Before I get into my review I’d like to wish all the moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day! My parents live in Florida so I didn’t have any family activities planned and thought that I would take advantage of fewer people on the courses. I played 36 holes last year on Mother’s Day without much trouble and was looking forward to a quick pace before watching some golf on TV. For the morning round I decided to play The Westlake, which is one of the public courses located near Smith Mountain Lake. The lake is one of the largest in Virginia and it is a popular recreation area. There is quite a bit to do when it comes to boating, sailing, camping, and other outdoor activities. As you should know by now, I was just there for the golf!
The course is a community course, but the homes didn’t bother me. There were a couple homeowners cutting grass, but the homes were setback from just about all the holes. In fact, the front nine is secluded with mostly wooded holes and the back nine has a few parallel holes divided by trees. I think the course was well routed to give the homeowners nice views but not interrupt play.
I played the blue tees which play 72.5/139/6559. As you can see, it isn’t a long course. The front nine plays under 3,200 yards and I had plenty of short iron approaches throughout my round. Don’t be fooled by the yardage though! The course has enough challenges for just about everyone. The front nine is Virginia’s version of target golf. It is all about finding the ball and being able to play the next shot. It is possible to get nasty kicks on the front so I played defensively. The back nine opens up and parts of it felt similar to a parkland style course. I was able to swing freely throughout the back nine without much fear. Both nines take advantage of the hilly area and I enjoyed the elevation changes, especially the downhill ones. The course has more blind landing areas than I like and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best spot to aim. I also spent more time than I like trying to calculate the distance into many uphill approach shots. Those things made the course tougher than the yardage!
I didn’t know what to expect when it came to course conditions. I think the course dropped the green fees a few dollars from when I looked last year. Plus, I found a discounted rate on the course’s website for $36 so I wasn’t expecting much. I am happy to report that the course was in overall nice shape! The fairways had a couple patchy spots but I was able to spin it just fine and had nice lies. The tees had been plugged recently and a couple were sloped but that isn’t a big concern to me. The greens looked a little strange because there were a couple different types of grass growing on them but they rolled well. As the morning dew started to dry they got quicker too. I struggled to read the greens correctly and overread just about putt. The greens don’t allow for many flat putts so I didn’t make much. That is no criticism of the course though!
I enjoyed my morning even while playing a very involved course. I’ll say that I think the course has a nice set of par 3’s! The pace of play was great as I had the course to myself and I made it around in about 3 hours. The cloud cover kept it from heating up too much so I had plenty of energy for another round. If a golfer is vacationing nearby with their family then I’d suggest sneaking away to play The Westlake.
#1 (344 yard par 4): The 1st hole is a short par 4 that plays uphill. The driving area is relatively open but there is out of bounds to the right and the left. I’d suggest laying up to leave a flatter lie if possible. Somewhere around 120 yards into the green the fairway slopes up and playing off that could be a tough way to begin the day. The approach plays about a club uphill into a green that slopes from back to front.
#2 (210 yard par 3): The tees were up on this downhill par 3. I’m not sure if there was a back tee box hiding in the trees or if it got overgrown and the blue tees are always here. It was playing about 165 yards, but I decided to knock down my 170 club because of the swirling wind. Without any wind I would have probably hit a club less. The green has a false front but there is a little room to miss right if needed.
#3 (428 yard par 4): The 3rd is the hardest hole on the course and you can probably see why from the picture! It plays to a narrow fairway that has trees on either side. The right side opens up a little bit and if missing the fairway it is possible to get a good kick, but finding the fairway is of utmost importance. A finger of the lake could come into play up near the green if someone loses the approach right.
#4 (137 yard par 3): The 4th is pretty scenic as it is framed by the hillside in the background. It is the shortest par 3 on the course and it is the start of some scoring holes. Distance control is important because the green slopes from back to front and there is a false front on the left side. There is probably going to be a fine line between leaving an uphill putt or missing the green short.
#5 (509 yard par 5): The 5th is my favorite hole on the front and it offers a great chance at a birdie. It is a reachable par 5 that plays downhill to a green that is guarded by a creek short of it. If there is time you might want to take a look at the landing area because the fairway slides a bit to the left. Be careful as there is out of bounds to the right and left. There are a couple ways to play the hole off the tee and a big drive is possible which could leave just a mid-iron into the green. Since the creek is set back about 20 yards from the green it tempted me to try to get there in two from the rough.
#6 (322 yard par 4): The 6th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it is a position hole. There is some left to right slope in the fairway so I’d favor the left side. Plus, any shot near (or to the right of) the cart path probably is going to end up as a lost ball. The approach plays uphill into a green that slopes from back to front.
#7 (327 yard par 4): The 7th is very similar to the 6th so I’d go with the same strategy. I’d recommend a layup club to find the fairway and a wedge into a green that sits above the fairway. The fairway gets skinny past that fairway bunker on the right.
#8 (530 yard par 5): The 8th is one of the more interesting holes on the course. I was confused playing it the first time around, but it could be a lot of fun. The tee shot plays over a valley to a blind, but fairly flat landing area. I had about 270 yards to the green and had to layup. If you look through the pictures you will see that the fairway runs out around 100 to 115 yards into the green. If laying up I’d try to favor the left side of the fairway for a flatter lie. From there it is a completely blind third shot down to the green. Someone could try to get a big bounce off the hill and chase a second shot onto the green!
#9 (377 yard par 4): The 9th is one of the most difficult holes on the course. It doglegs to the left at almost 90 degrees so distance isn’t as import as accuracy off the tee. There is trouble right and a creek left so do whatever is needed to keep it in play. The approach plays about a club uphill into a green with a back tier.
#10 (519 yard par 5): The back nine starts out with what I think is the easiest hole on the course. The tees were up a bit and I hit my best tee shot of the day so it turned out to be an easy birdie. There is quite a bit of fairway out there even though it is another blind landing area. My ball landed on the downslope and ran out a bunch leaving me just a mid-iron into the green. There is a bunker short of the green that needs to be carried if going for the green in two. That means someone will have to hit a high enough shot to carry it from a downhill lie. If laying up then there is a creek to contend with. Finally, the green slopes from right to left and there is a tier on the right side.
#11 (185 yard par 3): The 11th is a downhill par 3. It plays about a club downhill to a bunkerless green. It is a good chance for a par because someone can clank one and get away with it.
#12 (390 yard par 4): The 12th could be a tricky one to play. It moves left and climbs uphill. The fairway angle gets sharper the farther that someone hits it so a layup club off the tee could be a good choice. The approach plays uphill into a green with a false front and runoff area to the right. Anything landing in that front right section could leave a tough short game shot.
#13 (413 yard par 4): The 13th is a long par 4 that climbs uphill all the way to the green. It moves a little right along the way and the tough part is going to be judging the distance correctly on the approach.
#14 (525 yard par 5): The 14th is another good par 5. It could be reachable after an aggressive play from the tee. The hole moves left on the tee shot, straightens out, and then moves a bit left into the green. I picked a line out to the right on the tee shot which lengthens the hole but still had a couple options for my second. After the tee shot it plays downhill to the green and there is some slope from right to left. If someone gets the ball moving with the slope they can gain some extra yards leaving a shorter third shot or lay it back to a favorite yardage.
#15 (358 yard par 4): The 15th is a short par 4 where having a flat lie in the fairway is important. From the tee it seemed that if I could carry it 210+ yards then I’d end up with a level stance. I did just that and had 120 yards into yet another green where I couldn’t see much of the surface. Someone could hit a driver to the bottom of the hill leaving just a flip wedge if they wanted.
#16 (191 yard par 3): The 16th is a probably the signature hole and one of my favorites! It is a decent length par 3 that plays downhill to a green with water in play. It played about a club downhill for me and I even swung easy at it. Even though it looks like there is plenty of trouble an average shot, missed in the right spot, can still leave a par chance. There is some room short, right, and a bunker to the left before the water comes into play. Plus, the green is long.
#17 (388 yard par 4): The 17th has a blind tee shot and was a little worried before I teed off. There is a flag out in the fairway which should be the aiming point. The nice thing is that the fairway actually is pretty wide. Someone might want to consider laying up because the fairway slopes downhill and runs out. I found it and had a mid iron into a large green that slopes from back to front. There are some railroad ties surrounding the green which I think was creative.
#18 (406 yard par 4): The final hole is a mid-length par 4 that plays to a fairway that widens and flattens out a bit the farther that someone hits it. The approach plays into a green that has water to the right and slopes from back to front.