By Al Higgins

Driving south along the highway toward Crisfield, seemingly in the middle of corn and soybean country, you suddenly come across one of the most beautiful golf courses on the Eastern Shore. 

Great Hope Golf Course, which was designed by Dr. Michael J. Hurdzan, opened to the public in 1996. It was built on land donated by Somerset County and, during its early years, was managed by a golf course contracting firm. In early 2000, the county took over management of the course and the Department of Recreation & Parks began overseeing operations. The county also maintains a relationship with UMES and offers students a PGA Management curriculum, which culminates in students taking the Player Aptitude Test. 

There is a wide assortment of recreational activities available in Somerset County through its department of recreation and parks.

The county strives to maintain a reasonable price structure for golfers and they have recently implemented a new program called the Skipjack Super Pass. For an annual fee of $99, golfers can play 18 holes at any time for $25, which includes a golf cart. The fee drops to $18 for nine holes. Walkers pay $18 for a round of golf and $13 to play nine holes. Members of the Skipjack Super Pass also receive half off their first golf lesson (the course employs two PGA teaching professionals) and a 10 percent discount on food and beverages at the Caddy Shack Restaurant.

With the exception of the first hole, which is primarily a straight-forward par four with trees on three sides of the green, the remaining 17 holes are very much like a Scottish links course. The terrain is flat, with enough water to keep the game interesting and wayward shots end up in some daunting rough. Players can expect to complete their round in four hours or less. 

Clint Sterling is the director of Somerset County Department of Recreation and Parks. “The golf course serves several functions aside from golf,” Sterling stated. “The course itself is rich in wildlife habitat and waterfowl, as well as bald eagles, which are commonly spotted throughout the course. Golf also draws tourists to our area and, once here, they become involved in several spin-off recreational activities. In short, the course serves as a hub for recreational activities. For example, visitors discover the excellent fishing and crabbing opportunities and countless other water sport activities involving the area’s rivers, marshes and tidal basins. We have constructed a walking track around the perimeter of the golf course as well as a 4.7 mile blacktopped, 10’ wide track complete with rest stations and landscaping.”

Trail Mix is an innovative program developed by the county that brings together several forms of recreational opportunities. 

“The concept behind Trail Mix is simple,” said Sterling. “It is to put all the opportunities for hiking, walking, golfing, biking and paddling in one place. We want everyone to know where they can go to stay active and use the trails that are already there.” 

Additional recreational opportunities are available at the department’s headquarters. There visitors will find centralized athletic fields featuring soccer, field hockey, dog walking   facilities and gymnasiums. 

At first glance Somerset County seems to be a sleepy little area nestled against the Chesapeake Bay, but it offers more than meets the eye. From fine dining at the Washington Inn in Princess Anne or a quick bite at the harbor on your way to Rumbly, Somerset County also offers many places to enjoy the great outdoors.