Designed by Hale Irwin in conjunction with architect Todd Schoeder of GrassRoots Golf Design, the Lodestone Golf Course at Wisp Resort in Garrett County sits on a ridge above Deep Creek Lake with fairways routed around eye-catching rocky outcrops.
One of two 18-hole courses available at the resort (the second layout is called Fantasy Valley), the Lodestone sits 3,000 feet above sea level, where fairways are set out in two big returning loops of nine. Holes have been literally carved through dense woodland, with bent grass playing surfaces in operation from tee to green.
Notable holes on the front nine include the left doglegging 559-yard 3rd and the split-fairway 438-yard 8th. On the back nine, the short par four 14th features two menacing centre line bunkers before the 214-yard 17th then calls for a heroic tee shot over a gaping gully to the green.
A “lodestone” is a naturally magnetic piece of stone that is found with some frequency in the Western hills of Maryland. Golfers may wish for such a geologic relationship between the flagstick and their ball; the greens at this resort course are large, and first-time-designer Hale Irwin—an accomplished putter—may have gotten excited at points in the shaping. Examples include the biarritz-style green that concludes the No. 12 Par 4, and Par 3 No. 17 features a deep, dark corner that would make the USGA’s mouths water come Open time.
Irwin’s excitement can be forgiven, considering the relatively exotic location he was granted. Exposed rock makes frequent appearances—both as a hazard, jutting in from the rough, and as a fine distraction while making the lengthy trip between green and the next teebox—reminiscent of the Ontario’s “Shield” region. Although this kind of atmosphere feeds fans of the “heroic” school of architecture, Irwin and collaborator Todd Schoeder indulge without driving recklessly. The best view on the property—cresting the fairway and diving down toward the distant Deep Creek Lake—might distract from what is a quite functional Par 5, able to be reached in two, and willing to punish those who miss.
The property is not always so flexible for the designers, and their responses occasionally range in quality. The aforementioned No. 17 is undoubtedly the most photographed hole on the course, with its large green sitting atop a 20-foot rock wall on the other side of a ravine. It becomes considerably less fun once the phone is back in your pocket and the tee shot comes due, however. On the other hand, No. 9 does quite well with a green set far below the approach shot. What could have been a simple dive-bomb tourist trap benefits from Irwin and Schoeder’s naturalistic bunkers (seen throughout the course), placed to create a redan effect. This green, we would argue, truly merits the photo.