I finished up at Piankatank a little after 11:45am and called Golden Eagle to let them know that I would be a few minutes late. The courses are only 20 minutes apart (part of my genius plan when I play 36 holes!) and I hightailed it over to Golden Eagle in Irvington. Irvington is a town just over the Rappahannock River. The department of transportation was doing some bridge work and I got stopped on the middle of the bridge for maybe five minutes which allowed me to take in the nice scenery. As I pulled into the parking lot I could see that weren’t many cars and that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about sharing the course with too many other people. The nice thing about playing out this way is that the area is more secluded than say Williamsburg, where I was last week. The courses out here will really only have play from the locals and vacationers. I got a sandwich from the grill and had enough time to leisurely eat it in-between the 1st and 2nd holes.
Golden Eagle is billed as a resort course and I believe there are overnight accommodations available. I just went for the day, but the community looked really nice from the little that I saw. Golfweek just released their selections for the 2014 top public courses in Virginia and Golden Eagle is ranked tenth. Oddly, this had nothing to do with my selection for an afternoon round here as I just found a good deal on Golfnow ($30) for a decent looking course. I’ve played six of the ten courses on that list and I have to say that I am little surprised that Golden Eagle is so highly ranked. Let me make it clear that I don’t have anything bad to say about the course, but I wouldn’t consider it a place to center a golf vacation around. I took a quick scan through the courses that I’ve played in Virginia and I’d say there are at least seven or eight more deserving courses that would be on my list. I don’t know the criteria that Golfweek uses to rank courses, but the nice thing about having access to so many different golf websites is that I can get an idea of the best courses and make up my own mind.
The proshop was up front with me that they started aerating little early and had aerated the first four holes. It was nice that he let me know because I called earlier in the week and was told that they are aerating Monday and Tuesday. It is that time of year and I always like to call a course before I play as I don’t like to putt on bumpy greens. The first few holes here work their way through the pines and some homes and reminded me of a course that would be found up in the Sierra Nevadas. As the round went along I noticed that many of the greens were small and surrounded by bunkers. The bunkers were also a dominating feature off of the tee and I’m sure would standout if the course wasn’t overseeded. When I was playing it was difficult to tell where the bunkers were because they blended in with the fairways. For the most part I’d say that the course played like a resort course. And to clarify, in this case when I refer to a resort course I am referring to wider fairways. The course is more open and forgiving than the average course in Virginia, but still has the tree lined holes that can cause so many problems. The main challenge here is going to be all of the bunkers around the greens and the water that comes into play on a third of the holes. Also what I enjoyed about the course is that it is very consistent and predictable with the variety of holes here. There weren’t any crazy elevation changes, blind shot after blind shot, or green complexes that made me scratch my head. I’d say that the course plays very fair and a bad shot will get a bad result while an average shot will get an average result but still allow for the chance to recover which is a big “plus’ in my book.
I played the Blue tees at 71.1/133/6566 and enjoyed the mix of holes. At that distance though, I would like to see a drivable par 4 which the course doesn’t have. I ended up hitting only one driver on the back nine, but it didn’t bother me as the course let me swing aggressively with my layup club off of the tee as I didn’t have to guess where to hit it. The first few holes allow for a chance to make a couple birdies as there is a short par 4 and par 5 before the signature hole, the 5th, makes an appearance early in the round. Most courses that I have played have the signature hole on the back nine so it is a little odd that it is on the front. Who knows, the nines here could have flipped over the years. The 5th is a 428 yard par 4 that is a bit “quirky”. The hole doglegs left around a lake and everything on the left side feeds towards the water (a bit like the 1st at Monarch Dunes on the California coast). The fairway runs out around 150 yards to the green, so a driver will have to be very precise. I hit 3 wood off the tee and had a long iron into the green. The next few holes play up and down some gentle hills before the 9th requires some precise shots. The 9th is a 393 yard par 4 that moves right. I pushed my tee shot and it ended up perfect as it carried the fairway bunkers, but the safe play is short and left of some fairway bunkers. The 2nd shot is over water to a green complex that will repel a shot short. My approach hit just short of the green and it kicked some 15 yards down the hill towards the water. I’d still call it fair though as it gave me a chance to save a par. The back nine has some position holes until the 15th when the course starts to climb up and down the hills again. The 15th is a straight away par 4 that rises maybe two clubs and it is pretty narrow. I thought the 16th, a 530 yard par 5 with trouble left, was an odd hole. The hole is on the side of a hill and everything feeds left towards the trouble. My tee shot hit the right side of the fairway and ended up in the center of the fairway with the ball above my feet. I think it is the worst hole on the course as it felt like the designer got a little lazy. The 18th is almost a duplicate of the 9th, just a little shorter.
Once I got to the 5th hole the greens rolled fine and I made a couple putts. They weren’t the best that I’ve played on this year, but they weren’t the worst either. Since the greens are on the smaller side anytime I had putt, I thought I could make it. The fairways were in decent shape although the course have used a few more days to dry out. The tees were muddy and didn’t have much grass but it might just be because of the time of year. I will say that the bunkers were not very good as there were lots of rocks in them which would put some dings in a new wedge. I cruised around 2.5 hours and certainly think that the course is worth a play for those staying in the area.
#9 green looking back: