Image: A golfer kneels to eye up a straight path to the hole

Unique in design, stunning in scenery, abundant in amenities and painless in price, Carroll Valley Golf Course at Liberty Mountain Resort really does have it all. The marvelous 18-hole masterpiece offers extreme diversity with its six par 3s, five par 5s and seven par 4s that test every aspect of the golf game. While changing clubs and making decisions on the course, one can't help but take in the natural sanctuary that surrounds this tranquil playground. Carroll Valley is snuggled in at the base of the Catoctin Mountains that provide vast views across the massive hillside along with the beautiful attributes associated with the location. Streams meander their way across the layout at numerous positions while the mature trees give the course a traditional feel that golfers of all levels can enjoy. However, not everything that makes Carroll Valley special is natural. Golf is only one characteristic of the course that has appeal. The resort offers hotel accommodations along with restaurant service to take a quick pick-up game with your buddies and turn it into a weekend getaway. The course prides itself on the 'Stay and Play' packages and certainly makes convenience a priority as everything necessary for a memorable experience is within arms reach. Whether enjoying a weekend full of golf and dining or simply setting up an afternoon tee time, affordability is also at a premium. The rates at Carroll Valley are extremely competitive with specials being offered based on day and time. Regardless of when you play, you will not be disappointed when the round is completed other than maybe wanting to go for 18 more.

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Front nine

Image: The sun shines through tall trees as a golfer hits a ball

After taking a few steps from the clubhouse and glaring down at the lake and back at the hotel, the first tee box awaits. Carroll Valley starts the round off with a booming par 5 that will test the driver from the opening swing. The slight dogleg right features a green that still seems forever away when lining up for the second shot. Knock one close on a short chip and the round should start with a solid score. The second hole will have you guessing early on as only half of the fairway is visible from the tee with the stretch of short grass that extends past extreme, 90-degree right turn being guarded by a group of towering trees blocking any sight of the flag. A well-hit drive can clear the trees and cut the hole in half quickly, but a ball that fades right is going to be in real trouble. Get comfortable trying to read the putting surface here as luck with the flat stick is going to be hard to find the rest of the way. While the greens roll magnificently and are manicured to perfection, they provide as much frustration as they do fancy which can easily be experienced at No. 3. The first of the par 3s appears fairly routine as long as you clear the stream in front of the dance floor. So you hit the green and stuck one close and birdie seems eminent? Not so fast Tiger, as this surface is ready to change that circle on the scorecard to a square in a hurry. The green slopes dramatically from back to front with undulations causing a guessing game when it comes to speed and breaks. Depending on pin placement, you more than likely want to stay below the flag off the tee if you are going to have any chance at a two-putt. Now shift from the softest of touch to the most demanding of drives as you arrive at the 584-yard, par 5 fourth. The longest and hardest rated hole on the course features a blind tee shot that needs to stay left of the bordering road and right of the vegetation in order to set up for a decent second swing. Here a decision must be made to lay up or try to carry the stream that once again appears in front of the green. Unless you bombed your drive or have extreme confidence in a club over 200 yards, lay up if you want to keep the ball dry. Hit the slightly elevated putting surface with your third and a birdie here is not unthinkable. The next stretch of the course can concede quality and potentially much-needed scores if played well. The fifth hole is the second par 3 that requires a long iron to reach its relatively flat green compared to what has already been encountered and will provide a solid tally if you land close. A pair of par 4s follow with the sixth playing uphill into a narrow fairway that will demand accuracy from the driver. The seventh features much of the same as a few random trees come into play halfway down the strip of short grass. If the bunkers are avoided on both, especially the two around the green on seven, some positive momentum might be on the agenda. Moving on to No. 8, you are faced with your third par 3 on the front and probably thinking that the low scores should keep on coming. Well, yes, but it won't be easy. Carroll Valley does feature the six par 3s, but all of which play close to or over 200-yards except No. 3, which certainly makes up for the yardage with its green. The eighth is no exception as it plays to 223-yards from the back and also features a tough to navigate putting surface if you do hit it in one. Good score here or not, plan to forget quickly as you pull up to No. 9. The finishing hole on the front followed by the beginning hole for the back are arguably two of the prettiest and most challenging holes in the area. A lake creates a border as well as an obstacle for both as you are given two choices when standing at the ninth tee. First, play it safe and put one out in the short fairway to the left of the water or second, grip and rip a driver over the sprawling blue sparkle and hope to land somewhere on the other side. Either way, a powerful second shot will be required to either clear the water this time or to get up the hill toward the green that overlooks nearly the entire course with the backdrop of the resort hotel. Keep your composure and miss the four bunkers on the hillside and you might have yourself a hole to remember for the score along with its beauty.

Back nine

Image: View from inside a hole as a golfer reaches in for his ball

You might as well keep your eyes wide and mouth slightly open as you begin play on the back. The 10th features the lake on at least two shots as it borders the right side of the extremely slim fairway and then extends out in front of a small landing zone before the green. The drive must be dialed in to hit the short grass and a second shot is going to need to have some confidence behind it to clear the water. Not that keeping the ball dry isn't enough of a task but you must also miss the sand around the green to secure par here. Carroll Valley then reels the golfer back in as you meet up with your fourth par 3 of the day. Once again, the hole plays long at 213 yards from the back but should provide some relief if you found the water on the previous two holes. Diversity shines as you move onto the par 5 12th that lunges over 500 yards across the base of the mountain and requires two full swings from the average golfer before thinking about knocking one close. The green is gorgeous as a stream snakes its way across the fairway and awaits a muffed approach from the front. The 13th and 14th act somewhat as twin par 4s in regards to both length and layout. Both play fairly straight-away with measurements of slightly over 400 yards with the only real difference being the stream that crosses over from No. 12 to guard the dance floor on the 14th. Accurate second shots on this duo will reward your efforts. The 15th is home to the second par 3 of the back and fifth of the round with the flag positioned uphill far enough that the surface is not fully visible from the tee, making it a guessing game in terms of ideal spots to land. Replace your ball mark, sink your putt and move on to the second hardest rated hole on the course. Before breaking out the driver, be aware that the fairway at No. 16 is not nearly as large as it may seem. The hole funnels to the left and into vegetation that will quickly conceal you from finding the blind tee shot. Trees are also to the right but act as somewhat of a guide since the ideal drive will nearly kiss the last visible branch en route to sitting pretty in the middle. Reach the slightly elevated green in two and the stretch run could be a promising one. Carroll Valley's final par 5 is a monstrous gem that begs for a pounded drive, well struck second shot and a soaring approach that will stick to the downhill putting surface when it lands. Homes that are literal architectural marvels watch over the hole from the right while a hump conveniently covered with sand hides the green from the left side of the fairway during your second shot. It is simply fitting in the way the round concludes, especially with the new ownership of Liberty Mountain. Not only is the 18th the sixth par 3, but it runs parallel to the ski lifts that transport thousands up and down the slopes of Ski Liberty in the winter months. The green rests near the hotel and provides a breathtaking view of the hillside and its valley that now provide two fabulous forms of recreational activity. Whether you enjoy teeing it up in the warmer months or shredding the slopes in the winter, Liberty Mountain Resort has you covered with four seasons of enjoyment.

Hole-by-Hole course description written by Ben Destefan of The Record Herald

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