Hanover Country Club (Ashland, VA on 06/29/14)

When I called to set up a time here a couple of months ago the pro shop informed me that some of the holes down by the river were partially flooded due to recent heavy rain. I took it off of my list for a bit, but now that some time had passed I decided that I would give Hanover another try. My VSGA card can be used after noon on weekends and the earliest that I could get out would be 12:50pm. I took that tee time and made my way out to the course. The course is maybe 20 minutes north of Richmond but since I was headed on I-64 eastbound I needed to take the back roads the last 20 miles of my drive and that felt like it put it a halt on my progress. For those that haven’t driven in Virginia, our roads are in good shape, but there isn’t any shoulder on many of the back roads. It is just the white line to the right and then grass, trees, or a ditch. VDOT turns what should be a nice drive into a stressful one. So, getting to the course takes some effort, almost like getting to Stevinson Ranch in California from I-5 or CA-99.

I checked in, paid my $29, and headed over to the first tee where things were a little backed up. I teed off about 1pm and didn’t have my seatbelt fastened for what turned out to be a wild ride around the course. The course is a par 71 and plays 6679/72.6/135 from the Black tees where I played. When I think “country club” I was expecting a course like Ironwood where I played last week or Lexington or Winton Country Club. The course is a typical country club layout in the respects that many greens are small and the holes are located close to each other. The course opens with three interesting enough holes before holes 4 through 10 made me put some big numbers on my scorecard. The remaining holes offer a chance to finish the day strong with a couple birdies, but they still could be a handful.

When I think of Richmond and golf I think of fairly flat terrain so I was stunned to see that there are holes that would fit in at many courses in the Shenandoah Valley.  We are talking holes that drop and rise a couple clubs and others that are cut into the side of a hill. The first 10 holes feature plenty of target golf so recovery is unlikely. There are uncomfortable forced carries, small landing areas, and plenty of slope. All of this elevation change starts to make a little more sense when I realized that the back nine drops down to a low part of the property along the South Anna River.  Most of the back nine is fairly flat with parallel holes. These holes are separated by trees and many require a draw or fade on the tee shot to get around them. So, even the flat holes kept my attention as I had to try to create some shots. I don’t think having to move the ball both ways is a deal breaker for me when playing a course, but I like a course that allows me to play just one ball flight. I realize a good player should be able to adjust to a course, but at the same time a good course allows for various ways to obtain a score. I felt like the course forced me into trying to hit shots that I didn’t want to hit.

I wasn’t set on trying to play at a really fast pace, but I ended up playing through three groups before I got to the 9th tee so I wasn’t in any sort of rhythm. That was a bad thing because of all the difficult holes and I couldn’t stand the design of the course at that point in time. I don’t have a bad thing to say about any of the golfers in front of me and they were all very nice, but I could tell that the difficult of the course was affecting them too. I also realize that when playing as a single, I’m going to run into a foursome and have to deal with it. I was prepared to deal with it and then one group waived me through on the 3rd, another on the 5th, and then another on the 8th. Before I knew it had played the front nine just trying to say out of their way and not hold them up anymore than needed when playing through. The spacing between the groups sorted itself out on the back and I ended up playing in 3 hours on the dot. All I wanted to do on the back nine was turn the car on and head home.

I try to be objective when I review a course and I thought that a review after just playing one round here might be a bit harsh. I didn’t like a few holes but didn’t know if they were designed poorly or if I just played them the wrong way. So, I paid $20 for a replay rate and went back out with an open mind. I knocked nine strokes off of my score from the first round and I didn’t have to wait on one shot as no one else was left on the course. That would seem like a success, but I found the course just as frustrating the second time around and still thought that a couple holes were overly tough. I didn’t swing all that much differently from my first round to the second, but I knew the spots where I could recover and avoided some pins that I fired at the first time. I’ll comment on the two holes specifically (#4 and #10) that I don’t like in the hole by hole review. In addition to what has mentioned, I think the course is a bit dangerous to play. The back nine has four holes running parallel to each other so there were carts from various groups all over the pace during my first round. This lead to people hitting both directions from nearly the same place and the safest play, at least to find my ball, was to aim at the 11th tee box on two occasions. Even playing the front nine could require a hardhat.

For $29 the course conditions were fair and wouldn’t keep me away though. The greens were the best maintained part of the course and were enjoyable to putt. They easily could pass at a course with double the green fee. They were firm, fast, and some had ridges a couple feel high that separated one section from another. There were false fronts on some greens that I knew to avoid the second time around but the greens still seemed to repel shots more than an average course. The tees were the second nicest conditioned part of the course as they were flat and cut nice and short. The fairways were long which made it tough to put enough spin on the ball to get it close and there were patchy spots of dirt and hard pan off of the fairway mixed in with the rough. Finally, the bunkers were in poor shape. They weren’t raked, there were weeds in them, and some were firm while others were fluffy. However, cutting the fairways and cleaning up the bunkers doesn’t seem like a major project for a course so I can overlook those items.

I played my second round in 2.5 hours so 5.5 hours for 36 holes and $49 turned out to be a good value. I’m glad I opted for the replay but there is too much that I don’t like about the course design for me to be back on my own with all of the other options in the area. One last thing that I’ll add is that guy working in the proshop was as helpful and accommodating as could be and has customer service figured out.

#1 (382 yard par 4):

This isn’t the hardest opening hole that I’ve played which is nice. I hit 3 wood off of the tee to keep it in play and that worked out just fine. The approach is going to be a short iron probably because the hole drops down to the green. The green slopes off to the left and long so the approach better be accurate.

1-1

#2 (340 yard par 4):

Even though this is the shortest par 4 on the course, it isn’t a pushover. The fairway slopes from right to left so that can force someone to play towards the fairway bunker hoping to get a bounce back to the center of the fairway. The approach is uphill and the flag was tucked over the bunker on a little perch which was maybe two or three feet higher than the front left section of green.

2-1 2-2

#3 (179 yard par 3):

The green on this par 3 is pretty large and gets wider as someone gets deeper into it. I’d say more club is better assuming that someone can avoid going over the green where there is some trouble. This hole sets up perfect for a draw.

3-1

#4 (437 yard par 4):

This is the hardest hole and one of the holes that I didn’t like. I played it as it was designed the second time, but it still is goofy. The fairway slopes severely from left to right. If someone can get a favorable bounce then the 2nd shot is going to be downhill to a green that falls off into trouble on each side. I hit a high and straight tee shot that landed left of the fairway and kicked down into the very center. Any shot landing in the right half of the fairway is going to be a lost ball. I think the cart path should have been put down the left of the hole and a long bunker should be down the right to catch average shots. The 7th green is to the left, almost where I was aimed, so a shot left could end up buzzing a group on that hole.

4-1 4-4

#5 (512 yard par 5):

I didn’t have much trouble with this tee shot and the hole is going to be a good birdie opportunity for someone who can carry a driver 220 yards to get over that trouble. However, for a mid or high handicapper, even from a set of tees up, it is going to be tough to carry that hazard down the right off of the tee because of the angle. I think more trees need to be cleared out down the left side for a place to bail before it is going to be fair for all.

5-1

#6 (343 yard par 4):

The scorecard says 343 yards, but my GPS showed that it was 275 yards. The 275 makes more sense based on the clubs that I hit. This hole is straight up the hill and its going to one of the most uphill holes that I probably will play all year. There is a flatter spot in the fairway maybe 95 to 115 yards from the green so I’d try to hit a club to end up there. Anything else is going to be a big time uphill lie.

6-1 6-2

#7 (433 yard par 4):

This one needs a couple tweaks to make it better. It is a dogleg right and the tee shot needs to favor the left side. Even a tee shot over the right side of the tennis court is going to end up in the fairway so there is plenty of room to the left. The approach is a long iron into a tiny green. There is a bunker short and left of the green and left to right slope off of the bunker into trouble right. I didn’t see a way to chase a long iron onto the green and because of the size, a long iron isn’t going to hold unless it has a high trajectory. I’d almost rather take my chances with a pitch from 4o yards short of the green than try to hit a high draw 4 or 5 iron. I say fill in the bunker and allow for an option to run it up onto the green.

7-1

#8 (164 yard par 3):

This is a good par 3. There is room to miss left for an easy chip which is better than short in the bunker. It plays more up the hill than it looked the first time so I added a club my second round and got the distance right.

8-1

#9 (411 yard par 4):

This one looks scary, but once I got down to the fairway I saw that it was cleared out under the trees down the left side. The ball will rattle around in the trees and fall straight down, but it should be findable even 20 yards left of the fairway. I think a 3 wood or hybrid is the play off of the tee (to the corner of the dogleg) unless a bigger hitter can carry the trees on the left. The extra distance with the driver isn’t really needed because it plays downhill. If the tee shot is in play then it is a decent birdie chance.

9-1

#10 (221 yard par 3):

This is the most ridiculous hole that I’ve played all year. Keep in mind that the course isn’t very long at 6700 yards and that this is a 221 yard par 3 that is all carry over a hazard to a small green. The carry on line to the front of the green was 195 yards, but a miss right or left has to carry another 10 yards or so to clear the water. I think that long par 3’s need to have big greens and if there is a hazard then it shouldn’t be surrounding the green. A hybrid or 3 wood is hard enough to hit so it shouldn’t have to be perfect. However, this type of green complex would make for a brilliant par 3 that is maybe 130 to 150 yards from the tips.

10-1 10-2

#11 (489 yard par 4):

This is a dogleg left par 4 that has some bite. The preferred shot is something right to left off the tee and around the trees on the left. That isn’t my favorite shot so I hit a high, cut driver over the top of the trees on the left which worked out fine. The 2nd shot is a long iron that can be run up onto the green. I think it is a pretty good hole.

11-1

#12 (531 yard par 5):

The green on the 12th ends up very close to the 11th tee box so it is basically the opposite of the last hole. The tee shot should go from left to right which may give someone a chance to go for the green in two. The fairway narrows considerably and there is a hazard left so that makes it tough to play it as it was designed. I waited until the 11th tee was clear and smashed a 3 wood out on that line with a draw and ended up pin high with a good angle for a chip to the back left flag. I’d favor the right side, just look out for other groups. This is part of the course where it gets crowded. The 13th is to the left, the 11th to the right, and the 15th is to the right of the 11th.

12-1 12-2

#13 (368 yard par 4):

This par 4 doglegs left and it runs out of fairway with a driver or even a 3 wood on a conservative line. It was playing a little downwind so I was able to hit a drawing hybrid and had just a short iron into the green. The green has a false front so it is more tricky than it looks.

13-1 13-2

#14 (185 yard par 3):

The tees were up when I played so it was a chance for a birdie with a mid iron to a large and slightly elevated green. There is room to miss short and left.

14-1

#15 (527 yard par 5):

The tee shot most likely can carry the fairway bunkers on the left and that will leave the best angle into the green if someone is trying to get there in two shots. The fairway slopes from right to left and the green is off to the right so that is a hook lie for a cut shot. It should be a birdie hole though.

15-1

#16 (384 yard par 4):

This tee shot looks worse than it really is. Something less than driver is the probably the play and if it can go left to right then that will be better. The fairway is wider than it looks even though the tee shot is semi-blind. The green isn’t very deep so a short iron needs to be controlled well to get it close.

16-1

#17 (391 yard par 4):

This hole gives someone many different ways to play it. I knocked a driver down as far as I could and had just a gap wedge into the green both times. Something less than driver could also work. The pin was tucked just over a big rise in the green so if it on the back level then make sure to miss long for an easier putt.

17-1 17-2

#18 (382 yard par 4):

The last hole plays a bit uphill to a long green. The toughest part is trying to get the tee shot in the fairway as there is out of bounds left and the fairway runs out into that fairway bunker. From there it is a mid or short iron to an elevated green.

18-1

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