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.
The Links at Perry Cabin is currently listed in the top three public golf courses in the state of Maryland by most rating publications. I wanted to play it because I am always curious about a course where Pete Dye had a hand in its design, in this case along with his wife, Alice, and his son, P.B. as Pete was in declining health.
The course’s parking lot offering a glimpse of the widening end of Miles River as it joins the Eastern Bay of the Chesapeake Bay. However, the Links course offers no holes on the river/baby as home sites with water views were built years before. The course is flat with perhaps the only rise on the course being areas where some dirt was moved to create a green complex. The biggest elevation change is likely from the front of the large eighteenth green to its back portion. The eighteenth is likely the largest green on the course although the Biarritz on the seventh hole might be larger.
The most notable aspect of the course is the condition which is excellent from the tees to the greens. I have rarely played a resort golf course that was in as fine a condition as the Links at Perry Cabin.
The routing of the course had to be forced in many areas due to the existing housing, preserved wetlands or treed areas. As such the course is unbalanced with the front nine having a single par 5 playing to par 35 and the back nine having three par 5’s playing to a par 37. I recall six times one has to cross a road as the course is surrounded by residential homes. However, I did not notice the housing with the exception of a few holes. The course has a trademark of Pete Dye designs in that ponds parallel several of the fairways, being very much in play for shorter players if they have chosen the wrong length of tees. The routing of the longer and more difficult back nine seems to be forced at times due to lack of land, particularly on the short sixteenth and the boomerang fairway of the eighteenth which to me was one of the lesser holes on the course despite its interesting green.
The second notable aspect are the green complexes where the greens feature many of the shaping that one will find on a Pete Dye course. The greens are small for the shorter holes, yet adequate enough to have tiers, swales, mounds and fall-offs. In general, I liked the greens and found them to be the best feature of the course.
Other obvious trademarks of Pete Dye are the numerous railroad ties that border the pond that encompasses a half peninsula green on the short sixteenth and the island green of the seventeenth. In addition, manufactured tall mounds incorporating bunkers are used down the right side of the par 5 fourteenth and as a center-line bunker on the sixteenth.
The yardages are oddly named with the longest tees called the tournament at 7022 yards, par 72 rated 74.9/148. The Championship tees are 6476 yards rated 72.5/136, while the back tees are only 5968 yards rated 70.1/133. There are two sets of lesser tees so something for everyone. I played the championship tees with the exception of a couple of holes where I moved back to the tournament tee.
I do not think there is a remarkable hole on the course although some holes will linger in one’s memory, both positive and negative. But that is to be expected for a public resort golf course where playability has to be a key factor for the guests of the resort. As such, the Inn at Perry Cabin has succeeded in combining difficulty with playability as there is a good mixture of easier holes versus more difficult holes. The greens and bunkering provide consistent interest. The fairways are usually wide enough with the exception of the holes involving ponds or wetlands. The bunkering is varied with a proper placement and different shapes and depths. The more difficult bunkers are those embedded in the fronts of those tall mounds while the very flat bunkers near the seventh are equally difficult as that green runs away from you.
1. Par 4 – 418/393. The first three holes are scoring holes. A pond is down the right but not in play for this dogleg left. Longer hitters will catch a slight downgrade and get very close to the smallish green. The bunkering is good here with two outer corner bunkers and one inner corner and then flanking bunkers at the front corners of the green. The green has multiple tiers and various slopes. If one misses the green, recovery is difficult due to the small green and the mounds surrounded it.
2. Par 4 – 390/354. Bunkers everywhere on another dogleg left with six on the right off the tee, one left and four at the green which is angled left to right. There are three tiers to another small green with more mounding on the left side of the green near those bunkers.
3. Par 4 – 418/387. A relatively straight hole but with the green set well off to the left it plays as a dogleg left. We had a front pin with the green features a steep back to front slant going to the right. The front left bunker at the green is to be avoided.
4. Par 3 – 199/156. I played the tournament tee here which offers a forced carry over a pond and then tall reeds which block the view of most of the green other than the flagstick. The green is angled to the right with a sizeable crown in its middle. I did like this hole as I thought it combined difficulty with drama.
5. Par 4 – 397/367. This is rated the hardest hole on the front nine with a parallel pond that bigger hitters can easily clear. Another pond fronts most of the green which is coming in from the left, followed by a bunker and then a somewhat shallow green. The ideal line to this green is from the right half of the fairway which means one has to take on the longer forced carry off the tee. I was a bit too greedy and did not clear the water on my first tee shot and made par for the double with my second. I liked this hole even if it is not unique.
6. Par 5 – 498/469. The first par 5 is not much of a golf hole although the somewhat steep green rising to the back with surrounding mounds is a nice touch.
7. Par 3 – 245/201. As mentioned by a previous reviewer, I did not like the design of this hole. While the Biarritz green did not bother me, I believe a green such as this on a par 3 should be played straight on rather than coming in left. I particularly disliked that one has to carry the pond that goes nearly to the edge of the green with the steep bank rejecting balls landing slightly short sending them back into the pond. Miss left and there is a bit of room before one ends up either in a flat bunker or on pine needles to a green that runs away from you towards the pond. The green itself is fine, massive at approximately 70 yards in depth, but the visual from the tee and the shot that is required make this hole the least enjoyable on the golf course. It could be fixed by adding 10 yards of less steep grass on the right side of the green as a bailout area.
8. Par 4 – 454/424. The eighth is a nice hole although one of the few holes where one notices the homes. It has one flaw which is that the cart path goes down the right and is close to the pond. Any ball landing near the cart path is likely to cross over and get wet. There is ample room to have put the cart path on the left side. Trees start on the right side about 140 yards out from the green. The green is a good one with various swales and slopes surrounded by good contouring. It is set off to the right. Other than the placement of the cart path (likely there because it’s the closest path to the toilets and farther away from the housing), it is one of the better holes on the front nine.
9. Par 4 – 357. 335. Trees and the cart path go down the right side along with a couple of bunkers. This is one of the easier holes on the course as the fairway is generous for its length. The green has fall-offs and is smaller while being set off to the left which makes the hole less of a pushover.
10. Par 5 – 560/525. The fairway feels very narrow as a pond on the left goes down nearly the entirety of the driving zone while trees are thick on the right. A long bunker is at the end of the pond which is a trademark of a Pete Dye design. As one works their way up the hole various bunkers are placed on either side of the fairway. This green is angled to the right but with a middle bulge and is raised with significant fall-offs. It is a challenge to hit this green and hold it. This is a much better par 5 than the sixth.
11. Par 3 – 213/197. With the exception of the seventeenth, all of the par 3’s are long at the Links at Perry Cabin. This hole lacks the all-or-nothing forced carries of four and seven, but does offer two long bunkers on the front left and two small bunkers left middle and back right. The green is long and somewhat thin but seems to lack the dramatic movement of other greens.
12. Par 5 – 533/505. The tee shot is slightly tighter than other holes due to trees on both sides of the fairway. There are three scattered bunkers on the left and one on the right to avoid from the tee. As one works their way towards the green five bunkers are in play on the right with two bunkers in play on the left for the second shot. The green has a bunker to either side with a narrower back half. Much like the twelfth, this green lacks the more dramatic movement of the greens on most of the course.
13. Par 4 – 372/333. There is a forced carry from the tee over a pond but one that should not be a concern. The bigger concern is the location of the green set off to the right forcing one to play left to have a good view as trees block the right side. Longer hitters can get reasonably close to the green with a good tee shot. There are seven bunkers down the left side with the final two at the green. The green has a lot of inner movement to it. Of the many short par 4’s on the course, this is the hole I liked the most.
14. Par 5 – 529/499. This dogleg right begins with a long thin pond down the right with a small area of bunker between the fairway and the pond, another trademark of a Pete Dye design. The trees are thick on the left side. This is probably the most memorable hole on the course as the green is set off to the right with a pond and bunker fronting the left side forcing most players to lay up. Go too far right and one will get involved in a series of mounds up to ten feet high that incorporate bunkers and tall grass. Going right will leave a blind shot into the green. The green has a final small bunker middle right and a larger one on the middle left at the end of the pond. The series of mounds and bunkers down the right and the location of the undulating green are quite distinctive.
15. Par 4 – 488/452. Although rated the number five index, I felt this to be the hardest hole even though it is straight. There is a long forced carry over wetlands to the fairway. Two bunkers go down the right and one on the left. This hole utilizes a central bunker about 30 yards short of the green which disguises the length of the hole. A final bunker is middle left. This hole has another green with a gradual fall-off at the front as well as a consistent rise to the rear.
16. Par 4 – 318/301. I still do not know if I like this hole. There are numerous bunkers going down the left as well as a tree line and tall grass. Go left of the trees and one likely has a lost ball but certainly a blind shot to the green as a maintenace road is about ten feet below the fairway as well as the trees in the way. There is also a deep central bunker about 90 yards short of the green. The green has a bailout area to the left although there are two bunkers there but that is the safer play given a pond is down the entirety of the right and rear of the green. The green itself is relatively flat.
17. Par 3 – 147/131. I think this is a much better hole from the raised tee from the tournament tee. This island green is very large with a single small front bunker and railroad ties everywhere (including the green of the previous hole). The green is large and while perhaps a difficult one-putt, is a straightforward two putt.
18. Par 4 – 487/447. The elevated tee wraps itself around the pond to the right which goes the entirety of the landing zone of the tee shot down the right side of the green. The left side of this hole has trees and higher ground. The green is long with three tiers and a single bunker on the front left. We had a front pin location which was disappointing as the more fun and interesting locations are at the back third of the green. I felt this hole to be too contrived.
This is a fine public option for golf in the state of Maryland. While not in the same class as Bulle Rock in terms of a test of golf, one will play one of the best conditioned courses with interesting greens. Bulle Rock features much more land movement and the more interesting holes. At the Links, the par 3’s are tilted a bit too much towards length while the par 4’s offer a good variety of longer and shorter holes. The par 5’s are a mixed bag with two holes (ten and fourteen) more interesting than the other two (six and twelve). If one could only play one of Mr. Dye’s public designs in Maryland, they should go to Bulle Rock. However, the Links at Perry Cabin is a fine second choice.
Links at Perry Cabin is a good enough course that one should play at least once to decide whether or not the $350 greens fee is worth it… it’s a classic Dye design which is sure to please his supporters, while drawing plenty of eye rolls from the rest of us. I found the back nine to be the most fun, but not enough to venture a trip back.
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