A friend told me that he was in Virginia Beach this weekend and asked if I wanted to join him one day for a round golf. Of course I agreed and we decided on a Saturday mid-morning round at Virginia Beach National. I left early on Saturday and it took a bit under 3 hours to get to the course from Charlottesville. I’m not sure what happened as I didn’t hit any beach traffic! Granted, it was still early but there are the couple usual spots on I-64 that seem to stack up. I’ll take it though!
I didn’t know much about Virginia Beach National before my round. I knew Pete Dye’s name was associated with the course but that was about it. What I didn’t know about the course is that it has an interesting history! From what I can find, Pete Dye and Curtis Strange originally designed the course as TPC Virginia Beach in 1999. I think the city was hoping to establish itself as a premier East Coast golf destination and attract professional play at the same time. Part of it worked, at least for a few years, as the Nationwide Tour played the Virginia Beach Open here until 2006. I’m not sure the exact date or reason, but the course was sold to the city and the TPC badge was removed. During that time the green fee has dropped from over $100 to the current $59.
While playing the course I got the feeling that it was designed to host a pro tournament. The flat layout is compact considering that it was originally designed to play ~7,400 yards. As a spectator, it is a place that would be easy to watch a group play one hole and then walk 100 yards to see another. That means it is a good course to walk too! There is plenty of space for the pros to spray shots, and the routing of the holes seemed similar to TPC Louisiana. There are some great risk/reward holes and the last two holes have plenty of water in play. If I want to watch the finish to a golf tournament then it would be at a course like this!
If you played the course during its heyday then you might be disappointed with it currently. However, I have nothing to compare it to as I’ve never played it before! For the most part, the interior holes are routed around some lakes while the perimeter holes run along the edge of the tree lined property. There aren’t any homes nearby which is nice considering that I’ve played a couple other nice courses within 30 minutes that did have plenty of homes in play. The only real downside I noticed about the routing of the course is that play from one group can affect another.
As mentioned, the course was designed to play up to 7,400 yards but the longest distance on the scorecard right now is 7,104 yards. That was still way too much course for me with an ocean breeze, so I played the blue tees which play 6499/71.4/132. From there it gave me a chance to put together a good score, even if Pete Dye co-designed the course!
If you follow my blog you will know that I’m not a Pete Dye fan. I won’t beat that dead horse in this post though because I thought that Virginia Beach National was pretty playable! The management certainly has had something to do with that and I give them a lot credit. The waste bunkers have been turned into more playable fescue grass, the back tees have been removed, and the rough wasn’t much of a penalty. I could still tell that Dye had done some work on the course because of the mounding, angles off the tees, and the large fescue areas. There were only a few greens that fell off into chipping areas so it turned out to be a “tolerable” Dye course.
Unfortunately, it was a very rainy week leading up to our round and we didn’t play the course with ideal conditions. It was cart paths only because the course was squishy, the fairways were a bit long, and bunkers were filled with water. Also, there were more patches of winterkill than I expected. However, all the greens rolled smoothly and they were tricky to putt. They were the best part of the maintenance even though they were slower than they looked. I can overlook some of the lacking maintenance because of the recent weather though.
Virginia Beach National gets ranked towards the top of the list of Dye courses that I’ve played when it comes to enjoyment. That doesn’t say much, but at least this shouldn’t be a design you will hate!
#1 (379 yard par 4):
The 1st is a mid-length par 4 to begin the round. It is pretty straight from tee to green but you really cannot play right at it off the tee because of some fescue grass. The best tee shot is going to be towards the group in front and then it most likely will kick right with some slope in the fairway. The approach plays into a green that moves left around some more fescue. Left to right and then right to left are the ideal shot shapes.
#2 (402 yard par 4):
The 2nd is the longest par 4 on the front and the #1 handicap. It doglegs left along the water up to the green. It is on the perimeter of the property so anything heading to the right could end up as a lost ball. I wasn’t paying attention if that is marked as out of bounds or a hazard. The way the hole angles it requires that someone pick a line and then hit it. Therefore, a solid shot on the wrong line might not find the fairway. When the course is drier someone could chase a drive out there if it lands on a downslope. The best approach is going to be a draw into a green with some trouble left.
#3 (152 yard par 3):
The 3rd is a short par 3 and a good opportunity to knock one close! The water shouldn’t be in play except on a poor shot to a front pin. The green is deep so a nice lag putt could be the different between a par or a bogey!
#4 (360 yard par 4):
The 4th is a short par 4 that could be a handful if you cannot (or do not like to) work the ball from right to left. The best tee shot is a draw around the trees on the left but I guess some of the bigger hitters could carry them. I pushed my 210 yard club a bit and it ran through the fairway so a layup is the best play if the tee shot doesn’t fit your eye. The approach moves back to the right around the tree line. My view of the green was obstructed and there isn’t much room to miss right. The tee shot is very important!
#5 (517 yard par 5):
The 5th could be a reachable par 5, but it was into the wind when I played. I hit driver, 3 wood, and 9 iron so it was playing much longer than the yardage with the wind and wet conditions. Drives should be played out to the left to find the fairway and avoid a large grass bunker and a hazard off to the right. If laying up then someone is going to have to make a decision to play short of a hill in the fairway or up on top which allows a clearer view of the green. I couldn’t get to the top of the hill and faced a semi-blind shot into the green. Once on the green, part of the middle section slopes towards the back.
#6 (375 yard par 4):
The 6th curls to the right around the water. Obviously, the catastrophic scorecard mistake is going to be hitting a flame in the water. There is plenty of space to the left to find the fairway as long as a couple bunkers are avoided. The approach can be missed out to the left too in hopes of relying on the short game to make a par. For those that like to fade the ball, it is a chance play the normal shot twice as the green angles to receive a fade.
#7 (156 yard par 3):
The 7th is another short(ish) par 3. Compared to the 3rd, which is about the same distance, the water is much more in play! The sun was behind the clouds when I took the picture but it is a longer carry over the water to get to the right side of the green. There is some room long and left which aren’t bad spots considering the alternative.
#8 (532 yard par 5):
The 8th is a dogleg left par 5 with some fescue grass and bunkers that come into play. The tee shot is similar to the 2nd and one of those where someone can be as aggressive as they want if they carry the fescue. If that fairway bunker off in the distance cannot be reached then it would be a pretty good line. Just off the green to the right is a bunker that can catch shots, so playing a bit left on the approach would be prudent.
#9 (384 yard par 4):
The 9th is similar to the 6th. It is about the same distance, direction, water runs the length of the hole, and the green angles in similar fashion. There aren’t any tricks, just don’t go right!
#10 (418 yard par 4):
The 10th is the #2 handicap and one of the longer par 4’s on the course. It is also a bit tricky. It seemed the best line off the tee would skirt the fairway bunker. I did just that and ended up in the fairway with 175 yards in, but it started to get extremely narrow there! Out of bounds could come into play on the left side so I’d be careful off the tee. The approach plays into a green that has open areas short and to the left.
#11 (306 yard par 4):
The 11th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it is a chance for a good score. There are some options off the tee which I think make it one of the most strategic holes on the course. Someone can hug the right tree line and try to leave a pitch or chip into the green or layup. If laying up then someone has to decide if they are going to play to the flatter, top fairway (right side) or the lower section of fairway (left side). I played to the right side and avoided a bunker about 190 off the tee. It worked out great as I had a better view of the green than if I had played my tee shot to the left. From there it should be a semi-blind short iron depending on the pin location.
#12 (558 yard par 5):
The 12th is a long par 5 and was one of my least favorite holes on the course. The hole moves a little right and plays to a fairway that narrows around 225 yards and runs out around 260 yards. I felt like 3 wood was the best play off the tee which is a little crazy considering the yardage. On long par 5’s I like to hit driver to make the hole play as short as possible! The layup has to contend with some fescue off to the right before the third shot allows a chance to hit it close.
#13 (160 yard par 3):
The 13th is a mid-length par 3 that has a fairly large green and there is quite a bit of space around it. It certainly wasn’t one of the more intimidating looking shots of the day! I still made a bogey because I didn’t read my putt correctly when it climbed a ridge. The right side of the green has a little perch where the flag was located.
#14 (392 yard par 4):
The 14th is one of the tougher ranked holes on the course (#4 handicap). It doglegs left and I couldn’t tell if there was any trouble to the leff off the tee. Come to find out the tee shot plays from a chute of trees to an open area. There is more space out there than it originally looked but you do have to guard against running through the fairway on the right. Trees start up again around the green and there is a greenside bunker which narrows the approach.
#15 (320 yard par 4):
The 15th looks like a piece of cake on the scorecard and even in the pictures. It is a short, uphill par 4 that plays to a wide fairway and a bunkerless green. However, the approach is semi-blind which is what makes it tough. I hit my approach right at the flag, but it was a club short. The front and left sides of the green fall off into fairway below green level and that is where I ended up. I couldn’t decide what type of short game shot that I wanted to hit for my third and my score showed it.
#16 (552 yard par 5):
The 16th is a long par 5 with a couple things going on. There is some fescue off to the left that the drive will need to avoid, but if someone carry the left fairway bunker that would be ideal. I missed it to the right and ended up in a bowl with a blind shot. Depending on the wind someone might be able to chase it up short of the green in two . The green runs from front to back and off some of the edges so some spin will help playing into it.
#17 (128 yard par 3):
The 17th is the shortest par 3 on the course and one that I enjoyed. There is trouble to the right, but plenty of room left. I don’t think it should be too tough to avoid the water with just a short iron unless attacking a sucker flag. There is quite a bit of risk and reward on this one!
#18 (438 yard par 4):
I think Dye alone designed the finishing hole! He seems to love a long par 4 with water on one side to close out a round. PGA West Stadium, ASU Karsten, and Pete Dye River Course are all places that come to mind in this respect. This is the longest par 4 on the course and it moves a bit left. If you make a par on this one to end then smile the whole car ride home!