Bulle Rock Havre De Grace, Maryland

Spring 2002
Bulle Rock Website

FACILITIES
CONDITIONING
COURSE
STAFF
Pro Shop
10
Tee Boxes
10
Yardage Marker
9
Attendants
10
Range
9
Fairways
9
Pace of Play
10
Starter
9
Practice Green
9
Rough
10
Scenery
9
Marshals
9
Chipping Green
8
Greens
9
Architecture
10
PGA Pro
10
Carts
8
Bunkers
9
Challenge
10
Pro Shop Staff
9
Restaurant
8
Water Hazards
9
Caddies
10
19th Hole
8
Overall:
9
Overall:
9
Overall:
10
Overall:
10

REVIEW:
There are undoubtedly few golf courses more talked about in the DC Area than Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, MD. It’s reputation proceeds itself as THE place to play in the DC area and arguably the entire Mid-Atlantic. Being only 1 of 3 Pete Dye courses within 150 miles that is accessible to the public really makes this a true golf destination. For those golfers unfamiliar with Mr. Dye, he is the mastermind behind such courses as TPC Sawgrass, the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island and Talking Stick. In fact, a great number PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA events are played on courses he has designed or redesigned. Needless to say, his work speaks for itself and Bulle Rock is no exception.

A day at Bulle Rock begins as you drive up the single lane road that winds through the course up to the clubhouse. Immediately, Bulle Rock has all the feel of an elite private club. There is no pomp at the bag drop, just a warm greeting and bag tag with your starting time on it. A tour of the clubhouse facilities yields no detail overseen. There are full locker room services complete with attendants who can do everything from provide you with a locker & towel, to shine your shoes.

Two things are immediately noticed about the golfers at Bulle Rock. One, on the nicest Sunday morning this spring, there are not too many of them. At $145 a round, this is definitely an exclusive course. However, the cost isn’t prohibitive for a sport in an area where country club initiation fees run well over $50,000. Secondly, I notice that of the golfers present all are cart bound. Bulle Rock makes caddies available for those golfers who wish for them. This is a rarity for most facilities in the area, and one would mistakenly assume that golfers would try to take advantage of this amenity. After all, we jumped at the opportunity when making arrangements at Bulle Rock. In the purist’s mind, golf is meant to be played on foot. We wanted that experience, let alone to seek some guidance at an unfamiliar course.

Our caddie was a veteran at Bulle Rock having worked there for 4 years and really knew every inch of the course. He not only acted as our sherpa for the trouble spots at Bulle Rock, but also helped with club selection, reading greens, and measuring yardages. All together, saving quite a few stokes and making Bulle Rock a golfing experience rather than just a round of golf.

Let’s start by saying that there are no bad, tricked up, or gimmick holes at Bulle Rock. In fact, all of the holes are pretty darn good and a more than a few are world class. Taking in the panoramic views, it is obvious that the conditions are top notch. There was a drought this past winter and spring, but Bulle Rock wasn’t paying attention. The entire course is well manicured from tee to green, with nice touches in between. The initial stand out hole is number two, the first par five on the course. It starts with a downhill tee shot and then seems to roll on forever when the fairway then meets a wide stream with a very generous landing area on the other side leading up to a narrow green. As if playing from the tips isn’t enough, the fifth hole adds fuel to the fire this day. It is a 483 par four that doglegs left. It would be a difficult hole if it played downhill, but Mr. Dye put the tee box at the bottom of that slope and the green at the top making this par four play well over 500 yards. Bogey is a good score here.

There seems to be a common theme from the caddie, “You must hit this fairway”, “You can’t be in the rough on this hole” or “Hit the club that will guarantee you will be on the short grass.” The rough is treacherous at Bulle Rock, and this is after they reduced it by an inch since last year. The thick layer of morning dew is only compounding the difficulty of errant shots. However, the conditions are not unfair. There are no tricks, illusions, or gimmicks at Bulle Rock. Perhaps the best advice is for golfers to select a tee set appropriate to their handicap. Not choosing wisely, it was soon evident that we would enjoy the back nine starting a notch closer to the flag.

Taking a turn back towards the clubhouse 7, 8, and 9th holes are as good of an incoming stretch as anywhere. Most noteworthy is the par four 9th which is a sharp dogleg right (almost a 90* angle) with a large pond encroaching the landing area. The first obvious risk reward scenario presents itself. Until this point the course really dictated shot selection, but the tee shot on the 9th leaves a little open for the gambler. Straight down the fairway, a long straight drive will still leave a healthy size shot to the green. A little fade, and that will cut quite a bit off the second shot. However, bananas, power fades, and slices are certain death unless one manages to carry the ball over 265 yards. A good way to hedge your bets on this hole is a smart play just left of the fairway bunker, leaving room for a decent margin of error.

After a stop at the conveniently located halfway house, it’s over to the 10th tee. Only on this side, a good choice is to move up a tee set. The difference is obvious right away. A solid tee shot is rewarded with a short iron to the green. The par five eleventh is another world-class hole. Even with the new choice of tees and the elevated tee box, the hole still plays over 600 yards. It is pretty apparent that not too many eagles are made here. The hole favors a draw off the tee and the second should just set up your most comfortable approach distance.

Some may take issue with the par three 12th. The initial reaction was that this hole begs for an island green. However, that seems to be a bit cliché these days and Mr. Dye pioneered the concept at the TPC Sawgrass’ 17th. If you are going to use the yardage guide supplied at the beginning of the round just once, the tee shot on 13 is the time. A deep ravine runs down the right side and it will gobble up tee shot that wanders even the slightest bit right. This is not easily seen from the tee box, so a look at the guide is warranted. To have a good chance at par, two accurate shots are needed to avoid the ravine, an unassuming uneven fairway lie, and finally the well-bunkered green.

As if the previous par fives were not already a daunting task, Bulle Rock’s final par 5 doesn’t provide any relief. A deep gully with a small creek runs from the behind the green directly down the middle of the hole with a target landing areas leading up the hill to the green. This requires hitting the ball up the slope in “z” like pattern twice over the creek and then to the green. Once this feat is accomplished, at least the green rolls true, as do all the greens at Bulle Rock.

The last of the par threes is the 17th, which provides a picturesque vista from the tee box. While the green is narrow, the hole plays right in to the hands of most average golfers “left to right” ball flight. Aside from one massive bunker starting short and then hugging the right side of the green, par is a good possibility here.

The finishing 18th hole at Bulle Rock does not disappoint. Pete Dye himself has described it as “the most difficult finishing hole I’ve created.” It is a spectacular hole requiring two good shots and two putts for par. A tee shot that wanders left or right will be trouble. There is water in play all the way up the left side and a huge knoll running the down the right side that may not allow for a feasible shot at the green. Once you reach the putting surface, it seems deceptively flat but the water surrounding the green gives it the nuances that three putts are made of.

A course of this quality has a clubhouse and 19th hole to match. The entire facility known as Bulle Rock is flawless. Perhaps the only think wrong with Bulle Rock might be that not enough of it’s patrons take full advantage of all that it has to offer.

RATING:
GolfTest USA recommends Bulle Rock as an “Elite Course” golf course in the Washington, DC area. In fact, it is one of the finest courses we have played anywhere.

Elite Course:
The best the area has to offer
Must Play Course:
Don’t miss playing here
Quality Course:
Good solid track
Average Course:
A standard golf experience
Only in a Pinch:
Below average golf