A Swashbuckling Good Time
Rum Pointe Captures the Saltiness of Links-Style Golf
Ever since the Scotsmen of the 15th century began playing their crude form of golf on the coastal rabbit warrens, players have been fascinated by seaside links. Nowhere else but on these courses — which are often treeless and exposed to the four winds — can the game be so dependent on the elements, one’s shot imagination, and the occasional lucky bounce.
One of the very best examples of a seaside layout here in the “New World” can be found in Berlin, MD. It’s Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, a Pete and P.B. Dye collaboration that opened in 1997. Located on Hwy. 611 a few miles from the Ocean City resort strip, the spectacular course sits on the Sinepuxent Bay overlooking Assateague National Seashore Park. It is here Capt. William Kidd and Edward “Blackbeard” Teach are believed to have hidden some of their pirated spoils when not hiding from the law.
The elder Dye long insisted that his fabled Ocean Course at Kiawah Island featured the most seaside holes in the country. He was wrong. No less than 17 of the 18 holes at Rum Pointe have a bay view (the exception is the short par-4, No. 11 tucked behind some of the few trees on the property) with two holes, Nos. 8 and 16, enjoying direct shore frontage similar to Pebble Beach. And while other watery graves, in particular a large pond shared on the closing holes of both nines, do exists, it is the Scottish-style bunkering throughout that lends more identity to the course. These “traps” range from small pot bunkers to large squiggles, sometimes strategically hidden behind grassy mounds and berms.
When Rum Pointe made its debut, Golf Digest immediately nominated it as one of the “Best New Upscale Facilities” in the United States. Awards and honors have been commonplace ever since, and today GolfWeek has it ranked in the top-5 of all public courses in Maryland. Surprisingly, first-time golfers to Rum Pointe are often lulled into a false sense of security when they initially peer across the course — at first glance it does look like an easy mark. But the fairways, for example, are much narrower than they appear, and only look wide because most adjourn another without any dividing row of trees. In fact, only a brief stretch of holes on the back nine (10-12) offer any type of canopy protection from the sometimes stiff seaside breezes.
As if you haven’t already guessed, wind — even in the middle of summer — dictates play at Rum Pointe. So much so that the flagsticks are only about half the height of ones found at most courses. Locals know how to play the layout in all of its various moods. For out-of-town guests and vacationers, though, it can take some getting used to.
Fortunately the Dyes were kind enough to set up four sets of tee to accommodate most players. From the tips, the par-72 layout measures just over 7,000 yards and would easily be capable of hosting a PGA TOUR stop. But the course loses none of its unique character if played from the other tees which range from 5,276 to 6,523 yards.
The strategy for scoring well at Rum Pointe isn’t brain surgery: attack the holes that put the wind at your back and try to survive the ones that play into its teeth. Depending on wind direction, several of the par 5s can play more like par 4s. The flip side is that you might find yourself reaching for a driver or 3-wood at one of the par 3s. In short, don’t let your ego get in the way when choosing what club to play. Even on a rare calm day, Rum Pointe isn’t defenseless. Water does or can come into play on 14 holes. Most of the holes feature multiple fairway bunker complexes. And the greens, while open in front and susceptible to bump-and-run approaches, are almost always protected on the sides by sand or grass traps.
Another noticeable feature at Rum Pointe is that almost every hole tempts the golfer with a risk-reward choice. And most of the time, the decision comes down to play close to or far away from water. Ironically, there are no real forced carries. Instead, lateral water hazards provide the challenge. Two good examples are holes nine and 18, both par 4s that play around the same lake with greens set side-by-side just in back of the clubhouse.
Just about every hole at Rum Pointe could be considered for a cover photo. Each offers a unique look, whether it be the par-5 No. 13 with its 200-yard plus waste bunker or the par-4 No. 15 with its hidden green ducked behind grass mounds. Still, it is holes eight and 16 that run along the Sinepuxent Bay that get most of the clicks.
As for the playing conditions at Rum Pointe, let’s just say it could host the TOUR’s best on a single day’s notice. The bent grass fairways and greens are superb, and even a shot that lands in the rough sits up nice and pretty (don’t tell the course superintendent that!). This is world-class golf, and because of its location, accessible to most Mid-Atlantic golfers.
An incredible swath of seaside property, the combined design talents of Pete and P.B. Dye, and a commitment by ownership and staff to provide an incredible golf experience make Rum Pointe a natural choice for golfers traveling to Ocean City. TeeTime Golf Pass members can also take advantage of several attractive afternoon offers that make a round there worth any pirate’s booty.