I dropped someone off at the Richmond airport around noon and headed a little south of town for my round at Dogwood Trace. Dogwood Trace is in the town of Petersburg which is at the intersection of I-85, I-95, and the 295 bypass around Richmond so it is going to be accessible for many people in the Richmond area or passing through the state. Because it is 30 miles south of Richmond it has always been too far a drive for one round of golf since it isn’t a top tier course. However, I have read that it is a great municipal course and since I was already nearby I decided to give it a try. I got there early and tried to get out early, but there was a small tournament that went off which slowed up play. I knew it was going to be slow going before I started so I was as prepared as possible. Plus, a ranger was out and I could hear him telling various groups to take their time and hit some practice shots so that took the slow play edge off. The staff really impressed me as everyone had a smile on their face.
I’ll get the bad out of the way early on and say that the course is in a horrible location. I don’t think that the course is in the best neighborhood and there were a bunch of distractions throughout the round. There is a school right across the street from a few holes and a sports complex that isn’t too far away. On the other side of the course are train tracks and I think there is a fire department nearby. There was loud music coming from the sports complex for the first nine holes, two or three trains went past, and multiple fire trucks. In many respects, it reminded me of Heron Lakes in Oregon with all the noise. That is the only bit of “bad” that I found about the course which is rare to say for a municipal course.
The course is a very compact layout and many tees are close to the greens. This means it is a good walking course and there are only a couple holes on the front with some elevation change. I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the design and the course doesn’t feel like a municipal course at all. The course is well bunkered off of the tee and has plenty of undulation in the fairways which I find unusual for a municipal course. There are spots on the greens with pin locations where I didn’t aim at the flag even with a short iron and the course rewards an ability to shape tee shots. There was even a grass bunker and a double green. I enjoyed having to put some thought into which type of shot that I wanted to hit. Accuracy is needed but a laser on each shot is not needed for a good round. I played the Gold tees at 71.6/132/6605 and because of the shorter length, I think it is the type of place that will allow for someone to make some birdies to offset the bad holes. There are five par 5’s and plenty of room to miss in certain spots. Many holes run parallel to each other so I always had hope that I could turn my score around or find a wayward tee shot. I wasted a lot of strokes around the greens as they were tricky with many chips or putts having to tumble over a ridge to get to the hole. I think someone playing here for the first times is going to be challenged by the green complexes. For a great score someone is going to have to hit all the shots, but someone can still shoot a good score with some bad shots and that is something I love in a golf course.
The first two holes are nothing special but the 3rd starts a good stretch of holes. The 3rd is a 338 yard par 4 that tightens off the tee the farther that someone hits it and the fairway slopes to the right. The approach played to a green where the flag was tucked behind a bunker and I played 30 feet left of the hole with a wedge. The 4th is a 221 yard par 3 that plays downhill. The hole is open around the green and allows for recovery after missing the green which is how I like to see long par 3’s. The 5th is another short par 4 with a tree that comes into play off the tee if someone doesn’t work it right to left into the fairway before out of bounds creeps into play left of the green. The 6th is a reachable par 5 but the tee shot needs to hit the slope in the fairway just right to get a good kick. The 9th, a 178 yard par 3 over water, is a strong hole to close out the front nine. The back nine is longer and is dominated by four long par 4’s from the 11th through the 14th which play 390, 420, 430, and 465 yards. If someone can get through those holes without too many bogeys then three of the last four holes offer birdie chances. The 16th, which isn’t one of those birdie holes, is a memorable par 3 that plays over water. I would have liked to see a short iron par 3, but since are so many strong holes, it isn’t as high on my request list as it would be at some other courses.
I was impressed with the maintenance as well. The greens were aerated three weeks ago and at the final stages of recovery. I only had one or two putts bump offline so it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the course. The greens were firm, only held a solidly struck iron shot, and were surprisingly fast. The edges of some greens were sandy and could use work, but still were very nice overall for a municipal course. It wasn’t a place where I could go around jamming putts because of the quickness and had to be cautious of the high side lip out. The fairways provided some roll and generally were in good shape with only some thin lies. The nice consistency of the bunkers surprised me for a municipal course too.
I would recommend the course to someone passing through Richmond if they are looking for a round that isn’t too far off of the interstate. The course was in good shape, interesting to play, and a great value for the price that I found. I wish Charlottesville had a place this like where I could play once a month.
#2 green looking back:
#11 short of the green:
#18 short of the green: