Well its a holiday weekend and normally that means packing a bag, the clubs, and heading out of town for some golf. I was trying to get up to Pennsylvania this weekend, but many of the courses that I wanted to play had aerated within the last ten days. I don’t want to take a trip and putt on bumpy greens so I called some courses in other areas. It was the same story in Northern Virginia and the Raleigh area. I must have called 30+ courses and it just turned into a hassle. Therefore, I decided to play a couple courses locally and sleep in my own bed.
Ivy Hill is about an hour and fifteen minutes south of Charlottesville near the town of Lynchburg. I knew that the course was going to be over priced ($44 green fee), but I was trying to build the day around London Downs, the afternoon course. Typically, I don’t like to drive that far just to play one course. A friend joined me for the day which was nice and we tee off just before nine. There was one group that held things up on the back nine but we made it around in about four hours.
The course is a community course so homes line many of the fairways but they are set back far enough from the holes that they didn’t bother me. Plus, in this area of the country the vegetation is so dense that homes can be hidden from view quite easily. There was a nice mix of holes on some old farmland on the front and on the back some holes played down into low parts on the property so I don’t have any complaints about how the course was routed through the community. However, all of the out of bounds stakes could start to play with someone’s mind.
We played the Blue tees which play 73.2/136/6699. The course is hilly as the name indicates and I was expecting to lose balls everywhere given the high slope. While there are some nasty spots on the back nine a good score could be posted on the front. The front is open, has wide fairways, and plenty of room to miss while the back tightens up considerably with plenty of target golf. There are two holes on the back nine which spoil the course for me including one of the dumbest designed par 5’s that I’ve ever played. I’ll touch on that in the hole by hole review, but I was impressed with the design for most of the course. The course has its share of elevated tee boxes, but most of them played to wide landing areas so even if a crooked shot had some extra time in the air it didn’t matter too much. Because of the hills, the fairways had plenty of slope so a tee shot could catch one section and run out an extra 20 or 30 yards. I had one really tricky approach from a downhill, sidehill lie. Considering how hilly it is the course didn’t have many blind shots which is something that I appreciate.
I didn’t expect much when came to the layout or the conditions. Many good holes surprised me while the conditions were worse than I would have guessed. The homes in the community are pretty nice and there are some real monsters on the front nine so it seems that the area has some money. I guess that none of it goes to the course though as every part of the course could use some work. The tees were the worst part of the course. They were a mix of different grasses, weeds, and some of the back tee boxes were overgrown. The fairways were on the long side and the ball sat down so it would tough to cleanly contact it even after a tee shot in the short grass. I couldn’t put any spin on it and had to be careful about the ball ending up in bare patches which were muddy from the morning dew and the sprinklers. The greens rolled fine, but they were very slow. I really had to make an effort to get a putt to the hole.
The course served its purpose for our 36 hole day. We paid $44 to play and as it stands right now I’d put Ivy Hill on the avoid list. The poor conditions alone would keep me away if I lived close. Even if the course was in great shape I’d steer folks away because the par 5’s 16th is almost unplayable for the average golfer. I want to like the course, but it has a couple things going against it.
#1 (414 yard par 4):
This is a tough, but fair opening hole. It moves a little left and plays longer because it is uphill. It is open enough that a wayward tee shot won’t hurt too bad. The fairway slopes from right to left so the approach is most likely going to be a hook like for a right handed player.
#2 (535 yard par 5):
This is another generous tee shot. The fairway is down in the bottom of a bowl so anything to the left or right will kick the ball towards the fairway. If the course is playing firmer then I think some folks should be able to get up near the green in two as it plays downhill. If laying up then the third is played to an elevated green. I missed it right and got a nice bounce to the left off the hill.
#3 (344 yard par 4):
This is a short par 4 that is a position hole. A tee shot of about 200 to 225 yards should end up with a fairly flat lie. Anything longer than that runs the risk of getting caught on a downslope which would make the approach into the elevated green tough. An aggressive play down the left side can run into a valley in the fairway, but it will be a blind second. The green is smaller in the front and gets larger in the back. There are multiple options here which make it a good hole.
#4 (156 yard par 3):
This is a straightforward par 3. It is a mid or short iron that is probably best left short of the flag for an uphill putt.
#5 (427 yard par 4):
This is one of the more fun holes on the course and deserving of its rank as the 3rd hardest. It is a long par 4 that doglegs to the right and plays downhill. The tee shot should favor the left side of the fairway because the ball will feed to the right. It might take a little luck to get a flat lie at the bottom of the hill when the course is playing soft. I ended up with an odd stance in the middle of the fairway because my ball hung on the downslope.
#6 (474 yard 5):
Most of the time I’d be thinking about trying to knock it on in two on a 474 yard par 5, but not here (at least for me). The hole plays uphill all the way to the green so it will be all carry. This is another fairway with some slope from left to right.
#7 (472 yard par 4):
This par 4 is the hardest hole on the course. It is a long, downhill par 4 with water in play. The water can be reached from the tee and because of the long carry on the approach, finding the fairway is a must. An out of position tee shot might have to be laid up short of the water depending on the lie. There is room to miss short of the green so a long iron approach doesn’t have to be struck perfectly. I think it is a good hole for the lower handicappers but I could see a higher handicapper struggling because of the long carry over the water.
#8 (368 yard par 4):
This one plays through some old farmland and hay bales are off in the distance. The fairway is wide so someone can hit whatever club they like to get their favorite distance into the green. Obviously, the more aggressive the play off the tee, the more someone needs to favor the right side. It is a good birdie chance because even a poor tee shot has a good chance of finding the fairway.
#9 (200 yard par 3):
The front nine closes with a tough par 3. It is long and plays uphill to a green surrounded by bunkers. A high shot has the best chance of holding the green.
#10 (393 yard par 4):
The 10th has one of the best risk/reward tee shots on the course. It doglegs hard left so it is easy to run through the fairway on a conservative line. I think the tee shot here, at least the first time, is over the right side of the white tee box with whatever club leaves 150 to 170 into the green. The aggressive play is out over the back left part of the white tee box and almost just right of the condos. There is some out of bounds down the left and some water but there is more room out there than it looks from the picture.
#11 (386 yard par 4):
The tee shot here should favor the left side of the fairway for a kick to the right. From there it should be a mid or short iron and if the pin isn’t tucked over the left bunker it is a decent birdie chance.
#12 (409 yard par 4):
I like to cut the ball and this tee shot had me scared. There is out of bounds midway into the hill on the left and vegetation right of the cart path. However, it is a blind landing area if someone hits it 225 yards off the tee which is going to be a layup distance for some folks. The good news is that there is some slope from left to right so a tee shot down the left has a chance to kick into the fairway. I don’t see this hole being playable for someone who hits a draw or hook normally because of those trees off to the right of the tee. This one could have been designed better.
#13 (335 yard par 4):
For a short par 4, this is a tough one. The fairway slopes from right to left so a layup down the right is the best play. I don’t think driver gains much which is too bad. I wouldn’t mind hitting a driver if I could have a look at the green, but is a a long carry for a glimpse. I laid it up and my approach from 110 yards was completely blind.
#14 (370 yard par 4):
I think that this is a pretty good par 4. There aren’t any tricks, but it is still tough because it plays uphill. The fairway slopes a bit from left to right so tee shot down the left is best. There is out of bounds on each side of the rough line so a wayward tee shot could be costly.
#15 (200 yard par 3):
This is a long par 3. I like it because there is plenty of room to miss around the green and find the ball.
#16 (475 yard par 5):
This is one of the worst designed holes that I’ve ever played because there isn’t any strategy. The water is in play off the tee and a layup is needed. It probably isn’t going to be more than a long iron down the left side of the fairway to allow for a kick right. Anything down the right side has a chance to kick into the rough or the water. From there it is maybe a 100 yard carry to get over the water and 130 yards to get to the fairway. That shouldn’t be a problem but missing the fairway has someone trying to carry the water from a downhill lie or just chipping it 20 or 30 yards short of it. I had my hands full as a 3 handicap so I don’t see this being a playable hole for the average golfer. My suggestion is to flatten the fairway, build a green just over the water, and turn it into a short par 4. Or, even a short par 3 over the water would be fine with me.
#17 (527 yard par 5):
I liked this par 5. It plays at least a club uphill and the fairway slopes from right to left. The green surface wasn’t visible on my approach from 115 yards.
#18 (214 yard par 3):
I like ending on a par 3 and this is tough one. The green is small for its length so distance control is important. It is another long par 3 so I wouldn’t have minded it being shorter since the previous two par 3’s were about the same distance.