Birdwood Golf Course (Charlottesville, VA on 09/14/13)

If I go back to last summer when I was job searching I found this course one night while looking at golf courses in Charlottesville where I was considering applying for the job that I got. Now, the course is about 10 minutes away from where I live and I’ve used the practice facilities a couple times so it is interesting how things change. Birdwood Golf Course is part of the Boar’s Head Resort and is the home course to the University of Virginia golf team. In addition, the course has been ranked on GolfWeek’s “Best Campus Courses” list for the last couple years so it has all the makings of a quality course. The high cost of the weekend green fee ($85 to ride) and the fact that I did not want to play all the local courses quickly kept me away until today.

It was a perfect day with the high around 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. In fact, it felt like the first day of fall since the temperature was so crisp. I made sure to take advantage of the twilight rate which is $35 to walk and $55 to ride and I decided to walk it because it didn’t look like a tough course to walk. I played the blue tees at 74.2/140/6920 and was pleasantly surprised that the course was not as tough as I thought it would be, at least for the opening holes. The 1st hole has a downhill tee shot and an uphill approach while the 2nd is a short par 5 that plays alongside a natural pond and has trouble all down the left side. The 3rd plays uphill and moves right with the challenge coming from an uneven lie in the fairway to a green with a false front. The 4th is a downhill par 3 that tests the club selection as the green is guarded by water. It was about here that I started to notice a couple patterns. The course puts a heavy emphasis on accurate approaches and it requires playing to the bend in the dogleg to set up the approach. The 5th hole is a par 5 where the hole moved hard right from about 70 yards away and the 6th is a short par 4 that needed an iron off the tee to avoid running through the fairway. I am sure some better players can work a ball with the shape of the hole to avoid always playing to the corner but I’m not that good. The 7th is a 411 yard par 4 to a green with 3 different tiers. The 9th is another straight away par 4 but the challenge there is the approach to a elevated green so I had no idea what kind of trouble was nearby. The 10th played down a hill and was good opportunity for birdie if someone can find the fairway that pinches the farther down you go. Up to this point the course was fairly flat with elevation changes no more than a club and compact with tees close to the greens so it was an easy walk. This was the part of the course that I had seen from the range and clubhouse where many holes were open and there were some parallel holes. The 11th through the 18th are a completely different course with severe elevation changes and longer walks between the holes. These holes are more typical of what I have found for golf in Virginia as they are routed through the woods and there are some hikes between the greens and tees. The 12th is a par 3 that drops a club and a half to a green surrounded by trouble and the 13th is a 405 yard par 4 on the card but it doglegs 90 degrees right. My Skycaddie said I had 324 yards in a direct line to the green so that gives an idea of how much it moves right. The 14th, a downhill par 3 to an island green surrounded by water, is my favorite hole on the course. The green was large so an average shot wouldn’t always end up in the water but it required a significant amount of thought to club it right. Plus, it had a nice view of the hills. The 15th is a par 5 that moved left and then down and the 16th is a long par 4 down a hill. The closing holes are a good test as the 16th is 446 yards, the 17th is 573 yards, and the 18th is 453 yards. The back nine certainly required more course knowledge than the front. The key to the back nine I think is hitting it to a flat spot.

The course was in great shape as the greens were firm and fast and the ball sat up in the fairways. Throughout the course there were only a couple bare spots in the rough so the money gets put back into the maintenance. I struggled with putter because the greens were so fast and sloped so much. Many times I found myself having to be defensive and never could give a putt a run because it broke a lot. It seemed I was always playing at least 3 feet of break on a 30 foot putt. I enjoyed the course but I think it would tough to put together a good score no matter how much I play it just because I don’t hit it like the pros. The front nine requires precision on the approaches to get it close and it nearly has to be a perfect shot while the back nine is target golf. Even with a higher score likely there is no doubt this is the finest course in the Charlottesville area and it would have been worth the $55 to ride.

#1:

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#1 approach:

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#2:

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#2 approach:

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#2 green:

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#3 approach:

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#3 green:

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#4:

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#5:

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#6:

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#6 green:

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#7 green:

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#11 green looking back:

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#13 green looking back:

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#14 green:

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