Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus
Year Opened: 1999
Location: Flinstone, Maryland
Slope: 142. Rating: 74.2
Par: 72
Yardage: 7,002
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 408 Yds    10 - Par 5 559 Yds
                      2 - Par 4 381 Yds    11 - Par 4 421 Yds
                      3 - Par 4 472 Yds    12 - Par 3 160 Yds
                      4 - Par 3 174 Yds    13 - Par 5 565 Yds
                      5 - Par 5 542 Yds    14 - Par 4 439 Yds
                      6 - Par 3 226 Yds    15 - Par 5 535 Yds
                      7 - Par 4 395 Yds    16 - Par 3 190 Yds
                      8 - Par 5 509 Yds    17 - Par 3 206 Yds
                      9 - Par 4 392 Yds    18 - Par 4 428 Yds
                      Par 36  3,499 Yds     Par 36  3,503 Yds

Awards Won: Rated 4 stars by Golf Digest - Best Places to Play (2007),
            America's Best Golf Courses by Zagat (2007-08).


HISTORY:  Located  just seven miles east  of the city of Cumberland in Western
Maryland,  Rocky  Gap Lodge  & Golf Resort  is home to  the only Jack Nicklaus
signature course in the "Old Line State."

Part  of  Rocky Gap State  Park, which encompasses  over 3,000 acres of public
land,  the  resort is situated around  beautiful Lake Habeeb in the shadows of
Evitt's Mountain.

Rocky  Gap  is part of  Program Open Space, which  was established in 1969 and
is  funded through  The Department of Natural Resources. The program dedicates
funds for Maryland's state and local parks and conservation areas.

The   course  itself  was  developed  by  the  Maryland  Economic  Development
Corporation,  an agency  created in 1984 that allows the state of Maryland the
ability to directly own or develop property for economic growth.

Nicklaus,  who has designed over 300 courses world-wide, was given the task of
creating  a challenging,  but playable layout in the Appalachian Mountains. He
certainly accomplished his task. Rocky Gap is a course for all levels of play,
and  the resort, well,  all you have to do is ask the hundreds of thousands of
guests who've frequented the area the past decade.

"The  Rocky  Gap Lodge  and  Golf  Resort is  a  jewel  of Western  Maryland,"
commented  Allegany  County Commissioner Jim  Stakem. Rocky Gap, which employs
over  300 staff  members in  the high  season, "was  created to  spur economic
development  in  the region." In 2005,  Rocky Gap hosted nearly 700 events and
was recently voted one of America's Best Golf Courses by Zagat Survey.

REVIEW: One of the easier holes on the course, the first is a perfect starting
hole,  just 408  yards from the elevated  tips to a very generous fairway. The
key  is avoiding the fairway bunkers on both sides of the landing area. Just a
short  iron  should remain to  a very receptive  green. The putting surface is
fairly  flat, but  beware of the bunker  guarding the left side that sits well
below the green. A good hole to get your feet wet.

Although  the  second hole is  fairly short at 381  yards, it plays uphill and
requires  a 200-yard poke  from the black tees to reach the fairway. Driver is
the  play  off the tee, just  avoid the bunker  down the left and you'll leave
yourself  a wedge to  a very undulating green. The putting surface is 33 paces
long  and  very similar  in style  to the first,  except for the back-to-front
slope. A back-left pin could spell doom if you short-side yourself.

Talk  about a premium on accuracy, the tee shot on the third could be the most
difficult  on the course. Carved into the side of a mountain, this par four is
the  number  one handicap hole on  the course and rightfully so. Downhill from
the  tee, a  steeped ridge  blankets the  left side,  while the  uneven, hilly
landscape  guards  the right.  The deep  rough covers for  the lack of fairway
bunkers,  so  you must keep it  in the short  grass. A fairway metal or hybrid
will  remain to a slightly elevated and sloping green. Stay below the hole and
play  left of the bunker to the right, as it makes for a very difficult up and

The  first  of five sensational par  threes, the fourth plays ever-so slightly
downhill  to  a narrow green, that's  just 17 steps  wide. A mid to short iron
should  suffice to  this tight,  well-guard  surface. A  deep, massive  bunker
stands watch on the right and must be avoided at all costs. The hole is framed
beautifully by the deep woods behind and to the right, but don't get caught up
in the splendor, there's work to be done.

By  far, the  most spectacular  hole  at Rocky  Gap,  the fifth,  is not  only
electrifying,  it's also terrifying. This awesome par five plays downhill from
tee  to  green. A  pair of fairway  bunkers lie  in wait in  the center of the
enormously-wide  landing  area. Tall  trees stand  watch on  both sides of the
hole,  as  it narrows towards  the green.  It's worth the  risk off the tee of
trying  to  explode a drive over  the traps down the  right. This can set up a
reasonable  chance of getting  home in two. Trouble looms down the left in the
form  of thick rough  and your layup shot, if that's your choice, will be to a
narrow  sliver of fairway guarded on the right by sand. Another deep greenside
trap  guards the putting surface that swings around to the right. A front flag
can be had, but a back-right pin brings plenty into the mix. Don't get greedy.

The  longest  of the par three's,  the sixth is another beautiful and devilish
hole.  A whopping 226  yards from the back buttons, it plays downhill, so club
selection  could be  tricky,  especially  with the  outstanding  views of  the
countryside.  Pick  the right stick and  you could be putting for birdie. Miss
long left or right and you'll be searching for balls. The green is very narrow
with  sand  short and deep.  A par here  can go along  way on the scorecard. I
could have use it, instead of my six!

Another  hole that  puts a  premium  on accuracy  is the  short, dogleg  right
seventh.  At  395 yards, a fairway  metal or hybrid  could be the play off the
tee,  as the  slope of a mountain  flanks the right and thick rough guards the
left.  This  is where the fun  begins, as the  green is protected by a lateral
hazard  that runs from  left to right in front of the putting surface. A back-
right  pin really brings  the trouble into play, as the green is just 12 paces
wide.  Don't be  shy about bailing out  left, it sure beats putting one in the

At  first look,  the par-five eighth seems  to be a pushover at just 509 yards
off the black tees, but not so fast. This straightaway hole, plays uphill from
tee  to green,  with thick trees down  the right and dense underbrush left. So
the  key here  is an accurate tee ball,  setting up a fairway metal or iron to
layup  for your approach.  Going for the green in two can be risky, with trees
down  both  sides of  the fairway.  The putting  surface is sandwiched between
mounds  on either  side. The green is  long and two-tiered, but is very narrow
with  sand guarding the  left-front. With a front pin, use the slope behind to
spin the ball close for birdie.

Returning  back  towards the  resort, the  ninth is a  slight dogleg left that
again  plays uphill from  the tee. Guard against going left from the start, as
trees protect against the aggressive play. Your tee ball should favor a slight
draw  with  a driver or  three-metal. This  will leave a  short iron to a very
receptive  green, 23  yards wide. Two bunkers protect both sides of the green,
however,  any  shot long  and left  will finish  out of  bounds, so choose the
correct club from the fairway. Standing on the green offers a sensational view
of  the  lodge and  lake. Take care  of the  task at hand  and then enjoy your

The  back nine opens  with a downhill par five that reaches 559 yards from the
tips. Navigating the fairway bunkers on either side of the landing area is key
to set up your best chance of getting home in two, or for laying up. It's best
to  play  short of  the inlet  of water that  creeps in  front of the isolated
green,  setting up a  little pitch to a very shallow putting surface. To reach
the  green  in two, you'll  have to be  long off the  tee and longer with your
second.  Not the  correct play,  especially when  the carry  from the  fairway
reaches  250-plus. Make  your birdie the old-fashioned way, wedge it close and
sink the putt.

One  of five par  fours over 400 yards, the 11th, despite its number 16 rating
on  the  scorecard, is  not to be  taken lightly. Devoid  of fairway sand, the
landing  area is quite generous, but even with a successful tee shot, a medium
iron will remain to an uphill, wide green that's guarded on the left by a deep
bunker.  A  back-left flag could  be quite the  challenge, so play towards the
center and get your par. There'll be other birdie chances later in the round.

One  such possibility  is the par-three 12th. The shortest on the course, this
160-yarder  features a  wide and shallow green. The two-tiered putting surface
is guarded on both sides by sand and out-of-bounds deep, making club selection
key. Stay below the hole and you'll have a great shot at a deuce.

With a beautiful, panoramic view of the area, the 13th plays downhill from tee
to  green. This lengthy par five, the longest on the course, features an ample
fairway,  with one  lone bunker down the right side. The landing area tightens
for  your second shot,  with a slope left and a water hazard right, within 100
yards  of the green. The putting surface is just 25 yards deep, with sand deep
and  the pond covering  the right. With a wedge in hand for your third, go for
it and make birdie.

From  an elevated  tee, the  14th  is a  solid,  dog-leg right  par four  that
requires  accuracy  off the tee  and pinpoint  control with your approach. Two
bunkers guard the right side of the fairway, while a somewhat, dried-out creek
bed  splits the  landing area at the  280-yard mark off the back tee. A medium
iron  should remain  to an elevated green  guarded on the right by a very deep
bunker.  The  putting surface slopes from  back to front and with a back-right
pin, this could end up being one of the most difficult holes on the course. By
the way, long and right is OB, so play smart.

The  final par  five on  the course,  the 15th  is one  of the  most difficult
driving  holes at Rocky Gap. A tight landing area, with a thick, grassy hazard
left  and trees and  massive rough right, make this one "Bear" of a hole. Even
after  hitting the short  grass off the tee, the layup area for your second is
even  slimmer as you  close towards the green. A split fairway, from 180 yards
in  gives the player  an option, however the best angle to the green is on the
right.  The  putting surface is 32  yards long, but  just 19 paces wide with a
bunker  fronting the left  portion of the green. As far as par fives go, a par
here will look fine on the card.

The  first of  back-to-back  par three's,  the  16th is  a  downhill gem  that
requires  the proper  club selection,  as the  wind usually  plays havoc.  The
putting  surface is  shallow and  guarded  in front  by a  deep, 20-yard  wide
bunker. A back-right pin brings the hazard into play, so execute sensibly or a
big number could be in the mix.

Built  into the  side of a hill, the  17th offers a great view of the mountain
range and when the fall colors are flourishing, this is one spectacular sight.
A  long iron or  hybrid will be needed to reach the promised land and when the
pin  is back  and left,  add another  20 plus  yards to  your total.  Two deep
bunkers guard the left side of the putting surface, making for a difficult up-
and-down.  The play,  a nice, high draw  to the right, two putts for three and
move on.

With  the wind in your face and the fairway uphill from the tee, you'll need a
200-yard  poke to reach the wide landing area. Sand protects both sides of the
fairway,  so an accurate and big blast is required. A mid to long iron is left
to  a slightly  elevated green  that's wider  than deep.  The putting  surface
features  a  bowl in the  center that forces most  shots to funnel towards the
front. Offline or deep and you'll find one of the three surrounding bunkers.

FINAL  WORD:  Wow. Now that  was a  fun golf course.  Let's start out with the
playability  of Rocky Gap.  Five sets of tee boxes allow all levels of play to
tackle  this Jack Nicklaus beauty. Tees range from as little as 5,198 yards to
just over 7,000 and that is really the key to playing this golf course.

Next  up  is conditioning  and you'll  be hard-pressed  to find another public
course  in better shape  than Rocky Gap. The tees are firm, the fairways well-
manicured and the greens contoured and smooth.

This is typical Nicklaus. No let-up from the first tee to the final putt. What
makes  this  course stand out  is its variety of  holes. From doglegs left and
right, to short and long par three's and a mix of wonderful elevation changes.
The front nine, except the first hole, is tree-lined and tight, while the back
nine  is  more wide-open,  but featuring several  risk-reward holes. Let's not
forget  the  several outstanding views of  Lake Habeeb and Evitt's Mountain. I
only  wished  that the course  played alongside the  water's edge, as it never
touches the shoreline.

Rocky  Gap is perfectly situated just two hours from Pittsburgh, Baltimore and
Washington,  D.C. and  a little longer from Philadelphia. So, not only can you
drive to the resort, you can play the same day!

There  are  many "signature"  holes at Rocky  Gap Lodge &  Golf Resort, but my
favorites  are five, six  and seven on the front nine and 13 through 17 on the
closing stretch.

What  makes  Rocky Gap even more  appealing is the beautiful lodge that stands
tall overlooking the 243-acre lake. Not only does the resort feature 215 rooms
and  wonderful dining,  there are miles of hiking trails, numerous boating and
fishing activities and the luxurious spa.

What  more  could one  ask  for.  A  serene  and peaceful  setting,  wonderful
accommodations  at a  AAA Four-Diamond resort and a Jack Nicklaus championship
golf  course. With wonderful Stay-and-Play packages and amazing golf rates for
non-guests,  you'd be  making a  huge  mistake bypassing  this experience.  If
peace and quiet and serenity is what you seek, you've come to the right place.

Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort met all my needs and then some. I just hope they
invite me back.