On Sunday morning, we headed to a course in the opposite direction than we normally travel for our weekend rounds. This time we headed northeast to the tri-state area, to Odessa National Golf Club in Townsend, DE. When talking with other club pros of courses we have reviewed, they all said to play Odessa and with it being less than an hour away it is perfect for a Sunday morning round. The course was built in 2008, and is one of the more difficult courses I have played in recent memory, there is no shot on the course that doesn’t test you in one way or another; if you are not avoiding the numerous bunkers, some which are deep almost pot bunkers, you are trying to avoid water, environmental areas, tall standing grass or trees lining the fairway. The normal weekend price is right on the mark too at $55 for an early morning weekend round, you can’t beat the price and the quality of the golf course and the challenges it represents means you get every penny of the money you spend. When you pull up to the course the first thing you see is the monstrous new club house, making you feel like you are pulling into a country club. The course intertwines through a few communities, all while making you feel as though you are miles away from civilization, and alone with the course; Odessa National challenges every part of your game, physical, emotional and mental.
As I mentioned above the first thing you see when pulling up to Odessa is the massive club house, once you go inside a room set off to the right of the building is designated as the Pro Shop. Here they have a few clubs to buy, you can buy balls, gloves, hats etc but honestly by the size of the club house I thought their pro shop would be a lot bigger. Inside the club house there is a nice restaurant where you can sit down and overlook people playing hole 18 or practicing on the driving range or chipping greens. There is a large, very nice banquet hall for special events as well. The driving range is real grass, which is normally great but it was much harder than the actual course fairways, making it hard to hit true iron and wood shots off of it; the range is a pay per bag range and a bag of balls costs $5 and lets you hit about 30 warm up shots. To the side of the range there is a large chipping and bunker shot green, and on the other side of the range is a large putting green. I would recommend visiting the putting green, as the greens at Odessa are in great shape and very fast. The carts do not offer GPS equipment in them and with the quality and difficulty of the course; I think it would be a great upgrade for the course to look into. They had a cart service running the whole time we played, and the girl was nice and always made sure we were ok. Besides the cart girl, and one of the marshalls out on the course, all the other employees seemed to be a little uptight almost angry we were there bothering them. We were not allowed to take the cart out to load up our bags yet other golfers who knew the employees were doing exactly that, taking the carts into the parking lot. Odessa is in a small town, and it had a, you aren’t from here so we are going to treat you differently feel to it. However the course made up for all of that.
Hole 1: This is a great introduction hole to Odessa National, really sets you up for what you will experience for the rest of your outing. About a 400 yard par 4 from the blue tees, this is a longer dead straight hole. You need to avoid the trees and fairway bunkers on the left. Your approach shot is very challenging, as the green angles from the right to the left and has large deep bunker guarding the entire right side of the green, and another bunker in the back left. After missing the green on my approach shot, I over hit my chip shot from a lie well below the hole; I ended up sinking about a 90 foot putt to save par. That is probably the longest putt I have ever made. The drive from hole one to hole two is the only real time you realize how close to the communities you are, as you have to drive almost through one to reach the tee box.
Hole 2: This hole stands out amongst a select few as one of the best holes I’ve ever played. At 632 yards from the tips, this hole is very over whelming. Your tee shot will have to be deadly accurate if you do decide to hit driver, as a large pond comes into play on the right, and environmental area cuts the fairway into two sections about 280 yards down the fairway. Your second shot will be over the pond, and will be up to your how much of an angle you feel comfortable taking to leave yourself a short third shot. Your third shot will be played into a slightly raised green with both sand and grass bunkers short of the green. This hole is long, and challenging and a blast to play.
Hole 3: You think you get a little let up from this first two difficult holes from the looks of this hole, but on this 420 yard dead straight par 4, this is trouble left and out of bounds right, your tee shot has to carry about 100 yards of environmental area, and your approach shot is blind into a slightly sunken very large green. You can see a few houses on the right of this fairway but they almost blend into the scenery and you feel like you are alone out on the course.
Hole 4: This drive able par 4 is very risk reward, bunkers liter the fairway and greenside, as well as a small green make driving this green very risky but doable. Your best bet, though I didn’t listen to myself, is to take an iron off the green and leave a short pitch into this green. If you go for the green and go over the green, there is a lot of trouble and more than likely it will result in a drop.
Hole 5: A reachable par 5 for long hitter, your tee shot needs to be accurate as there our trees left and a fairway bunker and tall standing grass right. Make your approach shot count if going for the green in two as the green is raised slightly and has bunkers guarding the front and the right, and they are deep.
Hole 6: The shortest par 3 on the course, your tee shot has to carry a large environmental area this green is surrounded but large bunkers and gets narrower as you go back, an Sunday pin location makes this hole very hard, even though it is short.
Hole 7: A dog leg left par 4, this par for requires accuracy on your drive and approach shot, you must first carry a wetland/environmental area, then you can decide to shorten the hole by going over a large bunker in the left of the fairway or play safe and head right lengthen the hole. Your approach shot will have to carry another wetland area, into a large green guarded by tall trees to the right and left.
Hole 8: A shorter par 4, this hole dog legs right and is guarded on both sides by trees. You have to carry about 150 yards of tall standing grass before the fairway starts, your approach shot is key on this hole as the green is guarded on all sides by bunkers and has a drop into a wetland area in the back and right.
Hole 9: A par 3 to close the front, isn’t always the norm but this hole looks easy but is very challenging. Severe drop offs into trouble on all sides of the green making this short to mid iron tee shot very important.
Hole 10: A short par 4 starts the back nine, you can let your driver rip on this hole. You must be accurate on your approach shot into a small green guarded by bunkers in the front and wetlands in the back.
Hole 11: By the numbers this is a reachable par 5, but not by the course; your first shot will either have to stay shy of the 240 yard mark, or carry about 270 yards to avoid a wetland area that cuts the fairway in two. A pond to the right makes this tee shot even more daunting; your second shot will most likely be over a wetland area into a fairway that is above you. Your approach shot will be into a small undulated green with bunkers to each side.
Hole 12: A very short par 4 you can attack this hole by carrying the large fairway bunkers on the left giving you a short chip shot or you can hit to the wide open fairway and leave yourself a wedge or short iron shot. Either way your approach shot is going to have to carry a bunker, into a small heavily guarded green.
Hole 13: Another shorter par 4, that is risk reward; you won’t be able to drive this green but if you hit a good tee shot you can fly the right hand side fairway bunkers leaving yourself with a nice chip instead of a full iron shot into this long narrow, undulated green. It is about 250 yards from the blue tees to carry the bunkers on the right; I hit my best drive of the day on this 356 yard par 4, having about a 25 yard chip after my drive.
Hole 14: A long uphill par 4, you have ample landing area with a wide fairway for your tee shot. However there is water to the left and tall standing grass to the right; your approach shot will be into a large green that is elevate above you, and is guarded by one bunker on the left.
Hole 16: Another reachable par 5, this is yet another risk reward hole. Plenty of landing area for your tee shot, just avoid the large fairway bunkers on the right. The decision on this hole is on your second shot, do you go for a very narrow, slightly elevated green with deep greenside bunkers everywhere or do you lay up and face that same shot with a wedge instead?
Hole 17: A shorter par 3, you will need to carry wetlands and avoid bunkers on all sides of this green. If you miss the green you will be hitting out of deep bunkers, deep grass bunkers or taking a drop from the woods on the back left.
Hole 18: A long dead straight par 4 will finish your round, and leave you in the shadow of the clubhouse to putt out on this medium sized green. Avoid the fairway bunker on the right, and realize the green side bunker is actually a fairway bunker with more fairway beyond the bunker and you are good to go on this hole.
I am very glad I made the trip to Odessa National and would recommend anyone in the area play this course. The price is right and the course is a challenge in every aspect of the game. Odessa can be a frustrating experience, if you allow it to be, just understand you are playing a great course at a great price and enjoy the day. The course mixes in wetlands, water, tall grass, deep bunkers, fast greens and difficult tee shots to challenge you on every shot. Built around and intertwining with the surrounding communities you never notice and feel alone on the course.