As you know by now, I’m always on the lookout for a course that I haven’t played! The VSGA book that I purchased for 2014 has been great! I’ve saved a bunch of money and got to play courses that I wouldn’t have normally played. Because there isn’t any rhyme or reason to when a course allows play with the card I put some thought into the best (or only) time to play a course. For example, Spotswood Country Club only allows two plays for VSGA members which can be used in November and/or December. Other courses are only on weekdays or at certain times so I wanted to make sure to take advantage of one of the plays at Spotswood. December is likely to be too cold in the valley and the extended forecast is quite chilly so today was as good of a day as any to play.
The forecast was for mid 50’s with some clouds and sun after a chilly morning. It was decent in Charlottesville when I left but it clouded up once I got over Afton Mountain. I don’t think it hit 50 degrees over in Harrisonburg and with some off and on wind, it felt colder. It was one of those days where I didn’t really want to play golf because of the weather, but at the same time I did want to play golf because the weather can keep everyone else away. Dan, who was working the proshp, did an excellent job at making me feel welcome and I got out about 12:30pm. All the members were smart and stayed home so I played as a single in about 3 hours and didn’t run into anyone. That is the type of pace that I enjoy on a cold day!
When I looked at the map to get to Spotswood, I noticed that it is smack dab in the middle of town. In fact, a shopping center and mall are nearby and its no more than a couple hundred yards across the street to a massive parking lot. I’ve been to that shopping center before and I had no idea that there was a golf course across the street, so it is camouflaged well.
I haven’t been able to find much about the club’s history online. The club appears to date back to 1926 in one way or another. I’m not sure if maybe nine holes were designed almost 100 years ago and then another nine was added later, but the course definitely has some old school charm.
I played the blue tees which play 71.0/133/6451. As you can see, it isn’t a very long course (by today’s standards) even from the tips. The course plays to a par of 72 with the front playing as a par 35 and the back as a par 37. There are the four traditional par 3’s and par 5’s, but the front has an extra par 3 and only plays 2,936 yards. There is a stretch where eight of nine holes are par 4’s so that might get bit boring to play everyday, but I found the yardages mixed nicely. Some strategy was required off the tee and I hit six different clubs on my approaches while playing those par 4’s. The par 5 yardages are similar (there is one long par 5) as three play between 470 and 478 yards. Make sure to take advantage of the par 5’s!
Because Spotswood is an older course, it features a compact layout with tee boxes that are close to the previous greens. It is a course that I wouldn’t mind walking because there is just enough elevation change so that I could get some exercise. Even though the holes are close together, I thought that there was enough separation. Many holes are separated by pine trees and greens are surrounded by trees and other shrubs which created a feeling of seclusion. That was especially nice when playing the perimeter holes which had homes nearby. Because there was so much grass it was easy to find a wayward shot and at least try to get it close to the small greens.
The course is hilly which resulted in some mixed feelings for me. The hills created plenty of uneven lies, a few semi-blind shots, and some big climbs from the fairways up to the greens. The good was that I had to be mentally involved throughout the round trying to hit it to a flat spot. The bad was that all the slope in the fairways made it very difficult to make my normal swing. There was so much slope that I had to manipulate my stance and the club face hoping to keep an iron shot from traveling well off line. Some people might like that but halfway through the round I was tired of guessing the ball flight from the short grass. The sloping fairways remind me of nearby Ironwood where I played earlier this year. I know that navigating those fairways were easier the second time I played there so that could be the case here too.
Spotswood seems to have more bunkers than the average course built during the same timeframe. While most bunkers are pretty flat, they are in good spots and I actually found a bunker on six different holes! That has to be some sort of record for me and I’m happy to report that I always had a nice lie in the firmer sand. I’m not sure if it is the bounce on my wedge but I wish every course had bunkers like these as I hit some nice shots from the beach. The rest of the course was in very nice shape too considering that it is getting late in the season. The fairways were cut short and the greens were smooth and surprisingly fast. The greens had some trickle to them and I had to be respectful of a high side lip out as that could leave a three footer. I had two putts going sideways when they dropped in the hole so the greens have the potential to be very scary.
I always enjoy playing an old course because it takes me back to a day when the game wasn’t dominated by distance. If someone is a VSGA member and lives within 30 minutes then I’d suggest checking out the course.
#1 (478 yard par 5):
I think that the opening hole is one of the easier ones on the course. It is a short par 5 that plays uphill. It could be reached in two but a good drive with a lot of carry is needed. From the tee, it doesn’t look like the slope in the fairway should affect play, but I didn’t get much roll and it was tricky to get my weight shifted correctly early on in the round. The layup is blind so I had to make sure to get it to the top of the hill for a look at the green. The green slopes from right to left so try not to miss it right with that right pin.
#2 (169 yard par 3):
This is one of the well bunkered holes! There are a half dozen bunkers which surround most of the green and test someone’s ability to hit an accurate mid-iron. I think it is a pretty fair par 3.
#3 (328 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on the course. It plays downhill off the tee to a fairway that slopes hard from left to right. The hole turns to the right and the approach plays back uphill to a green with a surface that isn’t visible from the fairway. I hit my 200 yard club off the tee but I think it might have been better to hit more club on a more aggressive line to the right. That might have left me a small valley with a flatter lie.
#4 (186 yard par 3):
This is the second longest par 3 and it is a good one! It has a large green which I always like to see when having to hit a long iron. The pin was tucked in the back right corner over a bunker so it was tough to get to unless someone hit a high fade. I ended up pin high left of the green and had to chip across a ridge on the right third of the green. I think the hole will offer a score that represents the quality of shots hit.
#5 (473 yard par 5):
This is a short par 5 that offers a great chance to put a birdie on the card! I had trouble picking the best line off the tee the first time playing here. The tee shot is a little tricky because it is blind, but the good news is that there isn’t any hidden trouble. The hole moves a bit to the right and fairway slopes severely from right to left so it is tough to get comfortable unless playing here a few times. I’d say the best line is out at the green tree in the middle of the picture but it is going to take a bit of luck to find the only flat part of the fairway (the left edge). If going for the green in two, the second shot is straight uphill to a small green that slopes from back to front. I had a five foot putt that broke sideways. There are a couple bunkers short of the green that I think would get a lot of action.
#6 (342 yard par 4):
It is pretty uncommon to find a 342 yard hole ranked as the #3 handicap on a regulation course! That’s what we have here and it is one of my least favorite holes on the course because of the sloping fairway. The tee shot is semi-blind but someone should favor the right side for a bounce to the left. I hit a hybrid off the tee and faced a hook lie with a mid iron. To do over I might have tried to hit a driver in hopes of better control with a sand wedge.
#7 (412 yard par 4):
This the longest par 4, and the hardest hole, on the course. The tee shot should favor the left side of the fairway for a bounce to the right and there is a ridge in the fairway. That means someone could have an uphill, flat, or downhill lie into the green. It is going to be tough to shape an approach into a flag on the left side of the green because of the slope.
#8 (380 yard par 4):
This is another good strategy hole. Someone can lay it back in order to avoid the bunker on the right, but that leaves a blind shot into the green. The other option is to try to drive it to the top of the hill but that could bring the trees, just left of the fairway, into play. After a nice drive it becomes a birdie hole.
#9 (168 yard par 3):
I think that this is one of the more boring holes on the front nine. This par 3 is flat and about the same distance as the 2nd hole. The only thing that adds to the challenge is that the green is deep. Therefore, shadows from the trees that surround the green could make it tough to judge the exact distance.
#10 (367 yard par 4):
The back nine starts out with a slight dogleg right. The best tee shot moves from left to right and anything too far or not cutting can run through the fairway. The approach is just enough uphill that I couldn’t see the whole green from the fairway. Come to find out, the green is deeper than it looks and the flag was all the way in the back.
#11 (389 yard par 4):
The fairway slopes to the left and rolls up and down towards the green. That means a tee shot landing into an upslope can leave a lot longer shot than one landing on the downslope. The green slopes from back to front so trying to leave it below the hole is best.
#12 (365 yard par 4):
This short par 4 is a great chance for a birdie! It plays downhill and it is most likely going to be a layup off the tee. The fairway pinches at the 100 yard marker so I wouldn’t try to get closer to the green than that. The green slopes to the right off the left greenside bunker because of a knob. Therefore, any shot from left of the green is going to be very fast.
#13 (405 yard par 4):
This is the longest par 4 on the back nine and the #2 handicap. The hole features my favorite tee shot on the course because the trees frame the mountains off in the distance. Favoring the right side of the fairway off the tee is the best play because the hole moves right and ball could kick left. It looks like the best place to miss the green is over to the right, but there is a greenside bunker over there.
#14 (349 yard par 4):
This is another short hole with a too much slope in the fairway, at least if you ask me. I ended up just left of the fairway and had a relatively flat lie, but anyone playing from the fairway is going to face a severe right to left lie. That is going to make it tough to catch even a short iron solid.
#15 (553 yard par 5):
This is the longest hole on the course and probably a three shot hole for most players. The tees were up when I played, but it is going to be tough to hit a long club solidly from the sloping fairway. I would suggest trying to layup to the far left side of the fairway in hopes of a flatter lie. If a layup down the right gets a big bounce it could find a water hazard.
#16 (227 yard par 3):
I think this long par 3 is a great hole! It plays uphill to a small, narrow green. Normally I like a long par 3 to have a large green, but there is room short and left of the green to allow someone to chip one close and still make a par. Anything missing right of the green is going to leave a tough chip.
#17 (390 yard par 4):
This hole requires some strategy off the tee, some judgement, and a solid strike from the fairway. There is a ridge that cuts across the fairway that can lead to an uphill, flat, or downhill lie. Also, if short of the ridge then the approach could be semi-blind. I decided to try to get my tee shot over that ridge and was faced with a short iron from a downslope. I didn’t feel like I could challenge the back flag because of the out of bounds just over the green. Anything landing over the green most likely is going to kick out of bounds. I’d try to play to the front or center part of the green every time.
#18 (470 yard par 5):
The finishing hole is the shortest par 5 on the course and since it moves left, it plays even shorter than the yardage. A tee shot hugging the left side of the fairway leaves the shortest distance to the green, but someone might have to draw it around a tree. The second or third shot is uphill to a green with two bunkers short of it. If someone can draw the ball then it plays much easier and is a chance to end the round on a good note!