Gunpowder Golf…..experience yesterday today


Welcome to Gunpowder Golf Club

Back in the late 80’s, I moved to Burtonsville, Md. On a late fall, Saturday afternoon, I went exploring in my new neighborhood. I was driving down Old Gunpowder Road and saw a sign for the Gunpowder Golf Club. I pulled in.

The pro shop was small but offered a wide array of golf gear. The snack bar was adjacent to the pro shop and I was struck by the wood  burning fireplace in the corner. I inquired about fees, etc. I don’t remember the cost back then (it has been 20 years). I do remember thinking that it was a bargin rate.

I rented a cart, loaded my clubs and headed to the first tee. I still recall my horror as my tee shot sailed down the middle of the fairway and into the trees beyond the dogleg right. I loved the course. It had been carved out of a rock quarry. The course was built back in 1956. Mr. Milligan designed and built the course. He sold the rocks he pulled out of the front nine to pay for the construction of the back nine.

Now, the front nine is tight. It is short, but only the most accurate golfer will let out the lumber. A misplayed shot will certainly find trees. Often, a shot that finds the trees is in such a place that you can’t get there from here. If you are lucky enough to find your ball, pitching back onto the fairway is your best option. 

Some people scoff at Gunpowder. It certainly is not a high priced, well manicured country club. I will be the first to agree that the local rule of moving your ball up to one club length inside the tree line is necessary to avoid dings from the rocks that continue to find their way to the surface. I will also swear that there is not a more beautiful view than from the 16th tee in the fall.

The most endearing thing about the course is the collection of regulars. When I first started playing there, there was a hustle on Sunday, Monday,  Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning. The weekends featured two seperate hustles. The Big Boys selected teams and played best ball gross. There were 4 or 5 members to each team. They also played closest to the pin on the par 3’s. The other group was called the Retiree’s, probably because they played 5 days a week. The played 4 man teams best 2 balls, net. They also played closest to the pin on three of the par 3s. They excluded the 4th hole because no one in the retirees group could reach it.

Money did exchange hands.

Now, I drifted in and out of Gunpowder over the years. Everytime I would decide that I wanted to play a more upscale venue, I would leave. I always came back. I was always greeted by the crowd like a long lost son.

Over the years, folks have moved away. Lots of the guys have died. Friends have come and gone. Not one of the folks that shows up early for the hustle would admit it, but we all come back for the love. There is a bond between us that goes beyond matches won and lost. There is a kinship that develops amongst us, facing the everchanging landscape.

I will forever remember Ali, Manny, Ken, Wally, Warren, Cy….the list goes on.

The course is challenging, the experience is life changing. Play Gunpowder and become a thread of the history that has become a beautiful tapestry of golf, games, and friends.

Just remember……you have to wait on number three (you can reach the green in two), you can reach number five, the tee shot on seven is blind and yes…those are deer trotting through the course.


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