The Links at Lighthouse Sound

6,556 yards, 133 slope from the Golds

Course:  One of the top rated courses in Ocean City, Maryland, Lighthouse Sound offers dramatic scenery among the wetlands and bay, a challenging penal set up courtesy of Arthur Hills, and…the longest cart bridge in the country!  My only other experience with Hills is White Clay Creek and after playing here, I have a clear understanding of what he likes out of his courses; raised greens, blunt and some times unrelenting challenge and a few one of a kind holes (for better or worse), mixed with some standard fare.  Finally, forced carries are aplenty.  And that’s how I’d describe Lighthouse.  The course enjoys a very good reputation and I believe it’s well earned for the most part.  I had a nice round here and aside from a few holes where I was wondering if I was playing Golden Tee, does a good job presenting different types of golf holes and shots.

I was in Ocean City recently and finally had a chance to play a round here in the late afternoon.  This was the second leg of a 36 hole day for me, so I as warmed up and ready to go.  After hitting some shots with confidence at the driving range, I stepped up to the First tee, took aim, and blasted my drive 30 yards short of the pin.

The First is a 332 yard par 4 (from the Golds).  No, I didn’t crush a 300 yard drive; I played from the Blues.  A vast waste area is along the entire right side, with a larger bunker fronting the right side of the green while the left side has a single bunker on the fairway and another one further up next to the green.  Most well struck tee shots have a shorter approach that shouldn’t be all that tough so long as you’re not too far over from one side or the other.  It’s a nice starting hole that really, lulls you into a sense of false hope.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 496 yard par 5.  The hole has trouble along the entire right side, forcing you to favor the left although a few strand bunkers, rough and the cart path are on the left to keep you honest.  The green is deep yet narrow and this is yet another good scoring hole.  Enjoy it for now.

The Second

Second shot territory

The Third is a 173 yard par 3.  The course starts to get cute with a double green here, sharing it with the Second.  It’s an angled tee shot at about 11:00 with tons of room short and left, which narrows as you get pin high.  The run off ledge of the green to the left and the bunker could cause some trouble, but it;s another decent scoring hole.  It was at this point the false sense of confidence was fully set in and I think I was starting to think a personal best was just around the corner.

The Third

The Fourth is a 385 yard par 4.  The tee shot begins one of infinity forced carry tee shots over marsh land that blocks your view of the fairway.  Stay left of center to make sure you have a good look at the green for your approach.  Anything right is dead.  If the wind is blowing, the tee shot seems insurmountable.  The fairway is narrow as is the green and as it is set directly on the bay, approach shots need to be precise.  It’s a challenging hole for sure, but I think all that confidence from the last three holes got me through this one unscathed.  Barely.

The Fourth

The other side of the fairway

Second shot territory

The green, looking out at the bay

The Fifth is a 185 par 3.  An almost ludicrous hole if the wind is up (which it was when I played).  The hole plays along the bay and is a forced carry most of the distance to the hole.  The green is pitched and raised, deep pot bunkers are in the front and nothing is in the back.  Oh yeah, the green is only 18 yards wide.  Nice views though.  The yardage book touts it as one of the toughest par 3’s on the East coast.  While that may be true, there are simply too many variables here making it tough to make par outside of the golfer’s control.  You could hit a shot as well as you ever have, then gusts of wind and a bad bounce take your ball OB.  It would actually be an extremely good hole if it wasn’t a forced carry to the green, but instead you had the option of keeping the ball low, in my opinion.  It’s a controversial hole for sure, but it definitely sends the intended message: prepare to grind.

The Fifth

Another look as you take the trail to the green

The Sixth is a 385 yard par 4.  After licking my wounds from the Fifth, I thought I might get back to scoring, until I saw the approach shot.  The bay is along the right side of the hole as the fairway turns every so slightly to the left to a raised green, where anything too far or left is essentially caboodled.  With the wind, angle and hitting to the raised green, it’s a tough approach, but you should be short enough from the tee shot to have a chance.

The Sixth

The Seventh is a 585 yard par 5.  This reminded me a lot of the Third at White Clay Creek, which is also a forced carry tee shot, forced carry approach shot, try to figure out whether you lay up or go for it second shot.  The tee shot here is tougher, as you must aim more left than you think is necessary, with the fairway canting left to right.  There is a good amount of room after the forced second/third shot, so figure out what you’re most comfortable with and set yourself up for a good third shot to, yep, a raised green.  The yardage book actually reminds you to stock up on balls at the pro shop, as you pass it after this hole.  Because of this, the Seventh actually feels like the Ninth, so it feels like you get two extra holes!

The Seventh

Second shot territory

Approach shot territory over the second forced carry

The Eighth is over towards the First, completing the loop around the bay and making the Eighth feel like the Tenth yet again.  It’s a 326 yard par 4 and seems to be a bit of a breather from the firing squad that is the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh.  There’s a pretty big waste area along the left side of the hole all the way up to the green.  Driver may actually run out of the fairway, so take your pick with a shorter club off the tee to set up a shorter approach shot.  The green runs directly off into the waste area on the left side, which can multiply strokes quickly, so favor the right center of the green.  It’s a nice par 4 that provides a good refreshing scoring chance while also requiring some thought and shotmaking decisions.

The Eighth

Approach shot territory

The Ninth is a 396 yard par 4.  The voyage from the Eight to the Ninth reminded me of the trip from the Second to the Third at White Clay, but here, you get to ride on the country’s longest cart bridge!  Once you reach the Ninth, the natural landscape has changed and you are now faced with a tree lined fairway, up to a raised green.  Marshland creeps in a little on the right, almost like Hills just couldn’t help himself and had to at least hint at a forced carry.  Generally though, the hole is straightforward and should be another good scoring opportunity.

The Ninth

The front nine provides terrific scenery along the Assawoman Bay, which also provides lots of challenge with the wind, forced carries and blind shots.  There were a few pretty good holes, some standard fare and a little too much what I’ll call aggressive design.  Ranking them, I’d go 4, 6, 7, 8, 2, 1, 3, 9, 5.

The back nine continues right along (just like at White Clay) with the 296 yard par 4.  Playing the Blue tees that were forward of the Golds, a few of us saw this as a green that could possibly be reached from the tee, provided we could get the right bounce and roll.  I decided to go for it and ended up in a green side bunker, which still left me with an up and down for a possible birdie (missed the birdie putt).  From the tee, a bunker juts out to block your view of the green and the green is of course raised, a little higher  than usual.  To me, laying up for a reliable approach may be a good idea, but the green looks like it repels shots, so I wanted to get as close as possible to it with my tee shot.

The Tenth

Approach shot territory

The Eleventh is a 169 yard par 3.  Another raised green, with a large deep bunker on the left short side. Anything too short or right is basically gone.  Get your distance right and get the ball in the air.  A tough yet fair par 3.

The Eleventh

The Twelfth is a 545 yard par 5.  It’s actually one of my favorite holes on the course.  Of course you start out with a forced carry tee shot over marshland to a somewhat narrow fairway, which meanders up to what else but a raised green, with a sunken bunker that splits the fairway.  A river runs along the left and woods are along the right, with the green multi tiered.  It’s a great setting and the contours and ripples of the fairway make it a pretty fun hole to play.

The Twelfth
Second shot territory

Approaching the green from the left side, that darn sun did its best to hide it from me

The Thirteenth is a 172 yard par 3, kind of set in a little alcove of marshland plants.  The tee and green are essentially level with each other, but the space between them is sunken.  A large bunker fronts the green and the green runs from back to front.  Lots of room on the right though.

The Thirteenth

The Fourteenth is a 432 yard par 4.  Surprise!  Forced tee carry!  The fairway then bends a little to the right, but it’s just the way the fairway is shaped, with a bunker or two set on one side or the other as you  proceed towards the green.  The fairway slopes right to left as well, but should be a good scoring hole so long as you nail your tee shot.

The Fourteenth

Down the fairway

Approach shot territory

The Fifteenth is a 409 yard par 4.  Yet another forced carry tee shot which bends to the left, while water is along the entire left side.  Mounds and an embankment reside on the right side and the green is only slightly raised. The hole tries to goad you to keep it towards the left to shorten its length, but I didn’t see a need to do that on this one.

The Fifteenth
Down the fairway

The green

The Sixteenth is a 333 yard par 4.  It’s similar to a Cape hole, as the hole dog legs right and you can try to cut as much of it as you can handle over marsh land.  The hole is rather short as well, which makes it even more tempting.  There are other options as well, depending on how you want to proceed off the tee.  The green is multi tiered and can make putting difficult.

The Sixteenth

A view of the green from the rough on the right

The Seventeenth is a 432 yard par 4.  The tee shot is only half a forced carry, as there is room on the right should you wish to roll the ball to the fairway.  The fairway is interesting, as it cants from right to left, with the left side ending into tall marsh plants.  The green is long and angled from 5:00 to 11:00, while the fairway branches below to a bail out area, leaving you with a pitch to the green.  The long shot into the green gives you some options and the green is receptive to a long shot, so it’s another hole I felt was well done.

The Seventeenth
The fairway, as it branches to the left while the green is straight ahead.  The patches of grass separating them are a good touch

The Eighteenth is a 505 yard par 5.  A nice finishing hole that starts out with another half forced carry tee shot to a fairway that’s pretty generous, just resist the temptation to go too far right into the grouping of bunkers.  The second shot then looks like you proceed straight ahead to the clubhouse, but the green is actually curled over to the left, overlooking the water.  There’s not much stopping you from trying to get there in two, except anything too far off to either side puts you OB.  The green is of course raised, but the view once you get up there is a great one, and leaves you with a pretty good feeling as you head over to the Nineteenth to brag about your round for the ages.

The Eighteenth
Second shot territory.  The green is about 10:00 from here

There is the green, raised and tempting

View from the green

Looking back at the hole from the green

I enjoyed the back nine more, as I thought there was more creativity, more options and better use of the land.  The par 5’s were great, par 3’s pretty good, while a couple of the par 4’s stand out a little.  I’d rank them 18, 17, 12, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 15.

Generally, Lighthouse Sound has a handful of really fun holes, a lot of challenge and a few holes that are either standard fare or tough for me to figure out.  For sure the course is well maintained and it definitely beckons repeat play just like White Clay Creek does for me.  Like White Clay, however, a strong tee game is a must or it will be a very long day.  Regardless, it is one of the stronger courses in Ocean City and should be included on any short list.

Gripes:  Closing down the clubhouse for some type of gathering always agitates me; can’t some type of area be set up for the golfers?  Green fees are a little steep IMO.  As mentioned before, the design some times gets in this course’s way.

Bar/grill:  A great inside and outdoor area, overlooking the driving green, Seventh green and putting green.  Great beer and food as well.  It gets my vote over Rum Pointe at least in this regard.

Clubhouse:  Well stocked, nice apparel selection and well stocked with clubs.

Practice area:  Natural grass with unlimited balls, separate chipping and putting areas.  Like it should be.

Nearby:  Not much, although Ocean City is 5 minutes away.

Getting there:  It’s off the 50th Street bridge, just before you get in to OC.

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