It was a golf filled weekend for me on what turned out to be the nicest weather weekend that we’ve had all year! A friend and I planned on playing Sunday at Falling River, but we also headed out to play a local place on Saturday. I might update that review, but I’m not sure. I’d rather focus my blog efforts on Falling River, a “new to me” course, while the details are still fresh in my mind.
Falling River is private club out in the country approximately 15 minutes from Lynchburg. The course allows some public play and in our case my friend and I took advantage of the VSGA card. The course allows four plays throughout the year with the card. I think they gave a us a couple dollar discount and only charged us $25! I’m not sure what the normal guest fee is, but that was certainly a steal! I would have paid double that just to play it once and if I lived in Lynchburg then I’d be sure to use all four plays.
The proshop told us to come on out as they weren’t too busy on a Sunday afternoon. We checked in and accidentally played the 10th hole before getting it sorted out and headed in the right direction! We got confused again trying to find the 2nd tee but finally figured out which way the hole plays so the course could have been a bit better marked. That’s a minor quibble though as I get easily confused with directions!
The first thing that stood out was that the course was in great shape! As you can see from the pictures just about every hole was green and lush. There were a couple patchy spots on #10 and #12 but other than those holes, I had plenty of good lies when I hit the fairway. A couple holes on the back are routed through lower spots on the property and were a bit squishy, but that didn’t cost me any strokes.
If I missed the fairway then I had to battle some long, heavy rough! That is the most difficult rough that I’ve had to battle so far this year and it put an emphasis on finding the fairways. I didn’t feel comfortable hitting more than a 7 iron out of the stuff! The greens were the best maintained part of the course and rolled like a $75 or $100 course. They were fast too so I had to be careful with my speed.
According to the course’s website, Falling River was designed originally as a nine hole course in 1965. I’m not sure when the other nine was added, but it all flowed together very well. Our price included a cart, but it is a place that I wouldn’t mind walking. The course is laid out on some rolling hills and most of the holes are in an open area. The back nine has a couple wooded holes but overall, I found the course to inviting on full swings. For the most part someone could hit it sideways and still find it unless one of the ponds or creeks was in play.
I looked at the satellite before playing and thought that the course would be easy considering that it plays as a par 72 and is only 6,456 yards from the blue tees (where we played). The course is a bit unusual in that it is a par 72 with only three par 3’s and three par 5’s. It has a rating of 70.8 and a slope of 130 so I thought that I would be able to put together a decent score without much trouble. Well, I had my hands full! The greens were tricky and I faced uneven lies on just about every approach.
The main feature of the design is the green complexes. The greens are tiny and have tons of slope. Most of the greens slope from back to front and if missing over the green then it could leave an almost impossible chip to get close depending on the flag location. There are multiple false edges on the greens and they slope off, almost like you see when the pro’s play at Pinehurst #2. So, the small greens become even smaller and I looked silly on a couple chips. Many times I had to decide between flying a chip to the edge of the green or bouncing a lower shot into the fringe and hoping for a good hop. If I didn’t pull it off there was a good chance I’d face a similar shot on my next. I hit a couple decent approaches just to watch them trickle away from the hole!
The nice thing is that even with the tough approaches and tough greens, the course is short enough to give someone a chance to play well. I could have done without all the blind landing areas off the tee, but I’d highly recommend the course. I still think that London Downs is my favorite course in the Lynchburg area, but Falling River is a close second. If you get a chance, make sure to stop by!
#1 (390 yard par 4):
Believe it or not, the opening hole is one of the longest par 4’s on the course! It is straightaway to the green but there is some right to left slope in the fairway. Depending on how far someone hits the ball, they could hit a downslope in the fairway. The power lines are a bit of an annoyance, but I think it is a fair and challenging hole to begin.
#2 (369 yard par 4):
The 2nd hole slides a little right and has one of the smallest greens on the course, or so it seemed! Finding the tee box could be confusing because there are a couple, but once we decided where to play from, I favored the right side of the fairway. From there it felt like a scoring opportunity, but I ended up with a double bogey after a hitting a poor shot over the green. If you miss, be sure to end up short of the green!
#3 (164 yard par 3):
The 3rd is one of the three par 3’s on the course so make sure enjoy it! If I had to design a par 3 it very well could look like this one. It is mid-length, plays from an elevated tee, but it still offers a chance to bail out. It played about a club shorter than the distance, but I got scared with the water short of the green and landed just off the back. The green slopes from back to front and falls off long so that was a big mistake! I was left a treacherous downhill chip towards the water.
#4 (506 yard par 5):
The 4th is the only par 5 on the front nine but it is ranked as one of the toughest holes (#3 handicap). There is a lot of right to left slope in the fairway, a creek that cuts across the hole, and a blind green so it has it’s challenges. The shot into the green plays a little uphill so make sure to keep that in mind.
#5 (462 yard par 4):
The 5th is the #1 handicap and for good reason. It plays a bit uphill and it is the longest par 4 on the course. It slides ever so slightly to the right with a left to right sloping fairway. The approach is going to be a long club into a green that slopes from back to front. Playing from short of the green on the third shot isn’t too bad just make sure not to go long. There is a chance to run the ball up onto the green on the approach which is nice.
#6 (388 yard par 4):
The 6th is a tough driving hole because the landing area is semi-blind. My tee shot landed into the hill and didn’t roll out, but my friend landed it at the top of the hill and got some extra distance. The green is small and shaped like an upside down bowl so it repels shots.
#7 (355 yard par 4):
The 7th starts a stretch of three short par 4’s where someone will most likely just have short irons into the greens. I hit a layup club off the tee because I didn’t want to get too close to the green. That worked out fine because there is a hazard about 280 yards from the tee. The green is elevated and falls off on most sides so only the most accurate iron is going to get close to the flag. Make sure not to miss over the green with back pin or it could be impossible to chip it close.
#8 (365 yard par 4):
I thought the 8th was the easiest hole on the front nine. The fairway starts to slope down towards a pond around 115 yards into the green so someone can lay it back on top or try to get it close to the water. My 3 wood chased out more than I expected and I had about 80 yards into the green. I had to get creative landing my lob wedge short of the green and bouncing it up onto the surface. I’d suggest taking a club or two less than you think off the tee.
#9 (344 yard par 4):
The 9th is the shortest par 4 on the front nine. The fairway is pretty wide, but it slopes from left to right which narrows it some. Any club is fine off the tee in hopes of leaving a favorite yardage. The tough part is going to be catching the approach solid from a left to right slope.
#10 (372 yard par 4):
The 10th is the #2 handicap hole! As you can see from the pictures it is has the traditional Mid-Atlantic scenery. The trees are all down the left side off the tee and start up to the right around 175 to 200 yards into the green. This could be the biggest chance to lose a ball so I’d suggest paying conservatively unless a little draw is your shot! The approach plays slightly uphill.
#11 (358 yard par 4):
The 11th is a shorter par 4 with some choices off the tee. Someone can blast a driver down the fairway, but that leaves a chance of the ball ending up on the downslope. I had about 90 yards from a downhill lie up to a green that sloped severely from back to front. The other option is lay back off the tee in hopes of a flatter lie. Make sure to leave the ball short of the hole and to control the spin on the approach.
#12 (340 yard par 4):
The 12th is a decent chance for birdie if someone can find the blind fairway. It is pretty straight from tee to green, but it should be another downhill lie for the approach. The green is below fairway level and falls off into trouble long and left. I’d favor short of the green for any miss or if out of position. The ball could catch some slope in the green and work from left to right too.
#13 (328 yard par 4):
The 13th is the last of a long stretch of par 4’s! It is also the shortest par 4 on the course, but the prudent play is to layup. The hole plays down to a hidden fairway and then back up to the green so it is all carry to get to the green. I’d try to favor the left side of the fairway for the best angle and leave less than 150 yards into the green. If someone hit a weak layup out to the right then there is a small creek that could catch the shot. The green slopes from right to left quite a bit.
#14 (137 yard par 3):
The 14th is the shortest par 3 on the course, but don’t let that fool you because the green has plenty of slope. I hit what I thought was a decent shot to the left of the flag. My ball landed about 20 feet short and left of the flag and it rolled off the green.
#15 (515 yard par 5):
The 15th is one of the two par 5’s on the back nine and a bit of a breather. It is open off the tee which is nice considering that the tee shot is blind. The tallest tree off in the distance in my picture is about as far left as I would recommend going. The hole slides to the right and the key to a birdie is being able to spin the ball around the green. My third shot kicked off the green and I decided to bump my chip into a hill to knock off the speed.
#16 (221 yard par 3):
The 16th is a long par 3 that is open all around the green. Distance is going to be the biggest challenge but there are some false edges on the green which means a perfect chip is needed to get it close if missing the green. A tee shot hitting around the front of the green might need a little luck to get close to the flag.
#17 (388 yard par 4):
The 17th confused me. The back tee box is a hike from the cart path and I couldn’t tell where hit my tee shot. In addition, there are two greens. The left green (which we played to) is probably through that “V” in the trees in the middle of my picture. I’d play the tee shot out to the right to find the fairway though. If the left green is used then there is a hazard short of the green which can (and did!) come into play.
#18 (454 yard par 5):
The closing hole is the easiest one the course and that’s something I like! It is a short par 5 that is a great risk/reward hole. I hit a good drive and only had 210 yards into the green. Normally from that distance I’d try to slap one up near the green and use my short game to make a birdie. However, it was a blind shot that was all carry over a pond just short of the green. I decided not to risk it and laid up to the edge of the fairway. Another option is to lay it back to the top of the hill and try to spin it back down to the flag using the green’s severe back to to front slope.