- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Location: Fairfax

Yardage/par: 6,151 yards, par 71

Rating/slope: 71.2/130

Architect: Ed Ault (1979)

Fees: $$-$$$

Phone: 703/385-3700

Range: None

Layout: A short smorgasbord of target golf with a cemetery of watery graves. A dozen holes carry some form of aquatics. No. 12 might be the hardest par-4 in Western civilization. Accompanying townhouse community makes it very tight in spots. Conditions have improved dramatically in recent years, but few courses in the area get a heavier dose of play.



Location: Chantilly

Yardage/par: 6,957 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 72.9/135

Architect: Ault, Clark and Associates (1998)

Fees: $$-$$$$

Phone: 703/631-7904

Range: Grass

Layout: Perhaps the best local design from the ultra-prolific architectural firm of Ault, Clark & Associates. Simply no weaknesses here — not a boring hole or an arbitrary moment. Offering everything from isolated parkland forays to open heathland jaunts, perhaps this plan’s purest allure is its immunity to quick characterization. From split fairways and rock outcroppings to straightforward tree-lined challenges and water-guarded par-3s, Pleasant Valley shifts gears more often than Jeff Gordon. And yet, it never seems contrived. Serious challenge. Serious beauty. Serious fun.



Location: Lorton

Yardage/par: 6,405 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 71.7/131

Architects: George Cobb/J. LaFoy (1982)

Fees: $-$$

Phone: 703/339-8585

Range: Mats

Layout: A wild ride over radical terrain, framed in most parts by thick forest. Surprisingly difficult considering the length, penal Pohick features crowned fairways, blind doglegs, canted greens and the constant threat of trouble. Just two or three water holes, maybe one total acre of flat land. Bring a 3-iron and several sleeves of golf balls.



Location: Nokesville

Yardage/par: 6,635 yards, par 70

Rating/slope: 72.1/125

Architect: Various (1970)

Fees: $-$$

Phone: 703/754-7111

Range: Mats

Layout: A relatively easy course long on beauty if somewhat short on shot values. The addition of back teeboxes gave the course some much-needed length, and at least a couple of dull teeth. A lot of hills, but not a lot of blind shots or trees. Six water holes. Course finishes strong.



Location: Leesburg

Yardage/par: 7,191 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 74.3/134

Architect: Gary Player (1996)

Fees: $$$-$$$$

Phone: 703/779-2555

Range: Grass

Layout: One of the region’s must-play public facilities. From its Scottish-style stacked-sod bunkers to its straightforward playability, this gem from Gary Player is an aesthetic masterpiece. That said, the true brilliance of the course lies in its tee-to-green simplicity. With the exception of one brief stretch on the back nine (Nos. 12 and 13), Raspberry Falls is a gimmick-free delight, a rarity in today’s world of target-golf tedium.



Location: Reston

Yardage/par: 6,871 yards, par 71

Rating/slope: 72.9/126

Architect: Ed Ault (1967)

Fees: $$-$$$$

Phone: 703/620-9333

Range: Grass

Layout: Wide fairways, huge greens and emphasis on length make it typical of Edmund Ault’s architectural style. Few frills, but a strong collection of par-4s. Billy Casper Golf Management took over several years ago, refurbishing and reclaiming the hard-used layout while also reducing the fee schedule. Moderately tree-lined with very little water. A conventional design on classic rolling terrain. Man-sized layout, reliable conditions and outstanding location have entrenched it as one of Virginia’s most popular publics.



Location: Front Royal

Red (3,095 yards, par 36); White (3,026 yards, par 35); Blue (3,304 yards, par 36)

Rating/slope: 69.6/122 (R-W); 70.7/122 (W-B); 71.1/126 (R-B)

Architect: Buddy Loving (1965)

Fees: $-$$

Phone: 540/636-4653

Range: Grass

Layout: Shenandoah’s 27 holes are exceedingly tight, at times demanding almost absurd pinpoint accuracy. The claustrophobic feel is heightened by Shenandoah’s classic mountainside flavor, featuring a profusion of mammoth trees, blind tee shots, severely canted fairways and sidehill lies, and completed by a set of greens minuscule by modern standards. The overall result is a nasty, narrow, pine-lined funhouse oozing with personality and capable of testing your ability with every stick in the set. Low cost gives it high appeal.



Location: Chantilly

Yardage/par: 7,147 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 74.5/133

Architect: Dan Maples (1998)

Fees: $$-$$$

Phone: 703/327-3673

Range: Grass

Layout: The first local offering from architect Dan Maples, South Riding rarely stuns you with thoughtful shaping or exceptional aesthetic features, but after a suspect opening hole the layout rambles alternately through a housing development and a swampy assortment of hardwoods without another questionable design decision. Quite a few strong holes here, but only two gems: Nos. 3 and 13.



Location: Jeffersonton

Yardage/par: 7,033 yards, par 71

Rating/slope: 73.2/123

Architect: Ed Ault (1960)

Fees: $-$$

Phone: 540/937-3250

Range: Grass

Layout: This big-hitter’s paradise is typical of Ault’s spray-friendly, spacious designs in that it rarely penalizes players off the tee. Instead, it steals strokes with Tour-like length and gargantuan greens. Those who fancy a real fight should step back to the gold tees. From the tips, the back nine stands as the most prodigious piece of golf course in the region. South Wales’ sadistic side measures an eye-popping 3,786 yards from the back tees its par-4s averaging 447 yards. The pros rarely have to tackle such an epic task. It’s worth a trip just to say you danced with this dragon.



Location: Roundhill

Yardage/par: 6,900 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 73.4/132

Architect: Lisa Maki (1992)

Fees: $$-$$$

Phone: 540/338-4653

Range: Grass

Layout: Stark altitude changes and a pre-Civil War stone wall are the dominant features of this design. The combination of the two makes Nos. 2 and 3 arbitrary and unfair, but the rest of the layout is entertaining, challenging and stunningly attractive. The last four holes, a pair of testy par-5s, a long par-3 and a scenic par-4, provide as fine a finish as the mid-Atlantic has to offer.


STONEWALL **** 1/2

Location: Gainesville

Yardage/par: 7,002 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 74.1/142

Architect: Tom Jackson (2002)

Fees: $$$$-$$$$$

Phone: 703/753-5101

Range: Grass

Layout: One of the top five plans in the region combines a quirk-free design with some of the mid-Atlantic’s most memorable property. Like its prestigious neighbor, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Stonewall makes the most of its location along Lake Manassas, with no less than six holes providing stunning views of the water. Jackson, who did his tutelage under legendary architects Robert Trent Jones and George Cobb before branching out on his own, passes the ultimate litmus test of any designer, crafting a course without a single ho-hum hole. Like most high-caliber designs, the layout defies easy classification, though playability seems like the design’s defining theme. A relatively easy driving course with unusually generous fairways and clear target lines, the course finds its teeth in the fairway with virtually every approach requiring a high degree of precision.



Lakes *** ; Oaks *** 1/2

Location: Clifton

Yardage/par: 6,788 yards, par 73 (Lakes); 6,710 yards, par 71 (Oaks)

Rating/slope: 72.0/132 (Lakes); 70.7/116 (Oaks)

Architects: Charles Schalestock (Lakes, 1969) and Denis Griffths (Oaks, 1999)

Fees: $-$$$

Phone: 703/631-9372

Range: Grass

Layout: Busiest and best of facilities run by Fairfax County Park Authority. The Oaks Course represents Twin Lakes’ first foray into the upscale arena, giving the longtime facility a more challenging layout to complement its Lakes Course, an ego-boosting municipal staple that should be the first stop for those players still looking to break 80 for the first time. After a slow start defined by suspiciously sloped landing areas and short, chop-and-chase par-4s, the Oaks really begins to blossom around No. 8, a 204-yard par-3. Reminiscent of startlingly schizophrenic plans at Hog Neck and Jackson’s Chase, the Oaks’ back nine is as fiery as the front nine is forgettable. The general flavor is lengthy parkland, similar to Reston National, as the player encounters a procession of wonderfully framed, man-sized holes.



Location: Gainesville

Yardage/par: 6,928 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 73.5/133

Architect: P.B. Dye (1995)

Fees: $$-$$$

Phone: 703/754-7977

Range: Grass/mats

Layout: The front nine is a snug voyage through Virginia hardwoods, placing a premium on accuracy. No. 4, the 406-yard par-4 signature hole nicknamed “The Point,” plays out a peninsula and seems to funnel right into Lake Manassas. Whether you card a 3 or an 8, the view from the green will leave you gaping in awe. The back nine is a wide-open jaunt featuring monstrous greens — the putting surface at the par-3 11th measures 60 yards deep and 75 yards wide.



Location: Bluemont

Yardage/par: 6,755 yards, par 72

Rating/slope: 73.0/136

Architect: Jerry Matthews (1999)

Fees: $$-$$$

Phone: 888/283-4653

Range: Grass

Layout: Shangri-La in a shoebox. Matthews and director of golf Cliff Boyd massaged this spectacular, though somewhat cramped, piece of property by the Shenandoah River in Clarke County into a mini masterpiece. They shrank their scope and squeezed the first nine holes into a mystifyingly small outlay of acreage. Hitting driver here is practically a felony. Rolling ridges of Scottish-style wild fescue separate the four-abreast fairways on the front nine, softening the sandwiched reality of the situation. And the back nine raises the ante of awe thanks to the introduction of space and drastic mountainside elevation changes.



Location: Clifton

Yardage/par: 6,897 yards, par 71

Rating/slope: 73.1/136

Architect: Fred Couples/Gene Bates (1999)

Fees: $$$$

Phone: 703/631-3300

Range: Grass/mats

Layout: This solid parkland plan definitely has the feel of a collaborative effort, as a virtual tug-of-war in sod unfolds between co-designers Fred Couples and Gene Bates. Both nines start slow, inducing a few yawns before Boom-Boom’s architectural adrenaline kicks in during a five-hole run on the back nine. Shortened at Couples’ insistence, two driveable par-4s (Nos. 13 and 14) are followed by a reachable par-5, a driver-wedge walkover and a short par-3. Quite simply, even Mr. Magoo could find a birdie on this easy but entertaining stretch. Westfields is a solid design, but its four-star price point makes it a marginal value.



Location: Leesburg

Yardage/par: 7,010 yards, par 71

Rating/slope: 71.1/121

Architect: Ed Ault (1968)

Fees: $-$$

Phone: 703/777-7023

Range: Mats

Layout: Windswept municipal plan plays through a housing development on the front nine and segues into a series of parallel fairways with few trees on back. No heroes here, but a lot of good soldiers. A steady procession of straightforward 380-yard par-4s are broken by the plan’s signature holes, Nos. 10 and 18, a pair of mid-range (170 yards) par-3s that play back and forth over a lake and demand quality iron play. Conditions are chronically suspect.


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