Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club (Denver, NC on 03/29/15)

I haven’t had much time for my blog recently as I’ve been studying hard for an insurance exam since I got back from Florida in early January. Sadly, I’ve only golfed once since then thanks to plenty of studying, poor weather, and a sore back. I’m happy to report that I was able to pass my test last weekend and ended up in the Charlotte, NC area to catch up with a friend! I’ve got some more free time now so I’m going to try to get these two reviews from this weekend posted and catch up on a couple others.

I didn’t research public golf options much in Charlotte. From the little that I read, the town has some nice private places, but public golf there doesn’t stack up with the rest of the state. That’s fine with me as I’ll play just about any place once! If I’m driving to an area, I like to take different routes just to see which is less stressful, more scenic, etc. I didn’t know what traffic would be like through Danville, VA on a Sunday with a NASCAR race in nearby Martinsville so I took I-81 to I-77 and decided to hit up Verdict Ridge Golf & Country Club which is on the west side of Lake Norman, about 30 minutes from Charlotte. I’m a part of a golf forum and had heard the course’s name mentioned years ago, so I thought that I’d try it out.

It took me about 5 hours to get there from Charlottesville but that included three stops which isn’t normally my thing. The normal afternoon rate is $49 but I was able to take advantage of a $10 off program that the course is running through their website. Make sure to check that out! The staff was great and let me take my time to warm up and I headed out a little after 2:30pm.

It is early in the season so I didn’t want to torture myself by playing the black tees which play ~6900 yards and have a very high slope of 144. That left me playing from the blue tees which are 71.2/141/6320. The blues are shorter than I like and anytime I see a 600 yard gap between two sets of tees I think that is a bit much. Therefore, I think the course would be a good candidate for a combo set of tees!

You probably noticed the high slope which I attribute to some forced carries, small targets around the green complexes, and as much slope as a non-mountain course will have! The most interesting, and maybe controversial, feature of Verdict Ridge is all of the slope throughout the course. It is going to be a little tough to tell from my pictures because of all the dormant bermuda, but there are multiple fairways where a ball has to land on one side of the fairway just to stay in the fairway! It felt like all I was tying to do off the tee is hit shots to the high side of the fairway and hope the ball got a good bounce. Anything landing on the low side could get a harsh kick and end up in trouble. The curious thing about all the slope is that the course doesn’t have an extraordinary amount of elevation change. There were times when I added or subtracted a club, but nothing crazy.

Around the greens it was important to know where the slopes were too. At times I could play away from trouble into the greens and try to use the slopes to get the ball onto the green. Multiple greens had fall offs and chipping areas so even a decent shot could end up in an awkward spot. There were a couple of times where I didn’t want to go right at the flag from just off the green. I was afraid of the ball running off the other side of the green and into a worse position! This all meant very precise irons were needed into the green complexes. The greens themselves are plenty challenging with multiple tiers and ridges.

The course was in very nice off-season shape and deserving of its green fee. The greens were on the firmer side and rolled very nicely, although they were a tiny bit slower than they looked. I didn’t have to worry about my putts bumping offline so if I got it started on the correct line it had a chance to drop. The rest of the course was in nice shape too! The tees had plenty of grass, I had tight lies in the fairways, and there weren’t any bare patches.

I like a playable course for the average golfer and I think Verdict Ridge is a bit too quirky for the average golfer. I left the course feeling that there is too much that can go wrong once the ball hits the ground. I don’t think all the slope makes it a “bad” course, but I do think all the slope keeps it from being a great one. As always, just my $0.02!

#1 (324 yard par 4):

The opening hole looks simple on paper. It is a short par 4 with a generous fairway and it plays about a club uphill. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find the fairway because anything to the right of the fairway should get a nice bounce and end up in the short grass. If the ball ends up on the right half of the fairway then it is going to leave a hook lie into an elevated green that sets up best to receive a high cut. There is a back level to the green and it falls off in most directions so there could be some short game woes to begin the day with a poor approach. 1-1 1-2

#2 (194 yard par 3):

The 2nd is a long par 3 that plays about a club less. The high side is to the left of the green so any miss over that way has a chance to feed onto the green. The general slope of the green is from left to right which helps too. 2-1

#3 (509 yard par 5):

The tee shot is semi-blind at the 3rd but there is a decent size fairway to play to. The hole slides the smallest bit to the left so I’d suggest favoring the left side, especially if trying to get there in two. There is a cross bunker that that will have to be carried if someone is going to get there in two. I laid it up and had a short iron for my third shot and caught it a bit thin. The ball released more than I expected because a good part of the green slopes towards the back. 3-2 3-3

#4 (390 yard par 4):

The 4th is the #2 handicap hole and it was into the wind when I played. They key is to find the fairway off the tee and avoid a creek that runs down the entire left side of the hole. It is another somewhat generous fairway which is nice. A draw is best off the tee, but not needed and the long green is well designed to receive a long iron. 4-2 4-3

#5 (331 yard par 4):

The 5th is a short par 4 with some options off the tee.The hole doglegs left and the green is probably on line with that pine tree on the left in my picture. It was a little over 200 yards to carry the left trap which is the shot that I tried off the tee. However, someone could play a shorter club out to the right or a longer club and go farther left. The small green is narrow, has a back tier, and is guarded by sand on the right and a chipping area to the left. 5-2 5-3 5-4

#6 (499 yard par 5):

The 6th is a reachable par 5 but in order to do so someone needs to avoid a tree that guards the right side of the fairway. This time of year the tree is easier to get around, but I’d guess that the ball could have to be curved quite a bit to get around it when there are leaves on it. There is water to the right of the green, but it doesn’t have to be challenged because of all the slope to the left of the green. My second shot hit short and left of the green and rolled sideways at the end to get into the fringe. It is another birdie chance, but my suggestion would be to favor the left side. 6-1 6-3 6-5

#7 (340 yard par 4):

The 7th wasn’t one of my favorites because of the crazy fairway. Unfortunately, the dormant bermuda fairway and rough made it tough to figure out where to hit the tee shot. One option is to play to the left third of the fairway leaving ~150 yards into the green. That should leave a flat lie for the downhill approach over water. Any tee shot too far or to the right will catch a slope and leave an awkward stance. For reference, my ball landed maybe 5 yards right of center in the fairway and rolled into the right rough. I’d suggest not hitting driver as it could run into the water. 7-2 7-3

#8 (195 yard par 3):

The 8th felt similar to the 2nd. Both are about the same yardage on the card and a little downhill. The good news is that I hit two clubs less because of the front flag on the long green here. 8-2

#9 (321 yard par 4):

The 9th is another short par 4 where position is important off the tee. Any tee shot down the left side should end up just fine because of all the slope to the right. Anything to the right, especially with the dormant grass, has a chance to end up in the hazard. The approach is interesting because it plays into a two tiered green with a small hazard to the left.

9-2 9-3

#10 (374 yard par 4):

The 10th hole slides a little right and it could be tougher for someone who moves the ball from right to left. For the average right handed golfer that hits a slice, it should be a pretty easy tee shot. The tee shot can start down the left side and feed back to the fairway with the slope. The green has a ridge that divides it and it gets wider towards the back. 10-1 10-2

#11 (178 yard par 3):

In my opinion, the 11th is one of the tougher holes on the course. It is a mid length par 3 that has a forced carry to the green. Any mis-hit shot has a chance to find the hazard. The pin was on the left side of the green when I played which isn’t as deep as the right. That flag location would make it very tough to get a tee shot close to. The only saving grace is that the green slopes from back to front which can help stop a shot. 11-2 11-3

#12 (403 yard par 4):

The 12th is a straightaway par 4 that rises from tee to green. The tee shot should favor the left side of the fairway to get some roll to the right. Be careful if going down the left side as out of bounds lurks just to the left of the cart path. The approach can get close to some flags using the slope to the left of the green and avoiding the greenside bunkers.

12-1

#13 (141 yard par 3):

The 13th is a chance for a birdie depending on where the flag is located. It is the shortest par 3 on the course and I always love a short par 3! The green is shaped like a kidney bean around a bunker left of the green. Thankfully, the flag was in a pretty easy spot when I played as that back left location looked to be much tougher. 13-1 13-3

#14 (367 yard par 4):

I think the 14th is the goofiest hole the course and I didn’t care for it. It is a dogleg left with trees that pinch the fairway and a hazard that cuts across short of the green. The best tee shot is played to the right third of the fairway leaving 125 to 150 yards into the green. The shot into the green could easily be blocked out without a good place to even layup. It seems like there are a few things that could have been done to make this hole more playable. 14-2 14-4 14-5

#15 (369 yard par 4):

There are a couple options off the tee on the 15th. Someone can lay it back short of a fairway bunker on the left or go for a shorter shot into the green. I hit my tee shot down the center of the fairway but it caught the slope and ended up just in the left rough. I had only about 100 yards into the green, but it was an awkward sidehill lie. The approach has to carry a hazard into a green with a back tier. 15-2 15-3

#16 (489 yard par 5):

I enjoyed playing the 16th, a short par 5. The green is straight ahead but it felt like a roller coaster to get there. The tee shot is uphill and layup is downhill before the approach into the green is uphill again. Then once on the green there are ridges and mounding which made putting difficult. There is some slope from right to left near the green so someone can try to get there in two after a good drive, but they probably will have to skirt a bunker short of the green. Another option is to play the second shot about 50 yards short of the green in hopes of a flatter stance and good angle. 16-2 16-5

#17 (381 yard par 4):

The 17th is another one of those holes where someone can use the slope to their advantage. I thought I could get a little lucky with a miss right and I did. My ball landed a few yards right of the fairway and ended up towards the center after kicking left off the slope. The approach into the green is semi-blind so I couldn’t tell how precise I needed to be to access the back flag. Come to find out, the back level of the green is narrower and elevated so only the best shots are going to end up back there. However, a flag on the front of the green would be much easier to play to. 17-2 17-3

#18 (515 yard par 5):

The closing hole is the hardest hole on the course and I think it is another goofy one. It is a par 5 that moves right and requires that someone thread the needle off the tee. There is a fairway bunker to the left and if someone wants to hit driver then I’d suggest trying to carry it. That will have the ball landing on the very left edge of the fairway and kicking to the right. The hope is that the ball wouldn’t roll too far to the right and off into a gully that cuts across the fairway. Anything to the right has a good chance of ending up out of play. A creek that cuts across short of the green which will limit the number of players that can go for it in two. 18-1 18-3

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