It is a three day weekend and that normally means that I’m looking to head out of town for some golf. I’ve spent a lot of money on the game over the last five weeks for various trips and I’ve got another out of state trip booked for August. So, I wasn’t looking to spend to a bunch of cash. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that I have a discount book through the Virginia State Golf Association which allows play at certain courses for just the cart fee. The participating course list is impressive and there have to be 100 to 150 courses throughout the state that offer discounts to VSGA members. The cart fee is capped at $29 this time of year for most courses so I was interested in using the book to play in the southwest part of the state. My original plan was to play 54 holes on Saturday, but that didn’t work as the course that I needed for an early morning round (Botetourt Golf Club) was all booked because of the holiday. Ashley Plantation allows for one play during the week from April through October after 11am so it was the perfect mid-day course. I reserved a time at 11:21am and ditched the early morning round after Botetourt didn’t work. I’m sure that I could have found someplace to play at 7am along the way, but I opted for some extra sleep.
It took a little under two hours to get to the course from Charlottesville and I teed off about 11:30am after paying my $19 cart fee. The normal rate is $31 so the savings have been adding up over the year when I use my discount book. Besides the discount, I settled on Ashley Plantation because it is located a little north of Roanoke so the travel time is shorter headed to this course versus some of the others in the Roanoke Valley. Ashley Plantation is a 27 hole facility and the three 9’s are called the “Hills”, “Meadows”, and “Orchards”. The Hills and the Meadows must be the original 18 here as the Orchards was added in 2009 per the course website. I caught a glimpse of the some of the holes on the Orchards and it didn’t look much different compared to what I played.
Ashley Hills is a community course and large homes line much of the hilly area so it had a similar feel to The Bull at Boone’s Trace or Cherry Blossom which were courses that I played last year in Kentucky. The Hills nine is as the name indicates, hilly with elevation change on maybe seven of the nine holes. Because of all of the homes that line this nine there is a lot of out of bounds that could come into play for someone hitting it crooked that day. Throw in some fescue that was marked as out of bounds for some strange reason (a ball could be found and hacked out of some spots) and there are too many white posts for my liking. Other spots of fescue were marked as a hazard so it doesn’t seem like much thought went into that. I played the Blue tees which play 72.3/130/6933 as a par 73. The Hills nine plays 3702 yards and as a par 37. Much of that distance is on the 1st which is a 625 yard par 5 and the 5th which is a 721 yard par 6. I don’t know that a par 6 really excites me much personally as it always seems like a driver, 3 wood, and another long club into the green so there doesn’t seem like much strategy available when trying to design a par 6. Just my $0.02 though as this was only the third par 6 that I can remember playing over the years so it is memorable. I count five elevated tees which made it uncomfortable for me as a crooked shot from an elevated tee just won’t stop slicing or hooking. I got fooled by the wind all day, even on the irons, but a I could have done without the steady diet of elevated tees as there is no way to stop a bad shot from getting worse. However, it allowed for nice views of the scenic Roanoke Valley. There are some fairly interesting holes on this nine and some spots to miss so all in all I found it challenging but not too tough.
The Meadows nine is just as hilly as the Hills, but it is more open and player friendly. It plays much shorter (3231 yards) and is the traditional setup with two par 3’s and two par 5’s. This nine had a more relaxed feel to me and didn’t require as much precision. I could swing more freely and not worry about having to hit a provisional. Plus, I enjoyed having a chance to reach the par 5’s as they are on the shorter side. That’s not to say it is easy though as I found myself with some shots that I don’t normally encounter. I had a hook lie with wind from the left to an elevated green. I normally can figure out how to club one of those three things, but having to try calculate all of them on one shot had my mind spinning. I constantly had to be aware of the ball above or below my feet. Thankfully the course didn’t have many blind shots considering the terrain. The greens are very large with a lot of slope. There are very few flat spots on the greens and putts broke a bunch around the cups. Needless to say, I didn’t have a good putting day and it is one of those courses where I think someone could hit every green and still play bogey golf. The Meadows finishes off the round with a par 3 which is something that I love. In fact, the four par 3’s here are all pretty good.
The area got some heavy rain the night before I played and the course was in very good shape considering. Because of all of the elevation change I wouldn’t expect there to be a lot of standing water, but my feet didn’t squish even in the low spots so it drains well. Some bunkers were raked too so it appears that the maintenance staff tries to do everything that they can. The rain did affect the greens as they were soft and rolled a bit slower than they looked, but they still rolled well. As the day went along I noticed that they dried out and got faster so I went from leaving putts short to running them past the hole. The fairway were consistent, but a bit long. After playing four courses on the trip, I don’t think that longer fairways are unusual when trying to combat the summer heat. As you will see in the pictures a couple tees need to be re-sodded but most were flat and in good shape.
I don’t know that the course is special enough to recommend it to someone traveling along I-81 because all the homes take away from the golfing and it is the type of course that could be found in quite a few parts of the country. What I enjoyed though is that it isn’t your traditional Virginia course with dense vegetation lining every fairway. The course was open enough to enjoy the nice views and for $19 it allowed me a cheap option to scratch my golf itch.
Hills #1 (625 yard par 5):
This is a tough opening hole as no matter who you are (well besides a touring pro) 625 yards is a lot of par 5. The layup either needs to be played out to the right of a fairway bunker (not pictured) or the longer hitters can try to carry it for a shorter third into the green. I hit a decent drive, but couldn’t carry the bunker so I still had 200 yards into the green for my third.
Hills #2 (155 yard par 3):
I think that this is a fun hole. It isn’t very long, but controlling the distance is important because the green falls off on most sides. If someone can get the distance right then it is a good birdie chance.
Hills #3 (430 yard par 4):
I couldn’t get comfortable on this tee shot and as a result I hit the wrong club and knocked it out of bounds into the fescue on the right. The fairway narrows because of a fairway bunker and the hole moves right at about 260 to 270 yards. I thought that even 3 wood might be a little much as it plays downhill and it was downwind so I didn’t swing aggressively and paid the price. I should have made an aggressive swing with a hybrid to lay it back short of the bunker and deal with a long approach.
Hills #4 (397 yard par 4):
I’d say this is another tough tee shot. The hole moves left, so the aggressive line from the elevated tee is over the cart path unless someone can move it from right to left. The fescue on the left (OB) and the hazard on the right pinch the tee shot because of the angled fairway. The bunker should be able to be carried unless it is into the wind. From there it is a short iron approach that plays a maybe half a club more up the hill.
Hills #5 (721 yard par 6):
This will probably be the longest hole that I will play all year. The tee shot just needs to avoid that pond on the right side and that should be pretty easy to do as there is plenty of room left to miss it. From there the hole climbs uphill with a green surface that cannot be seen from the fairway. This is one of the higher points on the course and offers some nice views.
Hills #6 (402 yard par 4):
I’d say this is the toughest hole on the Hill nine. The tee shot is from an elevated tee to a narrow fairway that slopes from left to right. There is a hazard short and right that is maybe 220 yards to carry. I carried it, but had a hook lie to a narrow green that is elevated.
Hills #7 (222 yard par 3):
This par 3 looks tougher than it plays, even for its yardage. The hole drops at least a club to a large green. The difficultly to the hole is that the tee shot is semi-blind because of the vegetation in front of the tee boxes. The green is very large so an average shot could end up finding the surface, but that will leave a tough two putt. There is plenty of room all around the green to chip from or hit a bunker shot. It is a long par 3 without much trouble besides the length which is how I think a long par 3 should be.
Hills #8 (391 yard par 4):
This is a sneaky tough hole. The hole moves a little from left to right and it climbs the hill. It plays longer than the yardage and the approach is blind. I’d add one more club on the approach and not try to fire at the flag on the left side of the green.
Hills #9 (359 yard par 4):
There are a couple ways to play this hole. The first is to blast a driver over the bunker on the left and leave the shortest possible shot into the green. The other option is to lay it up to a favorite yardage but that brings the bunkers into play. The flag was on a back shelf when I played which makes it tough to get any sort of shot close unless someone can keep the spin off of it. It is a definite birdie chance.
Meadows #1 (351 yard par 4):
This hole has a panoramic view of the area so it is probably worth a pause to take it all in. The hole plays downhill and the fairway runs out at 280 yards but I’m not sure that someone wants to go more than 220 yards because the fairway narrows and falls off on each side. The green is very small and it is most likely going to be a blind approach so it is pretty tough for such a short hole.
Meadows #2 (415 yard par 4):
This hole has a blind tee shot which is made tougher because of the slope from right to left. The tee shot should be played over that mound just left of the cart path to allow for a kick left to the center or left side of the fairway. From there it was a severe hook lie with a mid iron. I got it turning over and missed badly left, but the there is room left of the green to allow for this so it is not overly harsh.
Meadows #3 (488 yard par 5):
This is a birdie hole. The tee shot should be played down the right side to allow for a kick to the left. Once that is done someone can go for the green in two.
Meadows #4 (383 yard par 4):
This is another blind tee shot on another high part of the property. It felt like I was on top of the world when standing in the fairway. The tee shot looks narrower than it is and the most important thing to do is to avoid the bunker left. The approach is into a smaller green that is pretty narrow.
Meadows #5 (436 yard par 4):
The tee shot is from an elevated tee to a large fairway. There is plenty of room right, once those trees at maybe 200 yards from the tee are carried, so there shouldn’t be any trouble with this tee shot and someone can take a variety of different lines. The second shot is the tricky one as the green is elevated slightly from the fairway so I couldn’t see the contour when trying to pick a spot to land it. Come to find out the green slopes from left to right so I played to what I thought was the center of the green and it kicked a bit closer to the hole.
Meadows #6 (472 yard par 5):
This is a good birdie chance because it is a short par 5. It is uphill so it plays longer, but I still had just a hybrid into the green. I knew that I should try to avoid the greenside bunker short and right, but my shot got caught up in the wind and ended up in it. There is plenty of room left and short of the green and those spots will leave the best chance to get up and down for birdie.
Meadows #7 (182 yard par 3):
This looks like a simple enough par 3, but it plays downhill and the tee is sheltered from the wind. I picked the wrong club and missed long and left which left me with a chip from a downhill lie to a downhill green. I’d say short of the hole is the better miss here as long as it doesn’t get caught up in those trees.
Meadows #8 (341 yard par 4):
If this one is downwind some of the longer hitters could try to get it down by the green as it plays downhill. For me it was a long iron and a wedge. It is another good birdie hole.
Meadows #9 (163 yard par 3):
I love finishing a round with a par 3 and this is a dandy. It is mid length, but played tough with a wind that was into and from the left to a back left flag location. That flag is tucked on a small, sloping section of green which is over a hazard so the smart play is at the center of that house to the fat of the green.