OCEAN CITY, Md. -- With coastal views, coastal cuisine and some golf courses designed by big name architects, the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Delaware is luring an increasing number golfers from the hustle and bustle of the big eastern cities.
In a sense, the Ocean City/southern Delaware coast area is the Myrtle Beach of the northeast, but there are several key differences. There aren't as many courses, but the quality certainly rivals Myrtle Beach and then some. It's a little more expensive than Myrtle Beach, but certainly not cost prohibitive, and in the summer and fall, golfers on the Eastern Shores typically enjoy a little cooler weather than the Myrtle Beach area.
Oh, and there's something else: Nowhere are you likely to find a better crab cake. Not the fried, breaded kind, but the large ones that are 90 percent crab. You'll even find a great crab cake sandwich in what would seem like an unlikely place -- the snack shop at Eagle's Landing Golf Club in Berlin, eight miles from Ocean City.
Views, great conditions and more
If you like seaside golf, the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Delaware is your ticket. Start with the Links at Lighthouse Sound, which features great marsh and river views as well as vistas of Ocean City across the Bay.
This Arthur Hills design is also a great test with five sets of tees that can play as long as 7,031 yards. There are several signature holes on the bayside of the course, then the course completely changes character on the back nine, which is surrounded by marshes and trees and the longest cart bridge in the United States.
Rum Pointe Seaside Golf Links, a Pete and P.B. Dye design, is also a longtime favorite built around Sinepuxent Bay overlooking Assateague National Park. Seventeen of the holes on this Dye Lite course have views of the bay. Eagle's Landing, home of the aforementioned homemade crab cake sandwich as well as a tasty Maryland crab chowder, has some pretty good Sinepuxent Bay views, too, and is an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary site. In the same area, you'll also find the two courses at Ocean City Golf Club -- Seaside and Newport Bay -- whose origins go back to the 1950s.
Just south of the Links of Lighthouse Sound and also on the bay is Ocean Pines Golf & Country Club, the only Robert Trent Jones design in the area.
Certainly one of the more interesting plays in the area is GlenRiddle, just a couple of miles from Ocean Pines on the bay. GlenRiddle has two distinctly different golf courses -- the linksy Man O'War and War Admiral Courses. The latter was designed by Jim Furyk and destined to become a private course someday. What's fascinating is the clubhouse, which used to stable the top thoroughbreds for which the two courses are named. The clubhouse also houses a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
A little more inland
Don't think for a minute though that the quality of golf declines as you move a little inland. Bear Trap Dunes in Ocean View, Del. (you can't actually see the ocean), for example, is a favorite among locals for good reason. The Troon Golf-operated facility has three distinct nines. Though it's not on the coast, it has many attributes of a links course, including windswept dunes that were created by the ocean.
Another Troon-run facility is the sister course of Bear Trap Dunes, Bayside Resort Golf Club in Selbyville, Del., just a few miles from the Links at Lighthouse Sound. There was talk at one time of Bayside getting a hotel, but the economy and the death of its owner (Joshua Freeman, who also owned Bear Trap Dunes), derailed those plans. What stands today is a high-end daily fee club and signature Jack Nicklaus design, which is one of the finest and best-conditioned courses on the Eastern Shores. It also has a top-notch golf shop, dining and impeccable conditions.
Also in Berlin is the Bay Club, another Troon facility. Considered one of the region's best values, the Bay Club also has 36 holes. The original West Course has a par 3 nicknamed Devil's Island, an island green par 4, and the Green Monster, a 100-wide double green serving the ninth and 18th holes. The East Course has zoysia fairways. Both courses are around 7,000 yards from the tips.
And, finally, one of the more unique plays on the Eastern Shores is Baywood Greens in Longneck, Del. The club has earned the nickname "Augusta of the North" because of its extravagant ornamentals that include thousands of tulips in season. In all, the course has eight timbered bridges, 27 acres of ponds, two tunnels, and 300,000 flowers, plants, shrubs and trees.
Crab cakes, beaches and boardwalk
As for what to do besides golf, the possibilities are endless. On the shore at Ocean City is the famous three-mile boardwalk where you'll find restaurants, ice cream shops, souvenirs, carnival rides and plenty of hotels. The boardwalk, which rivals Atlantic City's, dates back to 1903.
There's also a 10-mile beach, fishing, wild ponies at Assateague, bird watching and, of course, lots of great dining. No trip to Maryland would be complete without sampling its world-famous crab cakes, and the Ocean City area might have the best.
Most of the seafood restaurants do a pretty nice job with them, but the best might be at Captain Galley's II on the harbor in Ocean City. Sautéed, not fried, they're mostly crab meat. Of course, seafood in general is pretty good all along the Eastern Shores. For great lobster, there's the Lobster Shanty in Fenwick Island, Del., just outside of Ocean City, or check out a longtime local favorite, the Captain's Table at the Courtyard by Marriott, which has been serving the Ocean City area for 57 years.