Midland Valley Golf Review (Where to Play When Visting the Masters)
This post was originally published in April 2013.
Gonna be down in Augusta for the Masters any time soon? Want to play golf while you’re down there? Thought so.
Playing golf during the Masters can be a relatively difficult proposition, simply because of the demand and expense.
One of the more popular courses in the area the River Club is all but taken over by AT&T during the tournament, and rates get jacked up to prices that you wouldn’t believe.
If you’re baller, then maybe you’ve got some connections at Sage Valley – one rich man’s answer to Augusta National and the #5 course in South Carolina (Augusta is right on the border of SC and Georgia).
But when all else fails and you’re like most people, you just want an inexpensive local place to go hit some balls; Midland Valley Golf Club may be your answer.
Midland Valley is located in Aiken about a 25 minute drive from the National. We played the Wednesday before the tournament and surprisingly, the course didn’t seem that crowded – although the slow as molasses group in front of us made it seem that way.
Three Putt City
When we first rolled up to Midland Valley, it looked like your run of the mill muni golf course (although I don’t think it is). The pros and people in the clubhouse seemed friendly, and we headed to the first tee.
The condition of the course definitely left a bit to be desired. It was early in the season and the fairways we’re more brown than you’d like them to be and the greens weren’t much better. That said, the treelined fairways looked like they were going to make for a good setting to spend an afternoon on – which they were.
While the course wasn’t exactly in Masters shape, there is one thing they had going for them: fast greens.
Now coming from the Pacific Northwest where everything is still drying out from the winter (ok that’s a lie, we all know the courses wont be dry for another couple months), these greens proved to be a nightmare for me. I could never get a read on them and I was sending everything long for a scary amount of three putts. Pretty disappointing as I hit 64% of fairways and 50% of the greens during the round.
The greens at Midland Valley are huge, and just hitting them isn’t much of an accomplishment. There’s some serious undulation, and combined with the speed of the greens, you’re going to be in for a tough test of golf if you aren’t prepared for it.
The Front Nine
I was feeling pretty good about my round prospects after hitting a great drive and then 8 iron to the green.
It was after my first putt rolled 15 feet past the pin that I realized I might be in a little bit of trouble. First three putt, complete.
Two was the #1 handicap hole on the course, and what they categorized as a par 4/5. Playing from the mid tees it definitely looked like a 5 to us, and a great chance to try and make a birdie. No such luck. A few errant chips left me with a double on two, and really worried about this whole sunny-80-degree-dry-course thing – I wasn’t used to this.
Three is a short and fun par 4 with a water carry and then an easy wedge into the green. If you’re feeling ballsy you could probably get it on in one with a big drive. While the layout of the course wasn’t particularly anything to write home about, there were certainly a couple holes that definitely had an element of risk vs reward that I always look for in a golf course.
Three was one of them.
4 and 5 were a couple back to back par 4s that both played downhill from the tees and then uphill to the greens.
You have to be careful with your drives not to cut the corners too much or bomb it straight away – as either will leave you in the woods. I learned my lesson on 4 as it took me a few extra shots to get out of the trees which solidified my first triple of the day. I made up for this by barely missing a birdie putt on 5 for an easy par. 6 was a 164 yard par 3 over water. I landed right off the green, flubbed a chip and then had a snaking par putt that missed by just a couple feet for bogey.
The par 5 7 got really disastrous with a lost ball, two sand shots, and a few other ugly looking shots for my second triple of the round.
Something is going to have to turn around soon, because this round is going downhill quickly. Luckily after a bogey out of the sand on the par 3 8th, I parred 9 to finish off the front in high spirits.
The Back 9
10 is a short par 5, but was one of my favorite holes on the course.
This was the first time I really felt like I had a decision to make about what I was going to do with the ball. I had a solid drive down the center of the fairway leaving me about 225 out from the green. The green was elevated and there was a scary looking bunker directly in front of it. I could go for it in two and hopefully have an eagle putt, or end up in a dark abyss of sand, from which my round may never recover.
“Oh, what the hell.”
I pulled out my three wood and launched it straight down the course leaving me with a 20 foot putt for eagle (haven’t seen one of those in awhile).
I missed the downhill putt, but had a short two footer that gave me my first birdie of the season!
The excitement quickly subsided after my GIR on 11 and subsequent FOUR putt to make double bogey – 11 holes in and I still hadn’t quite become used to these greens.
The rest of the round played out pretty well with pars on 12 and the par 3 17, a bunch of bogeys, and one final triple after an errant drive and lost ball on 14.
The finishing holes were some my favorite on the course.
16 was a good sized par 5 fron an elevated tee that just begs you to let it rip. I launched mine to the right of the fairway and once again felt compelled to dry and get my three wood the 240 that remained onto the green. I took a great shot at it, but was still about 15 yards off in the center of the fairway – one more bogey.
The par 3 17 was a fun hole, like most of the 3s on the course, made even more fun by my par there. And then 18 was a sweeping dogleg right from another elevated tee. It’s always fun to hit off those, and there were plenty of them in Midland Valley.
In the end I finished with a 91 that I wasn’t ecstatic about, but was far from unhappy with. Playing golf in a completely different area and climate for the first time in 6 months definitely can have it’s effects on you.
Is Midland Valley Golf Course Augusta National? Absolutely not.
Is it a fun round while you’re in town for the Masters? Definitely.
The fast greens keep the challenge up, and despite some maintenance issues, the layout was interesting, enjoyable, and the people there were all laid back and pleasant. We payed a locals rate of $35 for 18 including cart, but I think the Masters rate is still relatively reasonable at $50.
So next year if you have the chance, bring your clubs, hit the course, and then head out and let the pros show you how its really done.