By TIM BAINES
Business is starting to pick up in a vibrant Maryland seaside town where golf is a pretty big deal in spring and fall.
It’s not like Ocean City is a well-kept secret with golf vacationers. Those who have visited go back … and go back again.
With 17 pristine championship golf courses, Ocean City is a drive away for many – it’s less than 10 hours from Montreal and Ottawa, about 11 hours from Toronto and it’s even closer for many in the northeastern U.S. It’s about half the drive to Myrtle Beach, something that’s not lost on the folks who promote golf for Ocean City.
“Once you come to Ocean City, you won’t be disappointed, you’ll be back,” said Ocean Getaway Chief Operating Officer Walter Brooks. “There are so many options out there, especially on on the eastern seaboard. Everyone’s travelling south to play golf. Everyone wants to get to Myrtle Beach and Orlando. If you stop in Ocean City, we can customize trips from one night up to 10-plus nights and 10-plus rounds of golf. We can customize anything. We’re a drive-to destination and an alternative to further points south. We’re a great option.
“Myrtle Beach is always going to be the golf capital of the world. But the quality of golf in Ocean City is as good as it is anywhere in the U.S. Golfing down south is closer than you think. We like to use the motto, ‘Save the long drive for the golf course.’ ”
Another tagline is, “Close to home, close to perfect,” but Brooks expanded on that to include “Great golf is just the beginning.”
You already get plenty of bang for your buck, but Ocean City has stepped it up with some new promotions, including one for group leaders. A program which used to reward a leader for bringing a group of 24 is now down to 20 – if you take 20 golfers, the group leader gets a full comp. Each golfer in groups of eight or more travelling on week days is given a sand wedge. Said Brooks: “If you come back in the fall, it’s a different lofted wedge. It’s a 56-degree wedge in the spring, it’s a 60-degree wedge in the fall. So if you’re coming both spring and fall, you’re not getting the same wedge.”
There’s also a promotion for Canadian golfers. Groups of eight or more will receive a $50 gas card.
As spring golf gradually gets going in the north, Ocean City is hitting full stride – with warm temperatures and great golf course conditions.
“Now that we’re in season, we’ll have temperatures in the mid-70s,” said Brooks. “The weather is here.”
Golfers from Canada and the northeastern U.S. have long been strong customers for Ocean City. There are fantastic accommodation options, a great selection of restaurants, eight miles of nightclubs, 10 miles of beautiful beaches and a three-mile boardwalk.
If you’re Canadian and sweating the exchange rates, consider that gas prices are considerably cheaper, along with things like food and beer – yep, Happy Hours are alive and well. There’s definitely a fun factor in a town that’s built to host about eight million visitors annually. Close by for sightseeing and major sporting events are Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
“We’re a year-round destination with world-class golf,” said Brooks. “But our peak golf season is March into the third week of June. Then it picks up again in September. October is beautiful – we get temperatures in the 80s. We’re consistently good through our Thanksgiving.”
Through all the bells and whistles, what really sells Ocean City is the golf itself – there are 17 championship courses in the area. It shouldn’t be lost in all of this there are plenty of high-quality courses in the area – a couple of them ranked in the Top 100 in major publications like Golf Digest and Golf magazine. Among the courses you can play: Links at Lighthouse Sound, Eagle’s Landing, Bayside, Rum Pointe and Baywood Greens.
“Some are inland treelined parkland-style courses, others are right on the water with views and vistas of the bay,” said Brooks. “When they give out awards, you’re looking at Pebble Beach and other great venues. And we’re in there with them. That shows the quality of golf we have here. We have legends of the game and renowned architects that left their mark in Ocean City – Arthur Hills, Jim Furyk, Pete Dye, Robert Trent Jones and Jack Nicklaus.
“Lighthouse Sound is known as the Pebble Beach of the east. Sixteen holes have views of the bay and sound. It’s definitely a must-play. It’s ranked 75th on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses you can play in the U.S. Their sister course is Rum Pointe – 13 of their 18 holes have views of the water, and is a Pete and P.B. Dye father-son collaboration, which is very rare.
“There’s Baywood Greens in Delaware. It’s the aesthetics, form the moment you arrive until you finish your round. It’s known as the Augusta of the North. Then there’s Bayside Resort – it’s got great views, it’s on the water and it’s a Jack Nicklaus Signature, it’s a beautiful piece of property.
“Eagle’s Landing is owned by the town of Ocean City. Not only is it a premium golf course, eight holes have views of the water. They keep their price in the lower tier of prices, even in the peak season.”
What makes the Ocean City story more amazing is the amount of punch a town with a small population most of the year can pack.
“It’s a 10-mile island, with a population of 12,000 people,” said Brooks. “That number increases to 400,000 in the summer. It’s a small town with huge attractions.”
For information on golf or to book your next stay in Ocean City, Maryland, check out OceanCityGolf.com or call (800) 4-OC-Golf.