There is a common misconception regarding the Links at Perry Cabin, and that is architect Pete Dye completed the design in collaboration with his son Perry Dye. Although perhaps appropriate because of the name, it was actually P.B. who worked with the elder Dye to complete this public-access course on the East Coast of Maryland.
Much like Bulle Rock, another public Dye option in the state, the course exudes the architect’s signature features. One indication is the liberal use of railroad ties, which make themselves most evident all along the lake that frames the final three holes. No. 17, another Dye island green, is propped above the drink with a ring of ties. More eye-catching might be the closer, which is a long “Cape”-style par four that angles so sharply that the green may be closer to the tee than the farthest area of the landing area is (don’t be tempted).
Despite these intrigues, the signature hole may be No. 7, which emulates the Biarritz template (one less frequently used by Dye than, say, the Redan). Playing a full 245 yards and featuring a pond along the right of the green, this par three will remain in one's memory.
Got to spin around Perry Cabin twice during an outing October of 2019. The layout is pretty solid with a few holes which scream Dye. The staff is very receptive and the facility has big plans to have tremendous practice areas. The conditioning was very good. The green complexes were nice. This is a neat little area of Maryland. If an invite is extended I'd take it quickly and go visit Dye's last work.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when golf facilities of all types insert words into their names that have nothing to do with reality. One of the biggest culprits is the usage of the word "links" in the main title. Only those courses that are legitimately "links" can use that association without risk being laughed at for the brazen and empty association.
The Eastern Shore for the State of Maryland is literally dead flat. It does not contain one iota of actual links land.
The Links at Perry Cabin features a course built literally on the routing of a former course that occupied the land. That layout was done by Roy Dye -- brother of the acclaimed architect Pete. That course was a nondescript layout called Martingham Country Club. A second developer later came into the picture finishing the project -- renaming the course Harbortowne Resort Country Club. That happened in 1971. Fast-forward to present times and a new developer enters the scene -- Richard Cohen. His plan is quite ambitious and getting Pete back to a site that left a sour taste in his mouth was a challenge.
Cohen succeeded and given Pete's age and movement to permanent retirement it took a good bit of tenacity for Cohen to secure Pete along with wife Alice and son PB.
The "new" course is essentially routed through the same corridors the previous course occupied and is done well. You get a number of Dye flourishes -- greens with plenty of contour movement and an array of bunkers and water areas to avoid. Working the ball has always been an element with Dye and the "Links" does provide its fair share of such situations.
At Cohen's insistent a Biarritz par-3 was added at the 7th. The massive green -- over 70 yards in total length. The regular teeing area plays head-on with the green. There's also a championship tee set on a slight diagonal and it mandates you also avoid a pond that guards the right side. The inclusion of the Biarritz is done well but the bigger issue is how it fails to fit in with the rest of the course. Think of a movie with an actor miscast -- that's the 7th hole here.
The golf course has a series of holes which move through a wooded stretch and each does well for what it is being asked of the golfer.
The finishing five-hole run commencing from the 14th is done very well and makes a visit worthwhile. The 14th shows a resemblance to what you see with TPC / Sawgrass. The par-5 turns right in the drive zone and is well-protected by water and is ably complimented by a wonderfully contoured green -- most especially when the pin is placed in the far right corner. The 15th is a long par-4 at 488 yards and can often play into the wind. You just have to bear down and hit two of your longest and straightest shots to reach the green in the regulation stroke.
The perfect counterpoint to a long par-4 is a short one. At the 16th -- the max length is just 318 yards but there is a center-placed bunker that tempts players to hit over it for an even shorter approach. If the wind is behind the players the aggressive play may be worth the risk as the green can be reached by the strongest of players. Otherwise, the more prudent play is laying up and making a short pitch to the smallish target.
The 17th hole elicits a mixed bag of feelings. Unfortunately, the name Pete Dye is so widely associated with the par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass and the Dyes have opted to include a replica type hole. The hole plays a bit longer than the original and when the flagstick is placed on the front left side it takes a gutsy play to see dry land.
The real icing on the cake comes with the 18th hole. If there's one thing Dye has demonstrated is how to get into the head of better players and the 487-yard par-4 does just that. Before explaining the hole a bit of background is needed. The former 18th was a non-descript straight away hole. Dye opted to create an entirely new ending hole using the former practice area. Pete eventually convinced Cohen how the "new" hole would be significantly more memorable and an adjoining area of farmland - alongside the 16th hole -- was eventually purchased and serves as the warm-up area.
The "new" 18th is in a word a beast. The prevailing wind is often in one's face. The hole turns right and is protected by a massive detention pond. In order to prevent players from taking a short cut via the adjoining 1st hole -- internal out-of-bounds stakes are placed forcing players to honor the designer's concept.
The water clearly serves as an intimidation factor, however, playing away from it only increases the distance on the 2nd shot in a big time way. The aspect that elevates the 18th hole most prominently is the three-tier green. The approach play must be totally cognizant of where the pin is because failing to do so will only more strokes on your scorecard. When the pin is cut far right and in the rear area -- the need to avoid the same water faced on the tee shot is a prime consideration. But, when the pin is placed in the top far left corner the demands are also there too. In comparable terms -- the 18th at Perry Cabin is in the same mode for challenge that one sees at TPC Sawgrass -- there's no escape, no short cut, just vintage shotmaking required.
Interestingly, the final three holes have been tagged Pete's "goodnight kiss" -- were designed to "remain in the golfer's mind long after the round is over," just like a goodnight kiss on the first date.
For those who are Dye-sciples of Pete -- the need to play his final course design will be a clear motivating factor. There are a few lulls during the round given the requirement in using the previous course's hole corridors, however, there's enough present to get the golf juices going. Staying at the nearby Inn makes for a splendid time during the peak playing months and for those who wish to travel in high style the facility can arrange a boat pick-up from Annapolis which will take you right to the facility. There's even a short boat ride from the Inn that goes to the course.
How Dye-lightful !
M. James Ward