice facilities are ample, with a driving range, two putting greens, a chipping green, two practice bunkers and learning center.

Combined with Robert Trent Jones' sophisticated layout, it all adds up to traditional elegance at Ocean Pines, a feel that can't be found at any other public course on the Delmarva Peninsula.

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.
0 Comments
Related Links
Ocean Pines Golf & C.C. sits across the bay from the resort town of Ocean City, Maryland. Now open for public play, this Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design boasts tight, tree-lined fairways and heavily guarded greens.
11 Images
If you like seaside golf, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware is your ticket. There aren't a hundred golf courses here like there are in Myrtle Beach, but the quality is just as good if not better, albeit perhaps a little more expensive. Best of all, though, for those who live in the big cities of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, it's convenient.
4 Min Read
More from the author
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 17, 2014
Sniping at Chief Executives for hitting the course has long been a sport in itself. In chronological order, here's a brief look at each of the presidential golfers -- their games and their contributions to golf.
Popular
20 Images
November 1, 2021
Golfers sent us photos from Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup venues, plus a famous 19th hole by Tiger Woods.
2 Min Read
November 15, 2021
Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and world-class instructors help you get up-and-down more often.
6 Min Read
November 20, 2021
Help the golfer in your life shoot lower scores, look and feel better than ever this holiday season with these eight golf gifts.
12 Min Read
November 18, 2021
Golfers can choose from a wide variety of portable launch monitor price points and user experiences. Here is what's new and the best ones to consider to improve your golf.
Load More
Now Reading
Ocean Pines golf course near Ocean City, Maryland: A public play that still feels private