Head to Maryland to play the 'Monster Mash'

By Jake Schaller, Contributor

LAYTONSVILLE, Md. -- When Blue Mash Golf Course opened in August of 2001, it helped fill a substantial void of high-end, daily-fee golf courses in Montgomery County. Due to zoning problems with the county government, many course architects had looked elsewhere, like Frederick, to lay down designs. Even Blue Mash took nearly a decade to be built due to clashes with the local government.

But when it finally opened, Blue Mash was an oasis for those in Montgomery County -- and others inside the Beltway -- searching for a more upscale course than the county revenue authority's offerings. While it did not have the mountainous backdrops, dramatic elevation changes, lost-in-nature feel or overall aesthetic beauty of its Frederick brethren, Blue Mash was more accessible for players around the Beltway and came at slightly less of a price than Frederick favorites Whiskey Creek or Maryland National. You can walk the course for $48 during the week and ride for $58.

When the course first opened, however, it was immature and perhaps not prepared for the traffic it welcomed. The back nine, in particular, probably had at least another year of maturing to do, and the course showed the ill effects of early wear and tear.

"As with any new course, it takes a little time to mature," says Jason Slack, the head golf professional at Blue Mash, "but the owners [Tom Healy and Joe Hills] are pretty committed when we have any issues and they do what it takes to remedy it. We're in excellent condition right now, and will continue to improve over the years."

Two years after its opening Blue Mash is far more mature and its amenities have improved. A large practice area is available with chipping and putting greens as well as a grass driving range. A new clubhouse overlooking the practice facility and 10th tee opened in April of this year. The clubhouse has a full-service pro shop, a restaurant that offers a full menu, expanded bathrooms with lockers and showers, and a dining area and terrace.

"Being able to provide all the services golfers need has helped us tremendously," Slack says. "We now have a place where players can come in after their rounds to watch television and have a beer. It makes for a much better experience."

The course itself helps the experience as well. Crafted by noted course designer Arthur Hills -- who also designed Waverly Woods, an exquisite daily-fee offering in Ellicott City -- Blue Mash gets its name from the lowland on which it was built, originally named Blue Marsh. The freed slaves who were given the land, pronounced it without the "r."

Hills had a relatively flat, swampy landscape with which to work and aesthetic problems such as a power line that runs through the course. But he did his usual masterful job in creating a course that is full of risk-reward choices and is challenging but not overly penal.

From Olney-Laytonsville road, which borders the course to the south, Blue Mash has the appearance of a links-style course, and indeed, most of the front nine and portions of the back play as such. Holes 1-5, 9-13 and 18 are open, often separated only by tall grass that would not look out of place on a British Open Course, but force players to account for wind. Blue Mash sits out in front of you with no blind shots or forced carries on any of its par-4s or par-5s, but it is not by any means a pushover.

The course measures 6,885 yards from the tips, which is quite a haul for a par-71 layout and its length shows itself immediately. Blue Mash's first three holes -- all long par-4s that measure a combined 1,379 yards -- can ruin a scorecard.

"We call those our warm-up holes," Slack jokes.

You may want to hit the driving range before stepping up to the first tee. Hills starts you out with a 449-yard dogleg right that plays slightly uphill. The second par-4 plays 452 yards from an elevated tee box but finishes at a narrow green guarded in front and to the right by deep bunkers.

After two stern tests, Blue Mash's third hole is nothing short of a kick in the teeth. If 478 yards were not enough, the par-4 third plays to an elevated green and almost invariably into the wind. Most players will need to hit two shots as well as they can to reach in regulation. Changing the hole to a par-5 was discussed when the course first opened.

"It's a great par-4 into the wind," Slack says. "It's a little lengthy, but it's a good hole."

The par-5s at Blue Mash can be reached in two only by big hitters, with the exception of the 12th, which plays to 500 yards from the tips. All are challenging. No. 5, a 580-yarder, has woods along the left side of the entire hole and bunkers meandering through the fairway. And it plays to a narrow green. The ninth (548 yards) has water running along the left side of the fairway, and the 12th has water along the right. The 562-yard 18th is probably the toughest, playing uphill and into the wind.

Two of the five par-3s -- Nos. 6 (160 yards) and 13 (177 yards) -- offer reasonable chances for birdie, while the others demand good tee shots. There are woods to the left and tall grass to the right on the 206-yard fourth, water to the right and front of the 217-yard 11th and a forced carry over a lake to a peninsula green on the 192-yard 17th.

The par-4s (after the first three) almost invariably set up risk-reward choices. Confidence and a well-struck driver usually leave nothing more than a wedge to the greens, while irons are the safe play. At the 378-yard 14th, you can lay up with an iron before a bunker that stretches across most of the fairway or try to blast over it. Flying it, however, brings the woods into play, which start on both sides of the fairway around the bunker.

According to Slack, Blue Mash's playing numbers have risen each year. The course now offers annual memberships from $995 to $3,395 depending on how much the golfer plans to play.

"It's in such a great location, and people like the layout," Slack says. "It's a good, challenging golf course that's a little different from others in the area."

Where to Stay

Gaithersburg Hilton
620 Perry Parkway
Gaithersburg, Md. 20877
(301) 977-8900

Gaithersburg Marriott Washingtonian Center
9751 Washingtonian Boulevard
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(301) 590-0044

Red Roof Inn
497 Quince Orchard Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
(800) 359-4827

Comfort Inn at Shady Grove
16216 Frederick Road
Gaithersburg, Md. 20877
(800) 359-4827

Where to Eat

The Inn at Brookeville Farms
19501 Georgia Avenue
Brookeville, MD 20833
(301) 924-6500

The Olney Ale House
2000 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD 20832
(301) 774-6708

3308 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD 20832
(301) 570-3388

Le Mannequin Pis
18064 Georgia Avenue
Olney, MD 20832
(301) 570-4800

Off course

Montgomery County has a plethora of historic spots such as the Agricultural History Farm Park, the Clara Barton National Historic Site, and the turn-of-the-century Glen Echo Amusement Park, which is now an arts and cultural center. Walking or biking along the C&O Canal Towpath is a great way to see the Potomac River and adjacent wildlife areas. Visit cvbmontco.com for more activities.

Jake Schaller, Contributor

Jake Schaller resides in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, D.C. He grew up in Bethesda, Md., where he attended Walt Whitman High School and played football.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Great Experience at Blue Mash

    Mike wrote on: Aug 30, 2010

    Love this course, from tee to green. Greens were rolling! The first few holes were challenging but on # 5, 6, 7 and 8 you can make your strokes back. The course was in great shape for such a long hot summer. They even had a marshal riding around offering cold wet towels so we could cool off. After our round we had lunch in the grill room. I was pleasantly surprised with their lunch menu. Overall I had a great experience and I will be playing there often.


  • Blue Mash

    Brian wrote on: May 26, 2009

    The staff at this course is by far the most unprofessional group I have come across in 30 years. The rangers harrass you and the management could care less. This cours is not a place you want to go if enjoying a day of golf is your intention. Only go there if you want to be bullied and harrassed.