My plan wasn’t always to stay Saturday night in Northern Virginia and golf on Sunday. It was one of those deals where I had to see how Saturday went and then decide if I wanted to drive home after the round at Blue Mash. It is probably no surprise to anyone who knows me or who is reading this blog that I opted for some more golf!
I cannot say that Locust Hill was high on my list of courses to play while in the D.C. area. Because the course is in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, I had always planned to give it a try while playing some courses closer to I-81. Because I decided on an extra night away from home, I wanted to keep the cost of golf down on Sunday. So, the main reason that I chose to play Locust Hill is that they just switched over to off-season rates a few days ago. I’m all about playing a course that’s a great value so for $35 I figured that I had nothing to lose. I also picked it hoping for a quick round so that I could get on the road.
When I called the course on Saturday, I was told that I could play early on Sunday because there was a tournament later in the day. That fit in perfectly with my schedule but it was an early morning in order to get to the course for my 7:45am tee time. I stayed near the Dulles airport on Saturday night and it took a little over an hour to get to Locust Hill. The course’s website advertises quick play and that is what I got. I teed off by myself as the sun was starting to rise and cruised around in about 3 hours. There were a few twosomes in front of me, but they were moving at a good clip. I think that the course is just far enough away from the D.C. area that it keeps those folks from making the drive.
Some Mid-Atlantic golfers might be familiar with this, but Locust Hill was in the news earlier this year because of a clubhouse fire. I saw a few articles on it back in February or March and forgot about it until I pulled into the parking lot. I’ve never cared about what a course’s clubhouse looks like but some people do. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clubhouse because the fire burned it to the ground. Business is being handled out of a couple trailers while the new clubhouse is being built. Again, it doesn’t matter to me but I thought that I would at least mention it. Overall, the staff was great and I’ve only got positive things to say. I certainly wish them the best as they try to recover from the loss earlier this year.
I was expecting a little more scenery, but the course is a community course and homes line every hole. I put a tee shot into someone’s backyard so if someone gets wild off the tee then there is plenty of out of bounds that can come into play. I thought the homes took away from the golfing experience because I always felt like I was being watched by the homeowners. It is one of those courses where someone will cross roads multiple times throughout the round so that creates a bit of a choppy flow from one hole to the next. Sometimes a designer can add some interest to community courses by setting the homes back from the course or by having the homes built on a hill overlooking the course. The terrain is pretty flat so there wasn’t much that could be done to separate the course from the homes and still give the homeowners a golf course view. Something to note is that the 5th through the 8th holes crisscross so make sure to play the correct hole and not get hit!
I found most of the holes interesting to play even with the nearby homes and little elevation change. Besides the out of bounds, water came into play on over half the holes. Most of the time the creeks and large ponds were set far enough away so that only a really bad shot would end up wet. However, they created just enough fear to keep me on my toes. There are a few semi-blind shots off the tee where someone is going to have to make sure not to run a tee shot through the fairway. The fairways range in size and all things considered, I thought that the course was challenging off the tee while being extremely fair.
It appears that Ault, Clark, and Associates designed the course. I mention that because I am starting to notice a pattern after playing some of their courses, severe green complexes. The course played firm and fast which caused nightmares for me around the greens. There were a couple times that I couldn’t hold the green on a pitch shot. I’m not talking hit an average one and have it just trickle off the edge of the green. I am talking about a pitch from 30 yards in the middle of the fairway with lots of green to work with, land it in the perfect spot with the right spin, and watch it roll off the back because it picked up speed after cresting a slope. My one complaint about the course is that it was set up too difficult, almost to the point of being unfair. This probably had something to do with the tournament, but pins were on the top of ridges, on the sides of slopes, and just a couple steps from the edges of the greens. I’m all for a challenge, but many times there wasn’t a way for me to get a chip close or make a putt because of all the slope in the greens. I’ve seen courses advertise a “superintendent’s revenge” set up where the course is as tough as it can be and that’s what it felt like. Even without the crazy pin locations, there would have been too much slope in the greens for my liking. I played the black tees which are 73.0/130/7005 but it played much tougher than that especially when the wind up kicked up halfway through the round.
After playing many courses this month that were soft, I enjoyed the big bounces and trying to figure out where to land a tee shot and approach. A couple times I hit it short of where I wanted only to see the ball bound up onto the front of the green. I expected the course to be in decent shape because the summer was cool, but the conditions couldn’t have been any better. Almost every course that I’ve played in the Mid-Atlantic this fall has been in nice shape. There weren’t any burnt out patches and as you will see in the pictures, the course was as green and as lush as can be. The greens were lightning fast and every putt had a smooth roll. The fairways were cut short and offered a nice lie so I found exactly what I wanted, a value course.
Locust Hill turned out to be what I was looking for so I wouldn’t have made any changes for my morning round here. It offered a quality round without the D.C. prices and I’m thinking that it is the nicest course within 30 minutes. So, if someone is in town visiting then this is the place to play. However, I don’t know that the course is unique enough to warrant a detour from I-81. I haven’t played much golf within an hour of Charles Town, but there appear to be an endless number of memorable choices. Frederick, MD offers some high quality courses, so does Southern Pennsylvania, and I’ll throw in a plug for Blue Ridge Shadows which is one of my favorite courses in Virginia.
#1 (428 yard par 4):
The opening hole allows for a crooked tee shot which is something that I like. The wide fairway is pretty straightaway, but the holes moves a little left around that bunker. There is some water to the right which can come into play with a pin on the right side of the green. It is a pretty fair way to begin the round.
#2 (588 yard par 5):
This is a long, straight par 5. The fairway squiggles around some fairway bunkers and it is semi-blind as the hole plays slightly uphill. That, and the fact that the fairway is narrow, makes it a tough one to hit. There is quite a bit of room on either side before the out of bounds comes into play so someone should be able to set up the third shot. The green has a ridge in the middle and it slopes to the back edge past that ridge which makes it tough to get the distance right.
#3 (396 yard par 4):
I made this one more difficult than it needed to be. Water all down the left side of the hole scared me over to the right. There is out of bounds to the right and some trees which can block the approach into the narrow green.
#4 (416 yard par 4):
This is another good driving hole. It looks like a tight tee shot, but there is some room to the left of the fairway before getting to a creek which runs the length of the hole. The out of bounds to the right needs to be avoided. The green is kidney shaped and slopes from right to left.
#5 (178 yard par 3):
I didn’t care for this par 3. The pin was hidden by a home and I couldn’t see where I needed to land my tee shot. Come to out, the green moves to the right around two bunkers. It didn’t matter where my tee shot would have landed though because my decent pitch shot wouldn’t even stay on the green (because of a severe slope in the back section). A high fade is going to be the best shot on this par 3.
#6 (376 yard par 4):
After one of my least favorite holes is one of my favorites and it starts a stretch of good holes to close the front nine. This is a mid length par 4 that plays from an elevated tee. It is most likely going to be a layup off the tee and a short iron into a green that slopes from right to left. The flag was on the right when I played so I tried to fade my approach into the green to get it close. Anything missing to the right is going to leave a quick chip. The 6th has a more rustic feel than anything else up to this point in the round.
#7 (183 yard par 3):
There is some water left of the green that can come into play, but it looked like the hole would be more difficult when I caught a glimpse of it on the 6th tee. There is room short and right of the green to miss and still have a chance to make a par. Depending on the pin location it can be a birdie hole because the green has a center section that is in a valley. Any shot in that area can benefit from the sideboards.
#8 (507 yard par 5):
I enjoy a reachable par 5 and that is what we have here! A good tee shot that avoids the bunker and creek to the left will allow a chance for someone to get on or near the green in two. There is an opening to run a ball onto the green so someone could chase a second shot onto the green even from the rough. Unfortunately, this is one of the most severe greens on the course. There is a steep ridge in the middle and the green runs off the back so a mishit shot, even from a short distance, can end up in the water. I hit a decent chip from 30 yards short of the green and it rolled off the back and into the rough. Because of the steep slope, I could have chipped a small of balls and not had one stay on the back left section of green where the flag was located.
#9 (370 yard par 4):
Make sure to take the time to enjoy this par 4. The golf shots required on this hole are pretty standard, but the green is nestled among some rock outcroppings. In a way it reminded me of something that would be found at Turkey Creek in California.
#10 (390 yard par 4):
Depending on the yardage for someone’s tee shot, the fairway is located more to the left than it looks. The hole moves gently right, but I was wishing that I started my tee shot out more towards those trees without any leaves. The fairway does go to the right, but closer to the green. The green is another one with a ridge in the center of it that had me guessing on the speed of my putt.
#11 (439 yard par 4):
This is the second longest par 4 on the course and the second hardest hole. A draw is the best play off the tee, but not required. The green is elevated so the surface cannot be seen from the fairway. The pin was a few steps from the back edge and getting a long iron into that section just over a ridge would require a bit of luck. I’d say that a high fade is the preferred shot shape on the approach.
#12 (181 yard par 3):
This par 3 plays downhill to a green that slopes from right to left and back to front. I short sided it and was happy to make a bogey so I’d make sure favor the left side in hopes of an uphill putt. There is a pond short of the green which visually adds to the hole, but it is far enough away that shouldn’t it come into play.
#13 (555 yard par 5):
This is a double dogleg par 5 that should be a pretty good birdie chance. The last half of the hole plays uphill so it isn’t very likely that the average golfer is going to reach it in two, but there isn’t much trouble off the tee or on the layup. The tee shot fooled me and I hit it farther left than I should have so I’d make sure to pick a line out towards the group of trees that are changing color. The green slopes from back to front so someone needs to make sure to allow for that if they spin the ball.
#14 (432 yard par 4):
I think that the 14th could be on the best holes on the course. It is a long par 4 but it plays shorter than the yardage because the second shot is downhill. It looks like a tight tee shot, but there is plenty of room to the right and left. The ideal tee shot is about 250 or 260 yards avoiding the fairway bunker on the right. Anything longer than that could run out of fairway. The second shot is probably going to be a mid or long iron and I was able to land it short and right of the green which got a nice kick forward.
#15 (424 yard par 4):
This is one of the scarier holes on the course because of the second shot. The tee shot is played to a wide fairway and playing it down the right side, close to the water, allows for a shorter approach. The second shot needs to be hit the perfect distance because water surrounds the green on all sides. I would be very careful about going after a pin on the left side because a ball landing on that part could take a bounce, hit the cart path, and end up in the water. To make things worse, the pin was on a ridge when I played. I didn’t see much chance to get a chip or long putt close.
#16 (173 yard par 3):
There is plenty of water in play on this par 3. A solid iron should find land, but any mishit could end up in the water if trying to get to a pin on the right side of the green. The green slopes from left to right so that can help if trying to get to a right flag. Long and left are spots to bailout in hopes of a par chance after a nice chip or lag putt.
#17 (514 yard par 5):
This is one of those par 5’s that I played and wished I had seen it before. It is relatively simple, but I was missing the local knowledge to play it with confidence. I didn’t quite know where to hit my tee shot, the second shot is semi-blind, and there is a back level to the green. The fairway runs out at about 250 yards into the green so someone might need to hit a 3 wood off the tee. From there another wood could run up near the green, but it would need to avoid some bunkers. I had about 50 yards into a back flag and tried to drive a low shot up onto the back level but was unsuccessful.
#18 (455 yard par 4):
The closing hole is a strong par 4 that is the longest one on the course. The tee shot is the most important shot because there is a pond short of the green that needs to be carried on the approach. I was out of position and had to lay it up short of the pond which turned it into a par 5 for me. After a good tee shot then the pond should be able to be carried with an average strike because it is 20 or 30 yards short of the green.