London Downs Golf Club (Forest, VA on 08/30/14)

The afternoon round was at London Downs which isn’t too far from Ivy Hill. We got there right around our 2:48pm tee time and the place looked pretty dead. There was one group on the front nine that caused a log jam, but once they dropped off after nine we had the course to ourselves. We made it around in about four hours which I think is pretty good for a round on a long weekend.

London Downs, although south of town, typically gets rated as the best course in the Lynchburg area. I didn’t give that claim much thought prior to the round because Lynchburg doesn’t have many public course options. I drove by the course earlier this year and some of the holes are adjacent to the road. There was something about the green grass being framed by a white picket fence that had me wanting to play here.  It seemed like this one could be a good value based on what I had read so I was excited to give it a try. The normal twilight rate is $35 and with my VSGA card I saved a couple bucks on top of that so it didn’t set us back much to play.

The course is routed through some homes and I think that causes some holes on the front nine to be less interesting than they are. The course was built in 1991 so it isn’t one of the modern designs where every hole is separated from the next by a street crossing. It is a course that I wouldn’t mind walking as the holes are fairly close together and the tees are close to the greens. But, at the same time, the course didn’t feel cramped.

The front nine is open, fairly flat, and a could be considered a bit boring to play with all of the parallel holes. I enjoyed it as it made me pick lines off the tee and required some strategy. There were a couple semi-blind shots and an island green to mix things up too. The back nine seems to be designed around a couple lakes and there is some minor elevation change so it is the stronger nine, at least visually. The back requires more course knowledge as there are more blind shots, but nothing unfair. The back is a blend is of typical Virginia golf with some parkland style holes. Both nines have some domestic shrubs and flowers which I think are a calming influence while playing.

The course was in very good shape and a step up from the others that I have played in the area, except for maybe Poplar Grove. The fairways were beautiful so I always got a nice lie and didn’t have to worry about any burnt out patches. The condition of the tees were mixed and some had different types of grasses growing but they were cut down. The greens were completely different from our morning round as they were firm and fast. I struggled to get it pin high on my approaches because the ball always took a big first bounce. The greens had spines and false edges so that required precise chips and playing some defense when putting. A few of the greens were chewed up in spots from what looked like many footprints this summer, but I think the fall aeration should help. If I started a putt on my line it had a great chance to drop.

London Downs is too far away for me to play on a regular basis but if I lived in Lynchburg it would be near the top of my regular rotation. All things considered, I think it is deserving of being called the best course in town. It was in good shape and there were some challenging holes, but the course didn’t beat up any one part of my game. I think it is a course that I could enjoy playing even if I didn’t bring my “A” game because I could manage my misses and still end up with a decent score. For reference we played the Combo tees which play 72.3/136/6680.

#1 (365 yard par 4):

The opening tee shot requires some thought. The hole doglegs right and if someone is going to hit it more than 210 yards then a pond down the left could come into play. I don’t see the need to hit a driver here as the fairway narrows significantly and the trees down the right push shots towards the pond. I think getting it in play with a long iron is the way to go to begin the round.

1-1

#2 (506 yard par 5):

The 2nd hole offers a good chance for birdie as it is a short par 5. If someone challenges the trees that are left of the tee and ends up on the left side of the fairway then the green could be reached in two. There are spots to miss right so someone doesn’t have to challenge the trees which is nice. A great drive can set up birdie, but a poor one doesn’t take away the chance. For those that miss it left there is some in course out of bounds to watch for down the left side.

2-1

#3 (168 yard par 3):

This is a mid-length par 3 that didn’t look too interesting from the tee. The green is large and looks fairly flat so I didn’t give it as much attention as I should have. I missed it short and found out that there is a false front which can complicate things. I had numerous options on my chip so the green complex makes this a good par 3.

3-1

#4 (391 yard par 4):

This is a semi-blind tee shot but there isn’t any hidden trouble. The fairways moves every so slightly to the left but it is nothing more than an uncomfortable looking tee shot. Out of bounds is all down the left but it would take a stinker to get over there. The approach plays slightly downhill which normally wouldn’t be a concern, but there is a pond behind the green.

4-1 4-2

#5 (548 yard par 5):

This is another visually difficult hole. It is a double dogleg par 5 and the tee shot should favor the trees where the cart on the left is located in the picture. The fairway slopes right and the bigger hitters probably can carry the trees. Water is on the right for a very poor tee shot, but it is set back far enough that an average shot should be fine. The closer to the green the better for the layup as anything too far back will be semi-blind over a mound in the fairway.

5-1

#6 (163 yard par 3):

This is the signature hole and I’m not sure why the course website doesn’t make mention of it on the homepage. It is a mid length par 3 that plays to an island green. If someone has the perfect club then it can be a birdie hole, but if not then the play can be to the fat part of the green. It was a fun hole to play and still a challenge.6-1 6-2

#7 (392 yard par 4):

This is another “vanilla” looking hole, but it gets interesting on the approach. The tee shot plays to a larger fairway but the approach is played to a narrow and deep green. I was in between clubs and decided to take one more and try to hit it high. I landed it where I wanted to but it rolled all the way to the back of the green and I had a tough, downhill putt over a ridge.

7-1

#8 (382 yard par 4):

It is tough to pick the line off the tee because it doesn’t look like there is any trouble. The temptation is to swing away and that might work. I didn’t judge the contact from the rough correctly into the small green and was left with a couple tricky short game shots. Finding the fairway, especially the left side which is more hidden from view, sets up the best angle for an approach up the gut of the green.

8-1

#9 (423 yard par 4):

This is the most difficult driving hole on the front nine. It is a dogleg right and a left to right shot is best off the tee. One option is to play conservatively off the tee to the end of the fairway which is about 240 yards just right of that bunker. The other option is to take more club and a line more to the right. It is more open at the landing area than it looks, but the tree off the tee on the left side was in the back of my mind and could come into play on a pulled tee shot. The green slopes hard from left to right so make sure not to miss it left.

9-1 9-2

#10 (456 yard par 4):

This hole is tricky to play the first time. It is a long par 4 that doglegs 90 degrees right around 250 to 275 yards from the tee. The fairway slopes downhill and from right to left so a tee shot just left of those bunkers should be pretty good. From there it most likely will be a long iron approach. I like that there is some space left of the green before the ball will kick into the water.

10-1 10-2

#11 (163 yard par 3):

This is another par 3 where distance control is important. The green is wide but not very deep and slopes from back to front. Only a bad mishit should find the water but anything missing the green leaves a tough chip.

11-1

#12 (362 yard par 4):

This is a short par 4 that offers a chance at a birdie after a good shot. The fairway slides right and anything down the left side could lead to a blind second shot. The landing is blind but I think aiming at the bunker in the picture with a little fade should end up in great position. The flag was on a back level when we played which created an extra challenge.

12-1 12-2

#13 (508 yard par 5):

This short par 5 is probably the best birdie chance on the back nine so make sure to take advantage of it. It moves left, plays uphill, and the drive is pretty straightforward. I couldn’t see any of the green or the flag from 240 yards in the center of the fairway so it helps to have played here before. A miss out to the right should still leave a good chance to get it up and down for birdie.

13-1 13-2

#14 (373 yard par 4):

This is a shorter par 4 that plays downhill. The tee shot should allow for a kick from right to left in the fairway and the approach played just enough downhill to get me thinking.

14-1

#15 (395 yard par 4):

The tee shot, while it looks intimidating, isn’t too bad as it opens up right of the cart path. The second shot plays slightly uphill to a green with another back level.

15-1 15-2

#16 (140 yard par 3):

This short par 3 has a green with a small false front which could lead to some awkward short game shots. The green is large and slopes from left to right so a tee shot could roll up close to certain flags.

16-1

#17 (561 yard par 5):

This long par 5 is one of my least favorite holes on the course because of the tee shot. The fairway is super narrow and maybe only 20 yards wide. There is trouble all the way down on the right and some trees pinch the tee shot on the left. I think the play is to layup off the tee keeping it short of the tree that overhangs the fairway on the left. That will lead to a longer third shot into a green with water on the right, but my friend and I hit decent shots down the right side with drivers and were lucky to find them.

17-1

#18 (384 yard par 4):

The picture that I have isn’t good because it was into the sun, but the closing hole moves left and plays uphill. I think it is a solid test while not being overly harsh to close. Good shots are going to rewarded, especially with the sloping fairway and semi-blind second shot, but average shots shouldn’t result in lost balls.

18-1 18-2

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