Well, Saturday was one of the nicest weather days that we’ve had in quite some time. It was a cool morning and ended up around 75 degrees in the afternoon. There definitely was a hint of fall in the air that’s for sure. I hit some golf balls at the range on Saturday, but didn’t play as I didn’t want to battle any slow play. Now that the NFL season has started, I was hoping that the games would keep people off the course so I waited until Sunday to play. Sunday turned out to be sunny as well, although much warmer which is always fine with me.
Culpeper is about 45 miles north of Charlottesville on the way to Washington. I’ve passed through the town many times, but I’ve never been here for any golf until now. There are only a couple courses in the area and they are either private or don’t look like anything special so I’ve never made the drive. Country Club of Culpeper is technically private, but it does allow some public play and I was able to use my VSGA card to play for the usual $29.
I didn’t know what to expect about the course and all that I could find is that it is a shorter course. It plays only 6027 yards with a rating of 69.8 and a higher than expected slope of 129 (par 71). The proshop was nice to get me setup with a time and I never got a feeling of being “unwanted” which can happen when playing a private club. There wasn’t anything glamorous about the course or the facilities so it seems that someone with an average income would be able to join. That is just a guess though as I have no idea about the initiation fee or the annual dues. I was impressed with the relaxed and laid back feel that I got while I was there.
According to the website, the course was originally nine holes and those holes were designed over half a century ago. The course is actually celebrating its 60 year anniversary so it has been around for a while. Brian Ault, a designer that I hadn’t heard of until moving to the Mid-Atlantic, added the back nine in 1993. He is a part of Ault, Clark, and Associates which as designed some top-notch courses in the region.
I’m not positive about this, but I think that the nine new holes are split between the front and back nines. If I had to guess I’d say that holes 1-3, 7-9, and 16-18 were the original design. That means that most of the front nine has a classic feel. Many of the tees are close to the greens and the greens themselves are raised, on the smaller side, and typically slope in one direction. It is a compact layout with some parallel holes but there is enough elevation change and water to keep things interesting. There aren’t too many tee boxes so sometimes all three sets of tees were on the same box. The original nine being blended in with new design could explain why there are three par 5’s in the first four holes. In fact, there are five par 5’s total so some birdies can be made given the short yardage. Early on, the front works its way towards a scenic, man-made lake before a few holes play through some wetlands. The setting for the front reminded me of some of the holes that are found at Lee’s Hill over in Fredericksburg. Two ponds frame over half of the holes and the front would be a nice walk.
It was pretty easy for me to figure out that most of the holes on the back nine were a newer design. While the back nine is a similar length, it is much more spread so it is reflective of a more modern design. It plays through some homes and cornfields but the homes don’t come into play. The greens on the back are larger and have quite a bit of different contours compared to those on the front. There are lots of false edges so knowing where to land an approach is very important. Between some small greens and the ones that fall off on certain sides, the course is pretty good at testing short iron accuracy.
The conditions were respectable although spots could have used a drink. All things considered, the course has handled a drier than average summer well. It played quite firm so many tee shots chased out a bit but I didn’t find a bunch of burnt out spots. There were some, but not enough to consistently affect play. The ball sat up in the fairway and the rough was cut down so I could fire away at most of the flags. The greens rolled well but were a bit slower than they looked. Because the course is limited for space, there isn’t a lot of options when it comes to moving the tees around so there were plenty of divots.
I don’t think that the course warrants more than a 30 minute drive. However, I’d recommend it for someone in town looking for a round if the price was decent. For $29 it was another enjoyable afternoon using my VSGA card to play a new course.
#1 (446 yard par 5):
The course starts out with the shortest par 5 so it is a pretty easy start. The main thing to note is that there is a creek that cuts across the fairway at 240 to 250 yards from the tee. The longer hitters can probably carry the creek and have a short iron into the green, but I wasn’t feeling that desperate on the first tee. I hit my 215 yard club and was still able to get it near the green in two. The second or third shot plays severely uphill to a small green that slopes from right to left. Anything down the left side of the hole could end up out of bounds.
#2 (115 yard par 3):
I am not sure why the water to the left is marked as out of bounds but it just going to be a short iron into a receptive green. I found some slope on the left side of the green which inched the ball closer to the hole.
#3 (512 yard par 5):
Apparently I forgot to take a picture or deleted it by mistake when reviewing my photos! This par 5 is another good chance for birdie as it plays from an elevated tee box. The tee box is by the lake, just over the 2nd green from the previous picture. There is trouble all down the left side, but plenty of room to miss to the right and find the ball. A good tee shot can leave a chance to go for the green in two.
#4 (590 yard par 5):
This is the longest par 5 on the course but since the course was playing firm it didn’t play that distance. The tee shot is played out over a wetlands area, but it shouldn’t come into play with anything solid. Water pinches down the right for the layup and for the third. A layup should favor the left side of the fairway for a kick to the right.
#5 (166 yard par 3):
I think that this is a pretty good hole. The flag was over on the left side when I played so a right to left shot was the preferred shot to get it close. However, a flag on the right is best attacked with the opposite ball flight. Distance control is important here because the green isn’t very deep. The water can catch a poorly struck shot, but there is a few yards of land to work with short of the green.
#6 (374 yard par 4):
I think this hole looks tougher than it plays. The fairway angles to the right so a straight shot could run through the fairway. There is a hazard down the left side of the hole and water way to the right which could occasionally come into play. I hit it pin high and was only 15 feet away from the hole, but had to putt up a slope because the pin was tucked on a perch on the left side of the green.
#7 (383 yard par 4):
This hole is the hardest hole on the course. It was definitely a challenge for me as I don’t like to move it right to left. The hole plays straight and then turns left and climbs a hill. I think the best play it is to leave 150 yards into the green and favor the center or right side of the fairway. Anything down the left side off the tee can get blocked out if someone doesn’t hit it far enough. The green has a false front so the approach or a chip will need to carry that.
#8 (348 yard par 4):
I had trouble picking a line and club off of this tee. It isn’t a very long hole, but it is tree lined on both sides of the fairway. The hole angles to the right so that narrows the fairway too. I think the 200 to 210 yard club starting over that maintenance box is a good play. A more aggressive line to the right will have to carry some trees.
#9 (146 yard par 3):
The front nine closes with a nice par 3. It is mid length and offers a chance to hit it close. The pin was in the back right on a shelf when I played and I managed to do just that, but I missed the short putt
#10 (315 yard par 4):
I was playing through so I didn’t get a picture from the tee box. The tee boxes are over by those homes and it is a pretty easy layup which just needs to carry a couple trees. The approach played just enough uphill so that I couldn’t see all of the green surface.
#11 (524 yard par 5):
This is a straightaway par 5 that is pretty open. I got some extra roll and was able to knock a 3 wood up near the green from the fairway and I don’t typically hit it too far. I did have to try to work my 3 wood from right to left around a tree which challenged me.
#12 (186 yard par 3):
This is the longest par 3 on the course and it plays out in the cornfields. I had a mid iron into the green and couldn’t see all of the flag which was over on the right side behind the bunker. The green is larger so it is probably one of those holes where playing to the center of the green every time is a good plan.
#13 (381 yard par 4):
This is another straight hole but it plays a bit downhill. Even though it is semi-blind it is wide open and my tee shot chased a good ways down the hill. I had just a short iron into the green but had to try to land it into a ridge with the proper spin to get it close to the back left flag.
#14 (398 yard par 4):
There is trouble left and right on this hole so it is important to find the fairway. It doglegs to the right and I don’t think that someone wants it to go more than 240 to 250 yards off the tee unless challenging those bunkers. I played a cut down the right side with my 225 yard club and it got a big bounce, hit a down-slope, and I had just a gap wedge into the green. The green slopes to the left (off of the right greenside bunker) so it wasn’t an easy flag to try to get to even with a short iron.
#15 (132 yard par 3):
This is a pretty par 3 that plays slightly downhill. The green is divided by a ridge in the middle of it so any flag to the left of it sits in a bowl while anything to the right is going to be a little tougher to get close.
#16 (457 yard par 5):
I didn’t realize that this was a par 5 until after I hit my tee shot. It plays the same direction as the 1st hole and is similar in many ways. The fairway runs out into the same creek as on the 1st, only this time at 270 or 280 yards and the green sits high above the fairway. The tee shot here is more challenging than the 1st as the hole moves left and the fairways slopes to the right which narrows the driving area.
#17 (391 yard par 4):
This downhill par 4 offers a chance to swing hard off the tee. It moves a little left so it is best to favor the left side of the fairway so that it doesn’t run through the fairway on the right. The second shot is played to a narrow green that falls off on most sides so accuracy is important.
#18 (163 yard par 3):
The closing hole is an uphill par 3. It was one of those hole where I just had to aim at the flag and hope that there was green somewhere up there. The green is smaller than I thought it would be once I got up the hill.