Passing through the entrance gate, under a quaint stone archway supporting the railroad tracks above, the introduction to Bulle Rock begins before you even step out of your car. Flanking either side of road, Bulle Rock presents a preview of what’s to come on the course, with unencumbered views of the front nine finishing holes to the left, and back nine openers to the right. It’s an ideal way to become acquainted with this Pete Dye gem.
After the short drive through the property, you’ll reach the clubhouse positioned near the highest point at Bulle. From the back patio of Silks restaurant, be sure to take-in impeccable views of the finishing hole in the foreground, and the Chesapeake Bay on the distant horizon.
Our Experience at Bulle Rock
We were joined for round 30 of the Ultimate Golf Road Trip by Cory, a friend from my undergrad days at Clemson University. He’s a former Clemson Club Golf teammate of mine and a current resident of the greater D.C. area, a mere 90-minutes from Havre De Grace, where Bulle Rock is located. Our games weren’t always on point, but we had a ton of fun on this layout!
After smacking some balls on the nice-sized driving range and rolling a few putts on the expansive short-game area, we were off to tackle the golf course. A friendly 358-yard opening par 4 with a generous fairway yielded an opening birdie for Cory, and had us thinking that perhaps this might be a Pete Dye pushover.
One fist bump and a short walk over to the second, and that thought was quickly erased as we stared down the narrow 572-yard par 5 second, flanked by dense trees leading to a kidney shaped green in the distance. Aside from the claustrophobic feeling from the tee, a perfectly positioned fairway bunker, meandering creek and a variety of green-side bunkers – large and small – stared back at us as we pondered our strategy.
This becomes a common theme on the 7,375 yard par 72 layout (Championship tees), as Dye utilizes a variety of landscapes and hazards to challenge, intimidate and intrigue golfers. Here are 5 things you should know before playing a round at Bulle Rock.
5 Things To Know Before Your Round at Bulle Rock
1) Hole variety keeps things interesting
One of the best traits of Bulle Rock is the variety it brings to the table. Though there are numerous holes that stand alone on their own, there are equally as many that provide expansive views of surroundings, with few trees to speak of lining their fairways. As much as some holes like the narrow 5th or 14th demand your undivided attention, the par 3 7th offers vistas at every turn.
The roughly 250 acres provides a diverse mix of landscapes, but it all tends to work quite well together. The center of the property delivers the more “wide-open” views, while the perimeters feature towering trees. These contrasting styles help to keep things interesting as you work through the golf course. Further, you’ll need every shot in the bag as the course throws a little bit of everything at you — dogleg left and rights, uphill and downhill approaches, lengthy and strategic-style holes.
We chose to play the Championship tees, which proved to be a long layout, however there are six sets of tees meaning there’s a proper yardage for everyone — the men’s tees measure just over 6,000-yards, a very playable yardage for most.
2) Fescue is everpresent
Before you jump to the conclusion that the aforementioned holes with “wide-open” viewing areas are painfully easy, I’m here to deliver a message: lookout for the fescue. I was surprised at how much fescue actually comes into play throughout the golf course. Sure, there’s plenty of room to find fairways, but many of the holes you might think to relax on (after emerging from the narrow tree-lined fairways) actually pack just as much of a punch.
The par 5 8th is a prime example where few trees come into play, but fescue awaits wayward shots. The hole bends slightly to the left, tempting longer hitters to bite off some yardage (though the aggressive line brings the tall stuff into play).
If you do find the fescue, do the prudent thing by grabbing a wedge and hacking back into the fairway. You scorecard – and wrists – will thank you.
3) Hazards are lurking at every turn
Standing on the tee box of 202 yard par 3 12th hole is an intimidating experience, as a lake runs the length of the hole, ready to capture any mishits to the right while several deep bunkers await bailout shots to the left.
If you do make it around this golf course avoiding the many bunker complexes, you’ll certainly feel a deep sense of accomplishment. Dye did an exceptional job positioning bunkers in landing zones, while also peppering greens with everything from expansive traps stretching the length of greens to tiny, yet deep pot bunkers that will all but guarantee a bogey.
There’s not an overabundance of water, but enough to challenge golfers where it’s present. The reachable par 5 15th features a narrow creek that’s seemingly benign, but comes into play on every shot, while the par 4 18th presents a hazard that invokes a little more fear from tee to green.
4) Pete Dye’s fingerprints are everywhere
The more holes you play, the more you see Dye’s signature characteristics come into play. Most noticeable are the railroad tie’s used throughout, lining many grass-banks and bunkers. They yield a cool aesthetic, especially on the green-side bunkers on holes 13 and 15.
5) A more natural design than most
After playing Bulle Rock, it wasn’t evident to me that a ton of land was moved to create this championship course. Of the many Pete Dye courses I’ve played, this seemed to be one of the more natural courses, with the routing and layout dictated by the land presented. Then again, when you have a great piece of land like that at Bulle Rock, it’s a wise decision to utilize what nature created!
Bulle Rock is one of the more playable Pete Dye courses you’ll find, with less emphasis on impossible golf holes and more on a fair and fun test of golf. As former host to the then McDonald’s LPGA Championship, there are still plenty of challenging holes to be found on this championship layout. Still, you’re likely to have a little pep in your step after the round, as you climb the steps to the clubhouse back patio and enjoy a cup Silks Signature Maryland Crab Soup, while overlooking this beautiful public golf course.
Other Useful Info*
Course Yardage: Championship tees – 7,375 yards (76.6/148) // White tees – 6,018 yards (70.6/135)
Greens Fees: $79-130 (In-season) / $79 (Off-season)
Overnight Accommodations: None on property; hotels in nearby downtown Havre De Grace
Caddies Available: Yes. See pricing here
Clubhouse Amenities: Restaurant & bar, outside patio with a view, locker room
Driving Range: Yes; on-site driving range with multiple target greens
Short Game Area: Putting green & separate pitching/chipping greens with bunker
*As of 6/25/2017