Blue Hills Golf Club (Roanoke, VA on 07/05/14)

For the morning play on Saturday I was looking for a course that wasn’t too far from Roanoke where I was staying. Also, I didn’t want to travel north on I-81 as I had to go south for my afternoon round. I found some times at Blue Hills on their website for $32, but it wouldn’t let me book one as a single so I had to settle for paying the regular $44 rate on Golfnow. For $44 it falls in the middle in terms of value, not great, but not horrible either. I did the trip on the cheap so paying a few extra dollars here still kept my total for the weekend reasonable.

Blue Hills is right next door to Ole Monterey and someone can actually see the 3rd hole here at Blue Hills while playing the 14th hole at Ole Monterey. What is interesting is that the course entrance for Ole Monterey is in a residential area while the entrance for Blue Hills is in an industrial area. So even though the courses are right next to each other, it would take a good 10 or 15 minutes by car to get from one proshop to the other. Because the courses are so close the scenery at Blue Hills is just as nice with some views of the city and the nearby hills. Blue Hills is a similar style course from tee to green, but I’d say that the holes at Blue Hills have more spacing between them that allow for a better flow from one hole to the next compared to Ole Monterey.

I’m not much for early morning tee times, but I booked one for 7:30am and was hoping to make it around before the normal weekend crowd. I guess that this course is popular with the locals because the first few rows of the parking lot were occupied and at least five or six groups of walking foursomes were scattered over the opening holes. I played through a group on the 2nd hole and then fell in line behind another single for the rest of the round. I played in about 3 hours and 45 minutes which isn’t bad considering everyone who played ahead of me, but that is too long for my liking with that early of a tee time. I could see the pace of play being a problem here but it didn’t cause me any trouble.

I played the Red tees (70.1/120/6453) which are the longest set of tees available. This is a little confusing as normally the red tees are the forward tees and the blue tees are the back tees, but they are flipped here. The course plays to a par of 71 with five par 3’s and four par 5’s which is my favorite setup when playing a par 71. I think this gives me the best chance to make a few birdies with that extra par 5. The front  is a par 35 with only one par 5 while the back has three par 5’s in the final six holes. So based on all this, someone is going to have a lot of short irons into the greens.

The first few holes are at the base of a hill and more heavily wooded but the rest of the course is a parkland style course with parallel holes separated by trees. Blue Hills reminded me of a course that would be found in the Pacific Northwest with the trees lining the fairways and Lewis River and Emerald Valley come to mind. Because of this there isn’t a whole lot of lost ball trouble except for a couple hazards and the perimeter holes. This means that a swing resulting in a lost ball probably deserved it. The course also has narrow fairways with some slope but larger greens that are a challenge to putt. It is the type of course where someone has to be accurate to make a bunch of birdies, but they don’t have to bring their “A” game for a round that lowers their handicap. I like courses where a scorecard disaster isn’t lurking but still gets me to try to figure out the best shot shapes to play, where the flat spots on the course are located, and gives me options off the tee. Blue Hills does all of that and has nice views of the area without any severe elevation changes.

The course was in very good shape and it gets the nod when compared to Ole Monterey, especially for the similar green fees. Because of the morning dew the course probably played a little slower than it would normally and what impressed me the most is that there were very few bare spots (except for the 12th for whatever reason). The patchy sections that could be found were clearly marked as ground under repair to make things easier. The greens were smooth and rolled at a medium pace. I could be aggressive with my putts from certain spots but did have to be careful on the downhill putts or I could blast it 5 plus feet by the hole. The fairways and tees had plenty of grass and were in good shape besides being just a tiny bit long which is typical this time of year. The rough was full and on the thick side so that made it hard to cleanly contact the ball and control the distance. I liked the course a lot as it was fun, fair, and left me feeling positive about my golfing ability. This would be on my list of courses to play regularly if I lived in the area.

#1 (377 yard par 4):

This shouldn’t be too hard of a hole to start out the day. It is a mid length par 4 that plays a little uphill to a large green. It is cleared out under the trees on both sides so at worst a miss in the trees will be a pitch out. Out of bounds does creep down the right side if someone is way off target.

1-1

#2 (174 yard par 3):

Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of this one as I played through here. It is going to a mid iron to another large green that is a little below the level of the tee box. The green has a lot of slope from back to front so a miss short is probably the best spot.

#3 (362 yard par 4):

This par 4 is a good chance for birdie. It plays downhill so a layup to someone’s favorite yardage is the play off the tee. It is a bit more open than it looks from the tee.

3-1 3-2

#4 (183 yard par 3):

This plays maybe half a club uphill and there is a big fall off right of the green which can leave an awkward stance for the chip. To do over I’d favor the left side in hopes of maybe getting a kick off the slope. It is tricky around the green even though there aren’t any bunkers.

4-1

#5 (374 yard par 4):

This was the most difficult driving hole on the course for me as I don’t like to work it from right to left. However, that shape of tee shot is exactly what is needed here. The good news is that it is most likely going to be a 3 wood or hybrid to keep it short of a pond and there is some right to left slope in the fairway. I hit a good tee shot and was left with a short iron and a decent birdie chance.

5-1 5-2

#6 (562 yard par 5):

This is a long par 5 and the tee shot is more open than it looks from the tee. My ball hit the right side of the fairway and kicked into the rough so there is some left to right slope in the fairway. The layup is semi-blind but it should leave a wedge for the third into a flat green.

6-1

#7 (337 yard par 4):

I liked this short par 4 as it required an accurate layup off the tee and then a precise short iron. There is still some room to miss out there though. The green slopes from right to left so I’d try to leave it below the hole.

7-1 7-2

#8 (389 yard par 4):

The right side of the fairway is tough to see and I didn’t know how far right I could miss so I favored the left side. Missing a little right is actually better than a little left as it will leave a good angle into the green and fewer trees to worry about. The green is large and there is trouble left of it so any shot landing left of the green has a chance to kick into the hazard.

8-1

#9 (382 yard par 4):

This looks like a tough driving hole because the landing area is blind, but there is a wooden staircase behind the tee. I think that is meant to see if the group in front is clear, but I used it to pick a line so make sure to take a look from the top of it. Someone can hit it 20 yards left or right here and not run into much trouble. The hole slopes from left to right so left is the better spot for it to land hoping for a kick. I’d say this is a good chance for birdie because the tee shot might get a few extra yards of roll if it lands in the fairway.

9-1 9-2

#10 (367 yard par 4):

The course property line runs down the right side the entire hole and it is signed as out of bounds. Make sure to avoid that at all costs and to take advantage of the slope from the left. This is a great birdie chance as it will most likely be something less than driver and a short iron.

10-1

#11 (211 yard par 3):

I think this is one of the tougher holes on the course. It is a long par 3 to a semi-blind green. I hit a shot right at the flag and ended up 30 feet short. From there I was left an uphill putt over a steep rise in the green. The two levels on the green will make chipping difficult on a hole that probably will get a lot of chipping action.

11-1 11-2

#12 (421 yard par 4):

I struggled to pick a line on this par 4 which is the toughest hole on the back nine. The hole doglegs a little left and the perfect line is over that tall tree on the left. However, I couldn’t carry it into the wind so I had to play right which left me a long way from the green. I saw some other tee boxes over to the right which would open up the tee shot.

12-1

#13 (557 yard par 5):

This par 5 moves gently to the right with some left to right slope all the way up to the green. Even though it is a longer par 5 it might be reachable even for the medium length player as it is downhill and was downwind. A fairway wood shot could be chased up near the green.

13-1

#14 (507 yard par 5):

The tee shot here is going to be the toughest shot. The fairway slopes hard from left to right so anything landing on the center or right side risks kicking into the rough. Challenging the left side brings the trees down the left side into play. There is a valley in the fairway which is flatter so if I played here all the time I’d try to hit it in that valley every time.

14-1

#15 (189 yard par 3):

I liked this long par a lot. It is open, but it still needs a good shot for a birdie chance. An average shot can end up on the green though. I clanked a long iron and it actually ran up onto the front of the green. The green slopes from back to front and right to left so a miss short and left is going to leave the best chip or bunker shot.

15-1

#16 (415 yard par 4):

This is a straight away par 4, but it plays longer than it looks as it is uphill.

16-1 16-2

#17 (169 yard par 3):

This was a fun hole to play. I took one less club and tried to draw it into the flag behind the left bunker. Depending on the pin location a draw or a fade could be the best play. The green is smaller and flatter so it should offer a makeable putt.

17-1

#18 (477 yard par 5):

The closing hole doglegs left and is uphill. I pulled my tee shot into those trees left of the fairway and still had a decent birdie chance. Those trees are just tempting enough to try to carry, but because it is uphill, it was tough for me to judge exactly how high my ball flight would be. Someone who draws the ball is going to love this hole and could have an eagle putt.

18-1

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