I am supposed to meet up with a friend here in a couple weeks and I was looking for something to do on a crisp, Sunday afternoon. So, I figured that I’d get an early look at the course and take advantage of my VSGA card which now offers plays for just $26. It was a sunny day, but the high was only around 60 degrees and there was a breeze so I had my fleece on the entire round. I think the cool weather and some football kept all the golfers away as there were just a handful of cars in the parking when I got there around 2pm. A twosome went off about 15 minutes before me but I never saw them during my round so I had the place to myself. I ended up playing in less than three hours so I almost spent as much time in the car as I did on the course!
The course is pretty accessible from Fredericksburg and my friend, who lives in town, plays out here quite a bit. From Charlottesville it took me about an hour to get to the course. The community is just off State Route 3 and actually one hole runs parallel to the road. The community, and the style of course, remind me of Lake Monticello which is close to Charlottesville.
Lake of the Woods is a shorter course and only plays 6554 from the black tees which is where I played. The front nine is longer because it plays to a par of 36 while the back plays to a par of 35. The yardage didn’t challenge me, but the course still proved to be a worthy adversary because it puts such a premium on accuracy. This is evidenced by 72.6 rating and 133 slope from the black tees and the white tees even have a 130 slope. I liked the back nine a bit better because the yardages on the par 4’s vary compared to the front. There are a couple short par 4’s on the back which can allow some birdie looks.
As the name indicates, the “woods” are the course’s main defense. In fact, every hole is tree lined so it is all about trying to get (and keep!) the ball in play. For my California friends, I’d say Lake of the Woods gave me a similar feel to when I played a couple of the courses up in the Sierra Nevadas only, without the elevation change. The trees, doglegs, and slope in the fairways dictate the shot shape for each hole and if someone cannot move it both ways then the course becomes much more difficult. Some fairways are 20 yards wide and many times there is only 10 yards of rough on each side of the fairway before getting to the out of bounds (which is actually a homeowner’s yard).
I don’t like to move the ball from right to left and there are more holes that favor a draw than a fade so I struggled picking lines and clubs off the tee. The trees are so tall and the fairways are so narrow that it was a big risk to try to cut a corner on the holes that didn’t fit my eye. Because of this, I would recommend playing tee shots out to the edge of the dogleg unless someone is comfortable with the shape of the hole. I noticed that some holes dogleg closer to the tee than the green so that means a long second shot on those holes after laying up off the tee. In the end though I think that is a better play than hitting a small bucket of drivers off some tees.
The greens are small which keep with the precision theme and some have a ridge in the middle separating the back from the front. They were smooth, a pleasure to putt, and were the best maintained part of the course. I’d say they rolled at a medium speed, which allowed me to make a few putts. Most parts of the fairways were in decent shape and I ended up with plenty of good lies in them. However, there were some patchy sections that were completely bare.
In the end though, I don’t think someone is missing out by not playing here. The layout is average at best and all of the homes were a distraction. It seemed that I crossed too many roads for there to be any flow from one hole to the next and the out of bounds was never ending. It is the type of course where someone can make a bunch of birdies because of the length, but I think a couple big numbers are always lurking because of the narrow holes. My friend enjoys it because the proshop charges the lower VSGA rate, but doesn’t check the box on the card so they basically offer unlimited, discounted play throughout the year. If I lived close by I’d probably play it once every couple months because it is a good deal. The course offers decent conditions at an affordable price which I think is something that isn’t found at too many places these days.
#1 (410 yard par 4):
The opening hole has one of the more generous fairways on the course. There is a pond down the right side of the fairway maybe 260 yards from the tee but I couldn’t reach it into a little wind. Missing short or right on the approach leaves the best chance to get it up and down for a par without having to chip over any bunkers.
#2 (390 yard par 4):
The course hits you with a tricky hole early on in the round. The hole doglegs left, but it is a tough tee shot. Trees guard the corner and the fairway runs out into the bunker around 220 yards. Plus, the fairway slopes to the right. I tried to carry the trees on the left and it worked the second time, so it is risky. To do over I would play out to the corner of the fairway and just plan on a long second shot into the green. The power lines seem so out of place here!
#3 (180 yard par 3):
This par 3 set up perfectly for me. It plays uphill so I hit one more club than normal and played a little cut which landed close to the flag. For those that draw the ball that tree on the right could cause some problems. There is a ridge in the green which separates the back tier from the front so even a long iron can get close to a front flag with the backstop.
#4 (387 yard par 4):
This tee shot is a little easier than the one on the 2nd, but only because the dogleg isn’t as severe and the trees aren’t as tall. I hit a high layup down the tree line and let it bleed to the right. The fairway slopes to the right too which narrows the tee shot and left an awkward stance with the ball well below my feet.
#5 (562 yard par 5):
I don’t like this par 5. Like everything else, it is just my opinion! The fairway flattens at the top of the hill and angles to the right around 225 yards from the tee. So, the length of the hole calls for a driver, but a driver is going to have to skirt the edge of the tree line with a fade. Anything missing left can kick out of play. I think it is another one of those holes where challenging it off the tee isn’t the best play. There is plenty of slope in the fairway all the way up to the green so the layup could get a sideways kick when it lands.
#6 (387 yard par 4):
This makes it half of the first six holes where a right to left tee shot is the best play. It is tight and the fairway slopes to the right. It isn’t overly long and plays downhill so a layup club is fine off the tee. From there it is a birdie chance as the only trouble is a bunker or two right of the green.
#7 (155 yard par 3):
This par 3 is open compared to the other holes. I couldn’t see much of the putting surface because it plays a little uphill (maybe half a club).
#8 (463 yard par 5):
This is the best birdie chance on the course! It is a short par 5 with a generous fairway and a chance to run an approach up to the green. The hole slides to the right so someone has to be careful not to go through the fairway. The long hitters can get there probably just a 3 wood and mid iron.
#9 (430 yard par 4):
The tees were up when I played and the hole was about 370 yards. It is another fairway that slopes to the right, but it is a little easier than some of the others on the front because someone has a clear shot at the left side of the fairway.
#10 (386 yard par 4):
This tee shot is similar to the 8th. The fairway bunker is about 250 yards from the tee and needs to be avoided. From there it is a mid or short iron into the green. Make sure not to hit it left of the left greenside bunker or it is probably kicking out of play.
#11 (296 yard par 4):
I had no idea what line to pick on this blind tee shot. It is a short par 4 that goes right, but I think someone would have to play here a few times before trying to knock one up near the green. That “V” in the trees is a good line with the 200 yard club. From there it is a great birdie chance with a somewhat flat green. If someone tries to hit a driver there is a bunker about 30 yards short of the green which could lead to a tricky shot.
#12 (206 yard par 3):
I doubt that I’d hit the green on this long, uphill par 3 too often. It is all carry and there are bunkers left and right so accuracy is important. I wouldn’t mind chipping from 10 or 15 yards short of the green every time though because it would be a good angle.
#13 (550 yard par 5):
A good line off the tee on this par 5 is out towards that lone tree in the center of the picture. The fairway slopes a little from left to right and there is a creek that crosses the fairway about 300 yards from the tee. It plays back uphill to the green, so it is most likely going to be a three shot hole for everyone. A tee shot down the left side of the fairway might have to be moved from right to left around the tree and to combat the tilt in the fairway. The approach plays to a blind green with a back tier and slopes severely from back to front. I hit five very good shots and ended up with my par, but it could have been an easy bogey.
#14 (348 yard par 4):
This is my favorite hole on the course! It is a short par 4 that doglegs to the left. The smart, and probably best, shot is a 200 yard club which can hit the top of the hill and catch the slope to the left. The fairway slopes downhill which makes it tough to catch the approach solid. That could be a problem because there is water short of the green, but it about 15 yards short to allow for some forgiveness. I was challenged on this hole, but I could see a higher handicapper struggle off the downslope.
#15 (376 yard par 4):
There are some options off the tee here. The hole moves to the left and a big drive over the corner can catch a downslope and leave less than 100 yards into the green. The other option is to try to layup on the top of the hill and leave a mid iron into the green. The pin was located on the front of the green and I used the ridge behind the hole to get it close. I think an aggressive line off the tee is the play here.
#16 (404 yard par 4):
The shadows make this hole look tougher than it really plays. I tried to favor the treeline on the left which shortened the hole by 10 or 15 yards. A more conservative play off the tee works too as the fairway slopes from right to left. The green is fairly flat so anything inside of 15 or 20 feet could be a chance for a birdie.
#17 (220 yard par 3):
I wish the angle of the sun was better because the pictures don’t show that it is a pretty good par 3. The green is smaller than I like to see on a long par 3 though. Short is the best miss because it leaves the easiest chip. Anything to the left could require a chip landing on a downslope and anything to the right has a good chance of ending up in some bunkers. There isn’t a lot of lost ball trouble so that is nice.
#18 (404 yard par 4):
The closing hole is another dogleg left par 4. The fairway runs out with driver or maybe even a 3 wood. I took a driver up and over the trees the on the left side and it worked out great for me. To do over I would probably hit my hybrid on a more conservative line. Like many of the holes here, I wish it doglegged closer to the green. The green slopes from back to front so being below the hole is important.