Sycamore Creek Golf Course (Manakin-Sabot, VA on 04/12/15)

Normally it is hard to pull me away from the TV on the Sunday of a major championship, but I had a good idea of how the final round of The Masters was going to go. The chasers were going to need a really low round to catch Speith so I didn’t feel the need to be glued to the TV catching every moment of play. I decided to do my own thing and get outside on a beautiful day and play a new course!

I made the hour drive over to the outskirts of Richmond to play Sycamore Creek. This is another one of those courses that I didn’t know existed until I received my VSGA card last year. In fact, I found very little about the course during my searches. That is probably why I’ve waited so long to play it considering all the trips that I’ve made to the area to play. I’ve just never wanted to gamble on an unknown.

When I called over to the course to see about me getting out to play they told me that it wouldn’t be a problem. I always get a little scared about that, but I thought that the majority of golfers would be trying to finish up around 3pm (when I teed off) in hopes of watching the golf on TV. For the most part, my plan worked out and I played through one group on the front before running into a bit of a backup on the final holes. All in all, I played in 3.5 hours which is as much as I can ask for during the weekend.

The course wasn’t very intimidating when I reviewed the scorecard, even from the blue tees (which are the tips). That’s where I played from and the course plays as a par 70 with a rating of 70.0 and slope of 129. It is only 6,227 yards so I knew that I wouldn’t have much trouble with length of the course even as an average length hitter. The nice thing is that it plays as a par 70 with three par 5’s and a couple shorter par 3’s so there still are some opportunities to score!

While standing on the 1st tee, I enjoyed a panoramic view of the 1st, 9th, 10th, and 11th holes. In a couple ways those holes reminded me of Quail Valley that I played in Oregon a few years ago.  That view could give the impression that the course would be open, but don’t be fooled as the other holes are wooded! I took a peek at the satellite view of the course before playing so I had an idea that it would narrow, and it did. I thought the course offered a nice mix of pastoral and traditional, tree-lined Mid-Atlantic holes. I found the area to be a nice setting for golf!

The front nine is a par 35 with one par 5 and two par 3’s and I thought that it was the weaker nine. There were a couple interesting holes with some minor elevation change, but all of the par 4’s played between 373 and 416 yards. That meant a lot of mid-irons on them and I typically like the approach yardages to be mixed up. Plus, the routing of four holes on the front felt a bit squished as they run close to Tuckahoe Creek. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but I think it could have been a bit better.

However, I think the designer (Michael Hurdzan) hit a home run with the design for the back nine! I enjoyed playing just about every hole on the back because there was plenty of variety. The yardages varied, the creek came into play multiple times, and there was plenty of elevation change. It seemed that just about every hole had some risk and potentially some reward to it!

I’d say that the course was in decent shape considering that it is still early in the season. Unfortunately, I played on a day when I couldn’t use my VSGA card and I paid the normal twilight rate of $40. I think $40 is a bit steep considering the conditions. The course has greened up nicely but there were still some splotchy spots in the fairways and rough. I had nice lies in the fairways, but it was a mixed bag in the rough. Sometimes I had a really thick lie while other times I had a thin lie. The greens wobbled a bit and were on the slower side, but I still manged to make a few putts because I decided to be aggressive on them. Overall, there weren’t any beat up parts on the greens which was nice.

I think Sycamore Creek struggles to differentiate itself from nearby courses because of the pricing. I wouldn’t call Sycamore Creek a value course and for a little more or little less money there are others that I’d rather play. However, it filled the void as a new course that I could play while not driving more than an hour each way! One final thing that I’ll mention about the course is that I liked the assortment of tiers and plateaus that the greens had. Many times these areas were the size of a queen mattress and had me thinking about the type of shot required to get it close!

#1 (386 yard par 4):

The 1st is a mid-length par 4 that is one of the easier holes on the course. As you can see from the picture, it is wide open which is why it is so easy! I love a tee shot like this to begin a round! The only concern is going to be hitting it too far off the tee (280 yards down the hill) and into the creek.

1-2

#2 (373 yard par 4):

The 2nd hole is actually the shortest par 4 on the front. Don’t let the yardage fool you though as it plays uphill on both the tee shot and the approach. There is some mounding off each side of the fairway which could help or hurt when it comes to a wayward tee shot. The approach is semi-blind and plays to a narrow green.

2-2 2-3

#3 (393 yard par 4):

The 3rd is a tough driving hole. There are fairway bunkers off to the left and right at different distances with the left one starting up closer to the tee box. Any tee shot of 250 yards or more is going to have to be very precise because of the narrow fairway and risks running out onto a downslope (once someone gets close to 100 yards into the green). The green slopes from back to front so I’d try to keep the ball below the hole.

3-2 3-4

#4 (152 yard par 3):

The 4th is a fun, short par 3. It plays about a club downhill to a green that is separated into two sections. The left side is maybe three or four feet higher than the right. That means a flag on the left is going to require more precision to get it close.

4-1

#5 (502 yard par 5):

The 5th is the only par 5 on the front and it is the shortest of any of the par 5’s on the course. The tee shot plays to a narrow fairway that runs out into some rough. There is a bunker on the right and a creek down the left side. My drive landed left of the fairway and kicked into the creek leaving me a tough layup. I’d favor the right side if possible! The green is one of the most interesting on the course as it is fairly large and has some raised sections for pins.

5-2

#6 (416 yard par 4):

The 6th is the ranked as the hardest hole on the course. It is one of the longest par 4’s on the course and is visually intimidating. The same creek that runs down the left side of the last hole is in play again to the left on this one. I thought that the fairway was wider than it looks from the tee and there is a tiny bit of slope from right to left so even a fade can work. The green is small and tucked back in the trees.

6-1 6-2

#7 (396 yard par 4):

It is pretty easy to pick a line off the tee on the 7th. The ideal tee shot is going to start at the right side of the fairway bunker and kick to right with the slope when it lands. The fairway narrows past the bunker, so a layup club might be best. The approach plays into a longer green but offers a chance to knock one close.

7-1 7-3

#8 (203 yard par 3):

The 8th is a long par 3 that was into the wind when I played. Anything to the right could get a bad bounce so it requires a straight long iron or hybrid. The green is large and designed to receive a long club.

8-1

#9 (379 yard par 4):

The 9th plays uphill to the clubhouse and parking lot. I didn’t have any trouble carrying the fairway bunkers and I only carried it about 220 yards. However, for the shortest hitters carrying those fairway bunkers could be a problem. A tee shot to the right side of the fairway leaves a better angle into the long, three tiered green.

9-2 9-4

#10 (434 yard par 4):

The back nine opens with the longest par 4 on the course. The tee shot is a copy of the tee shot at the 1st so make sure to keep the ball short of the creek. From there it can be a mid or long iron into the green, but there is an opening into the green so a miss short isn’t too bad.

10-2

#11 (215 yard par 3):

The 11th is the last hole out in the meadow, but don’t think that makes it easy! It is the longest par 3 on the course and it is all carry to the green as it goes back over the creek. Make sure to take enough club and don’t be afraid to miss long, especially with a flag toward the front of the green.

11-2 11-3

#12 (374 yard par 4):

The 12th is one of my favorite holes on the course! It plays from elevated tee to a green with an elevated back tier and moves a bit left. Along the way there is quite a bit of thought needed. Some pine trees down the left of the fairway could block out a tee shot on the left side, the hole moves left just after those pines, and some bunkers penalize a miss to the right. Therefore, it is important to judge the distance and angle into the green.

12-1 12-3

#13 (293 yard par 4):

The 13th is a short par 4 with the creek and what I think is a small tributary that comes into play. The creek cuts across short of the green and there is water down the left side. Only the longest hitters will be able to try to drive the green so it is a layup and a short iron for everyone else. The green is divided into left and right sections.

13-2 13-4

#14 (540 yard par 5):

The 14th is an uphill, double dogleg par 5. A fade is preferred for the tee shot while a draw is preferred for the layup. The green is semi-blind and slopes from back to front so controlling the spin with a short iron could be important.

14-1 14-4

#15 (159 yard par 3):

I really liked this downhill par 3. It was a short iron into a shallow, but wide green. There are bunkers over the green and a collection area short of the green making distance control important.

15-1

#16 (379 yard par 4):

The 16th is the #2 handicap hole because of a semi-blind tee shot and approach over the creek. A conservative tee shot is probably going to leave 150 yards into the green and favor the left side of the visible fairway (in the picture) since the holes moves left. An aggressive tee shot can carry that bunker and leave a short shot into the green but it could be from a downslope in the rough. The green is surrounded by trouble so it is a demanding approach.

16-1 16-4 16-6

#17 (169/127 yard par 3):

There are two tee boxes for the blue tees on the scorecard and I got to play the shorter yardage! That was nice because any miss short or left can find the creek.

17-1

#18 (506 yard par 5):

The 18th is probably the oddest hole on the course so don’t try to get too aggressive if playing here for the first time. I hit what I thought was a decent tee shot, but the fairway narrows and I had no chance to get to the green in two even from ~235 yards out. I was forced to hit a big slicing shot just to layup. The hole almost boomerangs right around some water so favor the left side if you can.

18-1 18-3 18-5

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