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This year, the 94th PGA Championship will be played at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. Built in 1991, the Ocean Course is one of designer Pete Dye’s best. It is ranked 25th in Golf Digest’s list of 100 Greatest U.S. Golf Courses and fourth on the Best Public Course list.
Pete Dye is no stranger to our area. He designed The Founders Course at St. James, the Country Club of Landfall’s course in Wilmington and the Dye Club at Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach. S.C.
Dye is known for designs that require intellect rather than brute strength. His hallmarks are small greens, narrow fairways, pot bunkers and the use of vertical railroad ties to create the face of both sand and grass bunkers.
In our travels, Gene and I have played several of Dye’s courses, including TPC at Sawgrass (Florida), Blackwolf Run (Wisconsin) and Brickyard Crossing (the holes run in, around and through the Indianapolis 500 racetrack). We’ve played the above-mentioned Ocean Course at Kiawah (fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean on all l8 holes) and the Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head,S.C.
Last week, we found another Dye course in St. Michaels, Md., also called Harbourtowne (different spelling). On the Eastern Shore of my home state, it was a total delight.
The PGA Golf Professional at Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Convention Center is John Mlynarski. An affable guy, John has been the head golf pro there for 26 seasons.
“Harbourtowne was built in on 167 acres next to the Chesapeake Bay in 1971,” John said. “The main hotel and all of the rooms are located on the 13 acres that front the bay. In 1990, 33 additional rooms were added. This is a very popular sport for conferences, business meetings and weddings.”
“Harbourtowne is a typical Pete Dye Course and has all his hallmarks, but it’s not terribly long. We have narrow fairways, small greens, both grass and sand bunkers and railroad ties on the sides of some of our bunkers. The course is in good condition year-round.”
Harbourtowne has four sets of tees and plays at 6,320 from the tips and 5,055 from the forward tees. Danger lurks everywhere for the golfer who strays. Doglegs on several holes have ponds at the corner. Some narrow landing areas are lined with bunkers.
Hole No. 15 is a perfect example of a Pete Dye hole. This is a par-4 that measures 396 yards from the back tees. The tee box is framed by trees, making a chute out into what looks like an open fairway. Forget it.
The fairway loops around to the right and all along that right rough is a maze of vertical railroad ties that creates an erratic plateau of the fairway. If you hit one of these (Gene and I both did), your ball will come back at you, or fly off in some errant direction. Lost ball, anyone?
The greens were in marvelous condition, fast and true. We had a great time over two days of playing the course.
Even if you’re not a golfer, the Harbourtowne Resort is a fun getaway. Views of the Chesapeake Bay are limitless. Benches and Adirondack chairs are scattered along the shoreline for easy relaxing and watching the water, sea birds and boats.
In addition to Pete Dye golf, St. Michaels is a wonderful town to visit. On the Chesapeake Bay, the town dates back to 1696, when St. Michael’s Episcopal Church was founded. The streets are narrow and many of the buildings were build before the Revolutionary War. Some have been converted to small stores that range from art galleries to craft shops. A Wish Called Wanda sells purses, jewelry and objects d’art. Frivolous Fibers sells yarns and local art. Flying Fred’s Gifts for Pets features gifts for pets and people.
There are dozens of bed and breakfasts all over town, some right on the waterfront. Cherry Street Inn is a small bed and breakfast just off Talbott Street (the main street in town). It was built by a steamboat captain in the latter half of the 19th century. Local legend tells us that Frederick Douglass (famed social reformer, orator, writer and statesman) lived in the house that is now the Cherry Street Inn when he was a teenage slave.
Today, Jane and Greg Virgil own and operate the Cherry Street Inn. We did a quick tour of the Inn, which has two guest suites. Jane showed us the kitchen, where she prepares breakfast each morning. She and her husband often invite guests to their private quarters in the back of the inn, which overlooks a beautiful garden.
Great restaurants with authentic Maryland crab cakes (yum!) are everywhere and some have open-air dining. Dogs are welcome in this town and are even allowed in some restaurants. Doggie water fountains are along many streets.
Fishing and boating are a big part of St. Michaels. Patriot Cruises runs narrated trips in the Chesapeake, telling local history, showing off historic homes on the waterway and highlighting wildlife. Hands-on sailboat cruises provide adventure. Fishing charters are available and several large marinas in the area will allow boat owners to stay and play and tour and shop.
Anyone visiting St. Michaels will be immersed in history. During the War of 1812, the British attacked St. Michaels but their shelling was ineffective. Guest what? The town had hung lanterns from the tops of trees and the masts of ships. In the darkness, the enemy thought they were aiming at houses and boats but were actually firing their cannons over the town. St. Michaels became known as “the town that fooled the British.”
If you love golf, boating, shopping, history, great restaurants and fabulous scenery, visit St. Michaels this year.
It’s to Dye for!
Golf Gab groaner
Whether you play 90- or 100-compression balls, whether they are built for distance or for soft feel around the greens, whether they are white, yellow or pastel pink, they’re all hard to hit under 6 inches of water.
Elsa Bonstein is a golf columnist for The Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.