Playing Scotch Hall Preserve-A Gem in the Rough

This past weekend, courtesy of a stay/play package from the Carolinas Golf Association, we took a short weekend jaunt to the Albemarle Sound on the North Carolina coast to play Scotch Hall Preserve.

The Trip

Scotch Hall is a solid 4 1/2 hours from Charlotte.  Furthermore, a visitor has to want to go there.  There is nothing close to Scotch Hall, except for the very pretty and quaint town of Edenton, about 20 minutes further east, over the bridge across the Sound.  Edenton itself would be a solid choice as a place to live.  It’s an old town, well-preserved, has a lighthouse, with historical structures on the National Register of Historic Places scattered throughout the downtown.  We were impressed.

Downtown Edenton

And the seafood dinner at Waterman’s Seafood Grill was outstanding!

Introduction

Scotch Hall Preserve is a planned unit development, consisting of somewhere between 400 and 800 lots depending on which website has the description.  About 40 homes have been built since 2009, all in the coastal style.  I would happily live in any of the houses we saw.  They ranged from a cute cottage to a full blown take-your-breath-away masterpiece on a point with full water views.

The package included two rounds of golf for each of us, plus a night’s lodging in what they call the Scotch Hall Inn.  We drove in Saturday morning for a 1 p.m. tee time.  Although out-of-the-way, the resort is easy to get to and is well-signed.  We made it to the guard shack, where the gate guard had our packet and map.  He suggested we head to the pro shop and they would know if we could check in early to our room.  Another example of how golf pros can do anything!

We did that, and we could check in early, so we did.  We stayed in the Palmer Room, one of four rooms in the Inn.  The room was large-really large, with a queen bed, plus master bath larger than any master bath I’ve seen outside a private home.  Full jacuzzi tub, plus shower, plus double vanity sink.  It was a shame we were only there one night.

After a quick inventory of the room, we were back at the pro shop to grab lunch at The Shed, where we had a great cheeseburger, panini sandwich, homemade potato salad that was awesome, and unlimited tea.  All for less than $20.  Needless to say, the first impression was quite positive.

The Golf Course

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Risk-reward tee shot on #2

The course, an Arnold Palmer Signature design that opened in 2009, has all the earmarks of a Palmer design.  It’s not too difficult, and offers wide fairways.  However, there are fairway bunkers on almost every hole, and thick brush just behind the rough, which is thick in its own right.  It’s not difficult to hit the fairways– but– if you don’t, it’s at least a stroke penalty, sometimes two.  And lost balls are a given if it goes in the brush.  This is on the coast, after all, so the brush is often swampy, with swampy critters that most golfers shy away from.

Rough, and then no-mans-land

The rough is U.S. Open thick.  There were a few times that we almost lost a ball in the rough, only to see the top of it as we almost stepped on it.  Hacking it out was about all that could be hoped for.  I admit I was surprised to see rough that thick on a resort/housing course.

Condition

The fairways were immaculate.  Perfectly groomed bermuda fairways with a random bare spot on a side slope, but 95% of the fairways were as good as it gets.

As I mentioned, the rough was penal.  I never quite could make myself hit it as hard as I needed to when around the green, but the rough’s thickness called for just that.

And then there were the greens.

To their credit, a representative called early last week to say they looked forward to our visit, and to let us know the greens were not up to the caliber they expected.  The heat and overwhelming amount of rain had played havoc with the bentgrass greens.

They were accurate in their assessment.  Probably 3-4 greens were so spotty that we had to move the balls in order to putt over solid grass.  The fourth green is closed, with a temporary green and flag set maybe 75 yards in front of it.  On the other hand, some greens were perfectly fine.  The problem I had was that some greens were being allowed to grow in, so the speed was really slow, and some seemed to have been mowed so were much quicker.  I never made the adjustment from green to green.  Alice didn’t either, although her last nine holes she putted quite well- much better than I did.

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The par-3 seventh with Albemarle Sound in the background

Par-3 seventeenth

Although at some point in the future the course will be surrounded by housing, that is not the case now.  With a few exceptions, the course is uncluttered by anything, allowing beautiful scenery including water views on several holes.  The 17th, a straightforward par-3, is probably the signature hole with the sound on the left of the tee boxes.   And the view from the eighth tee is as pretty as anywhere on the course.

8th teebox

How Did It Play

I’ve written before about my issues with my driver.  As Alice can attest, this is not a course where you want to be too wayward off the tee.  Finding your tee shot in the rough is difficult; finding it further offline is virtually impossible.  And except for two unexplainable flair/popup/shanks on the first day, I drove the ball about as well as I can drive it.  On Sunday, I hit 12 of 14 fairways, and the two I missed I was about six inches into the rough on one hole and a couple of feet just left of the fairway on another.  At least a half dozen times I challenged a fairway bunker, and made it over on five of the six.

Golf is a game of “ifs.”  If only…  If only I had been able to drive like this back in the spring and summer, how well would the year have gone?

And if only I had played around and on the greens like I did off the tee, what could I have shot?

I played from the green tees, which would be a more-or-less set of white tees on most courses.  At 6100 yards, it isn’t long.  One of my better drives on Saturday had me going for it in two on the par-5 11th, and the 3-hybrid made the front of the green, with about 15 feet uphill for eagle.  I didn’t allow for this particular green being on the slow side, so my eagle putt was still four feet short, but I made it for birdie- one of three birdies on Saturday.

Even from the green tees, the Palmer design is a 70.9 rating/132 slope, so it’s no slouch.  I finished with an 86.  Not great, but first time playing the course, plus getting used to the layout plus learning the greens, I thought Sunday’s round might be in the 70’s with a little luck.

And I had my share of luck on Sunday, it just wasn’t all that positive.

Sunday’s Round

We teed off at 8:30 in foggy conditions.  With fog, and dew, I decided last minute to again play the green tees rather than backing up to the blues, since I knew the course would play long.

That was a good decision.  Even though I drove the ball exceedingly well, there was little rollout, and the course played longer than the 6100 yard length.  But I simply could not putt. When I allowed for a slow  green, I still hit it too easy.  When I allowed for a quick green, I still hit it too hard.  My back nine started off with four of the first 5 holes being a three-putt, on the way to 23 putts…for the last nine holes!  We’ve all been there when no matter what we think, it’s the opposite.  That was the situation with me and my putter.  I am chalking it up to a Murphy’s Law of both my bad putting and greens that were different speeds one hole to the next.

That 86 I had hoped would be 79 was instead a 91, with a closing par (with 2 putts!  hooray!) on 18 the only positive on the back nine.

Nineteenth Hole Thoughts

We had lunch again at The Shed and again it was tasty food.  The wait staff are friendly and chipper and treated us just like we were property owners.

In fact, the foursome in front of us on Sunday, whom we spoke with a few times during the round, took it upon themselves to call the property office while we were all having lunch.  They either liked us enough to want us to consider being neighbors; or, they really didn’t like Dan and decided to get him to come out on Sunday afternoon to show us around.  Either way, Dan come over and give us a quick tour of the overall development, got us some info on prices for both lots and homes, and gave us some things to think about if, someday in the far-off future, we decide we want to live there.

Lots range from the $50,000 range for a golf course lot, to $200,000 for a waterview of the sound.  The waterviews are spectacular, and I’ve seen many less attractive views with houses in the millions of dollars.  All things considered, the prices are quite reasonable.

Doesn’t mean we can afford them, but they are reasonable.

Wildlife sightings were impressive.  We saw a bald eagle on both days, a green tree frog was on our porch railing outside the room, and an undetermined snake that will remain undetermined slithered across the cart path on one hole.

bald eagle

green tree frog

snake!

On our way out, the golf pro, and one of the guys in the foursome suggested we try and get back in November when they both said the greens should be back to 100%.  We certainly want to come back and play it again.  It’s a beautiful course in a beautiful part of the world.

And maybe by then I’ll re-learn how to putt.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!

 

 

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