The Club at Ironwood (Staunton, VA on 06/22/14)

I’m slacking on my blog as I’ve been busy doing some more insurance studying (yay) so I’m trying to get caught up. I actually played Ironwood in May and just never got a chance to review it. I played here again just the other day too. If you are thinking that it is rare that I play a course twice in such a short period of time, then you are correct. I have nothing against a lot of the places that I play, but I love to try a new one. A friend had never played here and I wanted revenge from when I played it last month so we settled on an afternoon round here. When I played here the first time I shot a million and I’m not joking. I shot my worst nine hole score in the last year and maybe longer on the front and the back wasn’t much better.

The course is a par 71 with just three par 5’s and first time around I played the Black tees which play 71.5/129/6627. The second time we ended up playing the Blue tees which are 70.0/126/6297. It was unexpected, but I ended up making five birdies and shot a round that is one of my lower scores in the last year. I don’t think there is much difference in strategy from the tee from the Blacks or Blues. One of my mistakes was hitting the wrong club a few times during my first round. Only two non par 3 holes have noticeable yardage differences (#4 and #16) and I hit driver on those holes both times. Most of the other holes are only 10 to 15 yards longer from the Blacks but because of doglegs and slopes in the fairway, the ball is going to end up in the same spots with same clubs off the tee.

This is one of those courses that I’ve driven by many times and never knew it was existed until I found it in my VSGA booklet. The course is right off of I-81 but it is elevated above the interstate so that is probably why I never saw it. Ironwood was previously called the Country Club of Staunton and it seems like a recent name change. The markers on each hole still show the old name and the first time I played the flags still showed Country Club of Staunton. I looked around on the web to see if I could find anything about the history of the course, but I didn’t have any luck.

As the old name and shorter yardage might indicate, the course is what I’d call a classic country club layout. I’d guess that the course was built in the 1960’s based on other similar courses that I’ve played. The course is in the Shenandoah Valley and just like very other course in the valley, the scenery is great. The Allegheny Mountains are to the west and the Blue Ridge Mountains are to the east so there is no shortage of views. The first few holes on the front are more open and play to parallel to each other before the course heads into the woods for some traditional Virginia golf. The course emerges from the woods on 9th and then except for the 11th, the back is more open and has a bit of a parkland feel to it. There are some spots on the back to take advantage of the shorter holes, but some blind shots add difficulty. The course itself has a modest amount of elevation change, but that is typical for the valley courses that I’ve played. The course makes great use of the elevation change as there aren’t many flat lies on the course. Most lies are either on an upslope, downslope, or side slope. This caught me by surprise the first time that I played the course and cost me some strokes. The greens are small with a bunch of slope so the score can get going the wrong direction quickly. I had multiple putts from 5 feet that needed a perfect match of speed and break because the ball had to fall sideways into the hole. Finally, many of the fairways are only 20 yards wide so throw in all that slope and it is tough to keep a tee shot in the short grass. The course is going to play the easiest for someone who can hit it straight and is a short game wizard.

The course was in great shape for the price too. I somehow managed to pay $25 the first go around with my VSGA card which saved a couple dollars from the normal $30 twilight price. That might have been a gift because I paid the normal twilight rate when I came back again. Either way, for $30 the course was very green and lush without any bare patches that affected play. The rough is grown up a bit right now so some club head speed needs to be generated to hack it out of there. The ball sat up in the fairways which were cut a medium height so I could put some spin on the short irons. The tees were nice without any bare patches and the greens rolled well. Thankfully the greens were not rolling fast either time that I played or I could see myself with a four putt because of all the slope to them. They rolled true though so a well struck putt had a chance to drop. One thing to be aware of is the road noise from nearby interstate which takes a bit away from the experience on the back nine. No matter though as I wish Charlottesville had a course this nice for the price.

#1 (362 yard par 4):

This looks like a tight opening hole, but it opens up to the left (way left is the 9th hole) and only a shot over the cart path to the right risks heading out of play. There is a downslope in the fairway maybe 240 or 250 yards from tee so the tee shot can get some extra yards that way. However, that is going to leave a downhill lie into an elevated green with a wedge. The green slopes enormously from back to front so controlling the spin with a short iron is important.

1-1 1-2

#2 (358 yard par 4):

This is another fairway with a lot of slope and it is semi-blind. The slope is from left to right and there are bunkers down left that might be able to be carried. Even a layup is going to run the risk of ending up with an uneven lie so I blasted a driver as far down as I could the second time.

2-1

2-2

2-2

#3 (176 yard par 3):

This par 3 rises maybe half a club to the green. A miss short isn’t the worst spot as the chip is going to be fairly straightforward.

3-1

#4 (558 yard par 5):

This is one of the holes where the Blue tees give a great advantage and I was able to chase a 2nd shot up near the green during my second round. The tee shot is played to a rise in the fairway and then the hole moves a bit to the right. The only spot that is unplayable is down the right tree line. The tee shot isn’t as easy as it looks as anything missing left is going to result in a hook lie and not much view of the fairway.

4-1

#5 (205 yard par 3):

This is my favorite hole on the course because it is framed by the trees behind the green. It is also a challenge as it is a long iron to a small green. The miss is going to be left as there is some slope that will kick the ball towards the green.

5-3

#6 (507 yard par 5):

After playing my favorite hole on the course, this next one is my least favorite. It is a short par 5 but it moves hard left with a fairway that slopes to the right. A ball hitting the left side of the fairway very easily could end up in the right rough so it isn’t very fair.  I hit a 3 wood off of the tee the first time around and that was a mistake as I couldn’t stop it in the fairway. The second time around I opted for a long iron and that was the correct play. From there it is a layup that might need to be played from right to left and a wedge into the green. There is a lot of risk on this par 5 without much reward.

6-1 6-2

#7 (338 yard par 4):

This is a good birdie hole as it is probably going to be a layup off of the tee and a wedge or 9 iron into the green. The green surface is blind from the fairway so I had to try to trust the distance that I picked. Missing long is going to leave a very tricky downhill chip so that isn’t the spot to be.

7-2 7-3

#8 (410 yard par 4):

This is the hardest hole on the course, and for good reason. It is a mid length par 4 that moves left around the trees and has an approach to an elevated green. Hitting the fairway is a tough task because someone can go through the fairway and end up out of bounds down the right side. That means the tee shot needs to draw or flirt with the trees on the left. The green has a bunch of slope to it and I had a putt from 10 feet that I played a foot of break so there is some strategy when figuring out where to putt from.

8-1 8-3

#9 (406 yard par 4):

There are a couple ways to play this one. The safe play is something less than driver at the very last tree on the right side of the fairway. However, that is going to leave an approach to an elevated green from a downhill lie. I challenged the hole both times by hitting a high driver over the edge of the left tree line. That put me in the valley at the bottom of the hill and I had just a sand wedge into the green. A driver down the right could end up out of bounds.

9-2 9-3

#10 (227 yard par 3):

This is another good par 3 and my second favorite hole on the course because of the view. It is a long par 3 even from Blues at 186 yards, but it is a fair hole as there is plenty of room to miss around the green. The green slopes severely from back to front so keeping it short of the pin, even on a chip is going to be the best play.

10-1

#11 (527 yard par 5):

From the tee, it is confusing where to hit it on this par 5. However, there is plenty of space off of the tee to the left to avoid the trouble on the right which runs the length of the hole. There is a downslope in the fairway that needs to be carried and then the smart play is a layup to a narrow fairway. There is some room left of the green to miss if someone wants to give it a go in two shots though. It is a decent chance for birdie.

11-2 11-3

#12 (405 yard par 4):

This is a straightaway par 4. The only difficulty off of the tee is to avoid a bunker on the right. Once that is done then the approach is a little uphill with a mid iron.

12-1

#13 (425 yard par 4):

The hole moves a little left and the tee shot is blind so I think it is one of the tougher driving holes on the course. The approach is played to a green that is similar to some others on the course with a lot of slope from back to front.

13-2 13-3

#14 (387 yard par 4):

The best tee shot is going to carry the ridge in the fairway and end up in a valley. It is not a claustrophobic hole so I had fun trying to swing out of my shoes off of the tee.

14-1 14-3

#15 (397 yard par 4):

This is another par 4 with some options. One option is to hit a 3 wood to lay it up at the end of the first fairway. The 2nd shot from there is going to be a mid iron to a green that is elevated with a big drop off short of it. The other option is to try to hit a driver down the left side and get a kick into the second fairway at the bottom of the hill. That is going to leave a short iron, but it is going to be a lot more up the hill from there.

15-1 15-2

#16 (431 yard par 4):

I had some difficulty picking the line for the tee shot even when I played here the second time. The fairway slopes from right to left so someone should try to play for that kick. That makes it easy to miss right and have a hook lie into the green from the rough.

16-1 16-2

#17 (155 yard par 3):

This par 3 isn’t all that tough on paper, but since the bottom of the flag cannot be seen it is tough to gauge where to land it. Anything on the green should leave a decent two putt chance.

17-1

#18 (353 yard par 4):

The closing hole is a dogleg right par 4. It is tough to find the fairway as the tee shot is played over the corner of the dogleg to a fairway that slopes from right to left. If the fairway can be found, or a decent lie drawn in the rough, then it is a birdie hole with just a short iron into the green.

18-1

18-5

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