Earlier this month I planned to take off Friday and go to Pinehurst, NC to play some of the courses down there, including Dormie Club. I held off putting in my request for the day off until I got an idea of the weather. Last week we got about a foot of snow in Charlottesville and Pinehurst got some snow and ice. I figured that the courses down there might be wet from the melting snow so I didn’t want to take a day off and slosh around. Since I live close enough to Pinehurst I will save that trip in hopes of better playing conditions. The weather was supposed to be very nice this weekend so I still wanted to get out for some golf.
I decided to make the drive over to the Hampton Roads area which is about 2.5 hours away. The Hampton Roads is dominated by the Chesapeake Bay and the James River. I wanted to see a new area and figured that if the conditions were not perfect I could still justify the trip as it was a little less risky than what I had originally planned for the weekend. I tried to get over to the area last year but never made it as hotels were crazy expensive during the peak season (think close to the beach). During this time of year the courses offer off season rates and based on my research the courses looked good, not great, so I didn’t want to pay a bunch of money to play average courses during the peak season. I didn’t have any courses in the area pegged as must plays in Virginia (except for the courses at Bay Creek), but I like to make up my own mind based on experience. It is one of those spots that I would regret not getting to if/when I ever move from Charlottesville.
My plan was to play 36 holes on Saturday and Sunday and that is exactaly how it worked out. With the warm weather forecasted I thought there would be a lot golfers out so I wanted to get an early morning time on Saturday before anticipating a slow afternoon round. I booked a 7:30am round at Nansemond River and left Charlottesville around 4:30am. It took about 2.5 hours to get to the course and I was maybe the 5th car in the parking lot when I pulled in. It was chilly when I went off, but it started to warm up throughout the morning. I ended playing in just about 3 hours which is pretty quick for me when I am taking pictures and writing down my thoughts about the course.
The course’s main claim to fame is that it plays along the Nansemond River which is a tributary of the James River. The river is visible from maybe six holes, but there are nice views of the marsh on many more of the holes. There are many parallel holes to maximize the views of the marsh, but it didn’t bother me because it was a peaceful setting for golf. The views and lay of the land reminded me of a course that could be found down in Myrtle Beach. The parallel holes had some fescue grass of medium height which divided the holes and there are a few pine trees in between the holes which offered good aiming points. The parallel holes with views of the water reminded me a bit of The Tribute in Texas which I played last year. Since this was my first round of golf since Florida, I liked the wide fairways and I found quite a few poor tee shots. What I didn’t get away with though, was a decent score as I didn’t hit my irons well either. The course is well bunkered off the tee and some fairways were made narrower by slopes. The course isn’t the most demanding off the tee, but it requires some precision on the approaches to avoid bogies. I noticed a few greens with sections only accessible by using a slope or shaping an iron in there. I played the Blue tees (72.6/132/6750) and if it was a little deeper into the golf season I could see this as a course where I could throw together a good score as it’s my type of course. There wasn’t much lost ball trouble around the greens, just spots where a bunch of bogies can be made if someone isn’t sharp.
There are some really fun holes to play for a variety of reasons. The 1st runs away from the clubhouse out towards the marsh. The 3rd hole is a 545 yard par 5 and the green is on the corner of the property with the marsh on one side and the river on the other. The 4th is a 333 yard par 4 that is a good strategy hole. The fairway slopes from right to left and the tee shot looked narrow with bunkers on each side. When I got up to the fairway I found that the fairway got wider closer to the green, but that was hidden from the tee. The 5th is a long par 4 with a 2nd shot that plays over part of the marsh so it is a very good challenge. The 6th through the 9th play through some homes and were uninteresting to play. The 10th, like the 1st, runs away from the clubhouse before the stretch from the 13th through the 17th which are top notch holes. The 13th is a 590 yard par 5 with a tee shot that needs to carry the marsh which runs down the entire right side of the hole. The hole actually has two greens which is something that I have never really liked. It requires more maintenance and has an added difficulty when calculating the distances. Both greens were surrounded by trouble, but it was cut down which gave me a chance to find my ball as I missed it short. Even with the two greens it was scenic, challenging, and fair to play. The 14th is a 393 yard par 4 that started to horseshoe around the marsh and it has a long bunker with a tree in it that guards the green, a unique feature. The 16th is a 117 yard par 3 that was a blast to play. The green angles from front right to back left and has a false front. It was just a pitching wedges for me, but it needed to be precise. The 17th is a short par 4 that needs another accurate short iron as the green is an island green. I was eyeing my approach and thought it would be good but it one hopped over the green into the water. When I played the pin was in the back, but if the pin was front right it would be as intimidating a wedge shot as someone could ever face.
I called the course last Thursday to see about the conditions and they said that the snow had all melted and that it wasn’t very wet. Unfortunately a line of heavy rain moved through on Friday so the course (and everywhere else that I played on the trip) was soaked. The proshop told me that they were letting the carts off the path here which I found impossible to believe, but that is part of the reason why I played in only 3 hours. The wet conditions affected everything as there was standing water everywhere and no roll on shots. I tried to carry my shots farther and I putted from where I would normally chip just so I wouldn’t chunk a chip. The greens looked fast and shiny with the sunlight reflecting off of them, but they were on the slower side because of the rain, but they rolled well. Because of the rain I don’t have a good read on the conditions, but if it was dry I think the greens would have been speedy and the fairways were cut to a nice length while I was there. Therefore, I see the course as a very good value and a place that I would recommend as I paid $39 on Golfnow.