The rain is just starting to fall outside after my round at Stoney Creek so I figure that it is a perfect evening to update my review. I haven’t played much golf in November because of the weather so I am pretty current on my blog! That might be a first so I’ll try my hand at my first course update.
I’ve played Stoney Creek three times this year, first in April, then again in July, and today. I’ve taken advantage of the Virginia State Golf Association card and never paid more than $30 to play an afternoon round, including my round today which was $26. The rack rate is $69 but the course does run afternoon specials on certain days so it can be accessible. I’ve got a hodgepodge of pictures from the different seasons posted and like most courses in the area, it looks quite different from one season to the next. I was trying to get out here in early November while there was still some color left on the mountains, but that didn’t work out.
As mentioned, it has been too chilly recently for me to golf on the weekends. I’m not a die-hard golfer and don’t like to play in the cold, wind, or rain. I can handle one of the conditions and sometimes golf just to get outside and play when a course isn’t busy. It was 20 degrees and sunny yesterday when I woke up and that is way too cold, even if it did warm up to about 50. Today was a cloudy with rain threatening, but the rain wasn’t supposed to fall until this evening. I am hoping to get out of town for Thanksgiving to golf somewhere (more on that hopefully in the next post!) and wanted to get in some practice. I could have hit some range balls for $6, but for an extra $20 it made sense just to go play.
I was hoping that the forecast would keep everyone else inside, and for the most part, it did. I was the only golfer that afternoon, but I did catch a couple morning groups and made it around in about 3.5 hours. The temperature wasn’t chilly and the wind wasn’t up so I enjoyed my afternoon. The only time that I had a slow round here was when I played in July, but I played when they were running a special rate. The course is 45 minutes from Charlottesville in a sparsely popular area and the facility has 27 holes. I’d say that most of the play is going to be from members and vacationers. Those things are going to help with the pace of play and generally speaking, it should be pretty good.
I played Devils Knob last year, the other course associated with Wintergreen resort, and Stoney Creek is my choice between the two. That is a good thing because Devils Knob limited their access for 2014. Devils Knob is a true mountain course which isn’t too surprising because it is on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains! Stoney Creek is located at the base of the mountains, in the Rockfish Valley, and still offers the nice views without being as severe. The Rockfish River runs nearby, so as far as the scenery goes, it doesn’t get much better.
Rees Jones designed Stoney Creek and while I probably will never play some of his big name private designs, I’ve played maybe a half dozen of his public courses and enjoyed many of them. His courses are tough, but fair for the most part. The Dunes, Poppy Ridge, and Falcon’s Fire all come to mind in that respect. Stoney Creek reminds me a little of Poppy Ridge because both are 27 holes and have some great views. It has been years since I’ve played Poppy Ridge, but if I recall correctly, those green complexes were pretty treacherous. If you keep reading you will see that I’ve got the same opinion about the ones here!
The course has three nines called the “Shamokin”, “Tuckahoe”, and “Monocan”. I’m not positive, but I think that the nines are named after the Native American culture in the area years ago. The nice thing is that no matter which two nines that someone plays, they are going to get a consistent scorecard experience. What I mean is that each nine is about the same yardage, slope, and rating. From example, from the blue tees where I played the course is going to be about 6650/72.0/130 on any of the three routes. This isn’t to say that they all play similar, but there isn’t one nine that is more difficult than the other (at least on paper!) which I like.
I’ve played Tuckahoe the most which is nice because it is my favorite! I think it has the best scenery and the fairest holes. Every time I play a good shot gets a good result, an average shot an average result, and a bad shot a bad result. I think that larger greens than the other nines help in this regards. I was expecting a valley course the first time that I played so I was surprised to drive up a hill from the clubhouse to get to the first tee. In fact, the first three holes are holes that could be found on a mountain course. These holes have big slopes in the fairway, more than a club of elevation change, and greens with big slopes because they were cut from the hillside. Tuckahoe starts to flatten out near the 3rd green which is down by a creek. The next couple holes play near the creek and have a wetlands feel to them while the final few holes are out in a big meadow. All the variety makes Tuckahoe a pleasure to play.
Monocan is probably the most traditional nine. It is the flattest nine and routed through the community so it probably is going to the least controversial. Even though it doesn’t have the awe-inspiring holes that the other two nines have, it is my second favorite nine. The opening holes are something that I would expect at a parkland course before the rest of the holes are more typical for Virginia. The greens are smaller and require some precision with the irons and placement off the tee for a birdie putt. Most holes require a more subtle touch to score and there is a fine line between a good or a bad result. The 5th, a 161 yard par 3 over water, is my favorite hole here. There is a nice collection of solid golf holes on Monocan.
When I played Shamokin for the first time this summer I didn’t really like it, but I still kept an open mind when playing it again today. After playing it again, I concluded that I still don’t care for it and that it is my least favorite nine at Stoney Creek. Shamokin has plenty of narrow holes, doglegs that turn at awkward yardages for me, and severe ridges in the greens. It seems too easy to make a bogey with a bad bounce off all of the mounding or knock one into the woods. There isn’t much chance to recover because of the tree lined holes and slopes in the green. In fact, I’ve had putts go sideways from a short distance. I’m not a believer in having to hit a perfect shot to make a par or birdie which is what I think has to be done here. The 7th, a downhill par 3, is one of the more memorable holes on the course so if someone plays it I’d make sure to enjoy that hole.
I’ve played the course during different times of the year and overall I’d say the maintenance is acceptable. Keep in mind that I’ve played twice during the offseason but there always has been room for improvement with the conditions. The maintenance schedules might be different because there are three nines so I’ve noticed that conditions can vary once getting to the back nine each day. For example, when I played in April the dormant fairways on Monocan were more coarse than Tuckahoe. And when I played in July, the greens on Shamokin were beat up pretty bad. The greens have rolled well every time, but nothing lightning fast and that is probably a good thing considering the slopes. I’m not sure the maintenance will blow someone away, but for $26 to $29 with my VSGA card it is a pretty good deal because of the setting.
When I think of Virginia golf I think of target golf, and while there are definitely some target golf holes here, there is plenty of variety to make it different. In my opinion Stoney Creek is probably worth an hour drive and $50 to play.
Tuckahoe #1 (451 yard par 4):
Make sure to pause and enjoy the view from this elevated tee! This is one of my favorite holes on the course because of the scenery and the thought needed to play it well. From the blue tees it is the longest par 4 on the course but I’ve had as little as 9 iron into the hole after a good drive. The tee shot needs to favor the left side of the fairway for a kick to the right. The nice thing is that the bunker can catch shots before they roll into the water and tee shot landing by the cart path can end up in the short grass. The green slopes from back to front and there are three different tiers. If the flag is on the right then an approach to the center of the green could end up close.
Tuckahoe #2 (335 yard par 4):
It looks like the fairway was just dropped on the up-slope of the mountain and that is pretty much true. This is a short par 4 where the biggest challenge is going to be catching a short iron solid from an uphill lie. After playing it a couple times I almost favor trying to have 80 to 100 yards into the green as the fairway slightly flattens closer to the green. The green is blind from the fairway and slopes from back to front so being below the hole is important. I wish the fairway was stepped to allow for a completely flat lie at certain yardages.
Tuckahoe #3 (544 yard par 5):
Typically, I don’t hit it far enough to reach an almost 550 yard par 5. However, the hole doglegs left and it plays downhill to a stepped fairway so a tee shot can really chase down the fairway. I have hit hybrid off the tee (my 215 yard club) and ended up with 240 yards into the green so that gives an idea of how short the hole really plays. The safe play is a layup just to the right of the bunker or flying it if someone can carry it about 230 yards. Anything longer than that has a chance to run through the fairway and into trouble. If going for it in two then someone will need to carry a creek that cuts across short of the green.
Tuckahoe #4 (185 yard par 3):
I want to like this par 3, but I have always been in a bit of a bad mood after playing it. It is a long par 3 to a narrow green. The green is made even narrower because it falls off in every direction. A shot hitting in the fringe most likely is going to kick off the green and leave a semi-blind chip or bunker shot.
Tuckahoe #5 (440 yard par 4):
I like this par 4, but that’s because I like to move the ball from left to right. The tee shot should favor the right side of the fairway because the hole goes that way. That will leave a shorter approach and avoid the fairway bunkers which will catch shots running through the end of the fairway. The approach is going to have to be an accurate mid or long iron to another green that can repel shots.
Tuckahoe #6 (332 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on any of the nines and good chance for a birdie! It is most likely going to be a layup for everyone because the fairway runs out. I laid it up too far back my first time and had a semi-blind shot from behind a rise in the fairway. I’d suggest trying to leave 90 to 120 yards from on top of the rise for a clear view of the flag. The green slopes from back to front and right to left. Make sure not to miss on the short side or it will be very quick.
Tuckahoe #7 (367 yard par 4):
There is some strategy involved off the tee here. The fairway angles to the right which brings fairway bunkers right and left into play. I think that this is one of those holes where the pin location determines the club selection off the tee. If the pin is over on the open, right side of the green then I would probably layup to the fat part of the fairway. If the pin is tucked on the left side of the green then it is going to helpful to have a shorter iron to put some spin on it.
Tuckahoe #8 (144 yard par 3):
This par 3 has some panoramic views of the valley so make sure to take those in! The view of the green is a bit deceiving from the tee and it doesn’t look very deep. That is true for a flag on the left side of the green, but the right side of the green goes back another maybe 30 feet to a deep, but narrow section. The best way to describe it might be like a one car garage on the left and a tandem garage on the right. Because of that I’ve always struggled to get it close here. I don’t think it is uncommon for some putts to have close to a foot of break on this green.
Tuckahoe #9 (559 yard par 5):
This hole is in the valley hole so it is pretty flat. The hole moves to the right so the temptation is to hug the right side of the fairway. However, that can bring bunkers into play. Any tee shot landing on top of the mounds to the right of the bunkers could kick right and into some almost unplayable grass. The center of the green is a bit like the bottom of a bowl so there is a chance to get it close and make a birdie. It is one of my favorite holes for scenery because of the clear views of mountains in all directions.
Monocan #1 (545 yard par 5):
This is the longest hole on the Monocan nine. It is a gentle dogleg left with a layup area that is a small depression. That makes the layup semi-blind and if someone hits it too far a creek, short of the green, can come into play. The green has at least three different tiers so a long putt could be tough.
Monocan #2 (354 yard par 4):
This is the shortest par 4 on the Monocan nine and it is a good strategy hole! A draw that hugs the left side of the fairway is going to leave the shortest approach, but someone doesn’t need a driver. Anything missing left of the fairway could kick into a creek so a more conservative line might be better. The semi-blind approach should be with a short iron into a green with some ridges separating it into sections. When I played the pin was in a small bowl at the front of the green.
Monocan #3 (427 yard par 4):
The course follows the shortest par 4 on the nine with the longest. It moves slightly right, and some bunkers left and the dogleg pinch the tee shot. However, there are plenty of places to miss because the 3rd hole is out to the right. The green is another reasonably small one with some humps and bumps.
Monocan #4 (399 yard par 4):
This is a pretty straightaway hole. It has a narrower feel to it and some water short and right of the green could come into play if out of position.
Monocan #5 (161 yard par 3):
This mid-length par 3 is one of my favorite holes on the course! It is a solid test and I think it is pretty scenic. It is all carry over the water so the hole requires being able to pick the right club and hit it solid. There is room to miss long, but note that the green slopes severely from back to front and there are hidden bunkers behind the green.
Monocan #6 (364 yard par 4):
The 6th is an entertaining hole mostly because of the that tree left of the fairway. I hit a layup club and pulled it so I ended up behind the tree! I think it might be best to try to hit a longer a club off the tee and take the tree out of play. There is trouble to the left up near the green.
Monocan #7 (390 yard par 4):
This seems like an innocent hole but a couple things make it tougher than it looks. The tee shot angles to the right just enough make a fade the best play and the mounding on the left side of the fairway is unpredictable. Any tee shot hitting the top of the mounds could kick left into a creek. The approach plays to a surprisingly deep green.
Monocan #8 (163 yard par 3):
Sorry, no picture! This par 3 plays slightly uphill to an elevated green. Because the green is elevated, that makes it semi-blind and tough to judge where the pin is located. I hit a solid shot, but ended up short so it might be an extra half a club. Because the green angles a bit it is going to require a longer carry to get it close to a pin on the right side.
Monocan #9 (501 yard par 5):
This is a potentially reachable par 5 to close. It moves hard right so it can play even shorter than the yardage if someone moves it left to right or plays along the right edge of the tree line. It is open near the green so I say try to get as close as possible in two shots. There is a narrow opening short of the green so an accurate shot can run onto the surface. Chipping or pitching from 30 or 40 yards short of the green isn’t a bad play either.
Shamokin #1 (418 yard par 4):
The opening hole on the Shamokin nine is a decent length par 4 that doglegs right around some bunkers. The fairway doglegs around 230 to 240 yards so the bunkers are going to get a lot of action. It is a pretty difficult tee shot because the fairway runs out at the dogleg and there is out of bounds left of those mounds. The surface of the green is blind on the approach and there is a spine that divides the green.
Shamokin #2 (380 yard par 4):
This is a straight away hole without too many tricks. The fairway slopes a bit from right to left so I would suggest favoring the right side if possible. That will also help to avoid the fairway bunkers to the left which start at about 225 yards from the tee. The green is small and unforgiving so it needs a precise iron.
Shamokin #3 (155 yard par 3):
This is a pretty par 3 with the mountains off in the distance. The story here is that there are three separate sections to the green. In this picture the pin is located on a back tier, but there is a spine which divides the front left from the front right. It could be borderline impossible to get a putt or chip inside 10 feet so I say go right at the flag. I have no desire to play a shot to 20 feet and three putt it. There is a hazard short and left which can come into play on a mis-hit.
Shamokin #4 (527 yard par 5):
This is a dogleg left par 5. If someone hits a draw then they might have a chance to get the second shot up near the green. I wouldn’t mind a chip or pitch from 30 yards short of the green if someone could put me there in two. I don’t draw the ball so I layup with a club that typically goes 210 to 220 yards to keep from running through the fairway and into trouble. That turns it into a three shot hole for me and I’m faced with an approach into a very small green (for a par 5) that is surrounded by bunkers.
Shamokin #5 (334 yard par 4):
The yardage and a pretty open fairway make this seem like an easy birdie. But, I’ve never had much luck with it even though it is only a layup off the tee. There is a tree on the left side of the fairway which forces play over to the right during the summer months. The approach is played to another green that cannot be seen from the fairway. The green is very severe with multiple, sideways putts possible. I’d take a par and run!
Shamokin #6 (383 yard par 4):
This par 4 has a few tricks to it. The fairway runs out so the bigger hitters might want to hit less than a driver. You’ll notice that the fairway is flanked by mounds on each side which can kick the ball in any number of directions. From the fairway, it will most likely be a mid or short iron into a benign looking green. The green has a back level where the flag can be tucked and a creek runs along the left side of the green. The creek is more in play than it looks so guard against missing it short or left of the green.
Shamokin #7 (199 yard par 3):
This downhill par 3 is probably one of the signature holes on the course. I only took a couple pictures of the course when I played in July and this is one of them. I’d say it plays about two clubs downhill to the smallish green. There is a ridge that separates the left and right sides of the green so it will be tough to control the speed with any chip or putt over it. I think picking the right club on a downhill hole like this is tough enough, so I could do without the ridge.
Shamokin #8 (491 yard par 5):
I think that this is the best designed hole on the Shamokin nine. It is a dogleg left par 5 that can be reached in two after a good tee shot. The best tee shot is down the left side of the fairway to shorten the hole. The tee shot should land on a downslope and roll out 20 or 30 yards if the conditions are right. Some can even fly the fairway bunkers on the left. If someone goes for the green in two then an accurate shot is required into a green complex that slopes off on all sides. Someone’s short game will be tested if missing the green.
Shamokin #9 (435 yard par 4):
I’m not sure what Rees was thinking when he thought up this hole. I think that it is the worst hole on the course because of the tee shot. The hole moves left and the fairway is narrow between those two larger trees in the picture. Any tee shot to the left needs a big carry and one to the right can run through the fairway and be blocked out. I’d like to see the trees cleared out and for there to be a long, angled fairway bunker left of the fairway.