Technically speaking, the Woodlands golf course in Windsor Mill is just two short miles from the Baltimore Beltway -- an easily accessible location in Southern Baltimore County.
But as you pull down the tree-lined drive leading up the course's expansive clubhouse, the hustle and bustle just around the corner quickly becomes an afterthought.
Tucked away on a piece of rolling terrain that also serves as home to the Diamond Ridge golf course, is a public facility that prides itself on having a private feel. No busy roads or residential areas, just lots of trees and pristine bent grass from tee to green.
"We are close enough to I-695 be convenient, but far enough away to have a secluded atmosphere that is quiet and peaceful," said Assistant Golf Professional Joe Keenan, who has been at the Woodlands since 2008. "We like to think of it as a country club atmosphere in a public course set up."
The course itself features plenty of hills and drastic elevation changes. Three of the four par 3 holes are significantly downhill. And of the remaining 14 holes, nine feature blind tee shots toward fairways that are either well above the teeing ground or disappear out of sight down into a valley.
Adding even more of a challenge is that nearly half the holes bend around to the right or left, making the hole layout markings placed on rocks next to each tee box imperative for first-time players.
As Keenan points out, with water only coming into play on three holes, the terrain and heavily wooded areas flanking the fairways and greens serve as the course's defense against low scores.
"Having so many blind tee shots, that's definitely challenging. Then you throw in the narrow landing areas on some of the holes and side-hill lies, it definitely tests your accuracy," he said. "I would say, for the most part, the course puts more of a premium on accuracy over length."
Opened in 1998, the Woodlands is generally the same course it was when it first opened. A few bunkers have been renovated, the trees have grown, but there are few other cosmetic changes to the 18 holes themselves.
The course did, however, get an entire fleet of brand new golf carts in February. The E-Z-Go gas-powered carts are equipped with USB chargers and rain-guard technology to keep clubs dry in the case of rain during a round.
The practice area is expansive, featuring two practice putting greens on opposite sides of the clubhouse to go along with a separate chipping green with sand traps down closer to the driving range. The range itself has 45 hitting stations -- off mats --with plenty of target options.
Inside the clubhouse, there's a golf shop that serves as the check-in for both courses on the property, locker rooms, a full-service food and beverage operation and an indoor event room that can accommodate up to 60 guests.
For the larger events, an all-weather pavilion adjacent to the Woodlands' first hole is frequently utilized.
As one of the five Baltimore County Golf courses, the Woodlands offers several discount opportunities. The Advantage Card, Frequent Player Card and Loyalty Reward Program each provide unique savings opportunities for regular players. Visit www.baltimoregolfing.com/rewards for more information.
Address: 2309 Ridge Road, Windsor Mill, MD 21244
Driving Range: Yes (45 stations -- Mats)
Putting Green: Yes (two separate greens around clubhouse)
Chipping Green: Yes (including three sandtraps)
In-season weekday morning round 18 holes with cart: $59 (General Public)
In-season weekend round 18 holes with cart: $76 (General Public)
Full rate breakdown: http://www.baltimoregolfing.com/course/woodlands/woodlands-rates
Locker room: Yes (Showers, towels and lockers available free of charge)
Best Par 3: Tie -- 2nd and 14th hole
These two holes have a very similar feel as they each feature a straight downhill tee shot to a green guarded by a pair of deep sand traps. The second is a little more exposed and plays longer, which brings the wind into play more. The 14th has a slightly smaller green and the bunker in front is larger.
Best Par 4: 12th hole
There aren't many holes where water comes into play, but this one features ponds on both sides of the fairway off the tee. It also isn't a short hole, playing almost 400 yards even from the middle tees. The slightly uphill approach shot is guarded by a large bunker in the front of a sloping green.
Best Par 5: 17th hole
The shortest par 5 on the course may also be the most difficult, providing a great risk-reward opportunity. Tee shots are blind toward a fairway that rise up a ridge and then falls down to the left. Dense trees line the entire left side. Long hitters can actually catch the downslope and give themselves a realistic chance to reach the green in two. The entire second half of the hole is straight downhill, making for some great views. But it's the around the green that this hole gets incredibly difficult. A bunker guards the entire landing area in front of a putting surface that is the most narrow on the entire course and runs from front to back. There isn't a flat spot on this green, which may very well be one of the most difficult in the region.
Overview: The elevation changes are drastic and are apparent on practically each of the 18 holes, making for some picturesque shots. But the terrain also makes scoring extremely difficult, especially for golfers hitting the ball slightly offline or struggling to control distance. This is not a course to walk, with lengthy stretches between holes and hills around every turn. It is in that vein that golf carts are included in the green fees and no discounts are offered for walking. The course is in excellent shape, with greens that roll true and are fairly receptive to approach shots. The variety of holes and the fact that local knowledge goes a long way makes this a venue worthy of a return visit.
This article is written by Brent Kennedy from Howard County Times, Columbia, Md. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experts on the business and game of golf. The best coaching tips and latest golf news delivered straight to you. Sign Up to get the latest.