I’ve played Old Trail probably a half dozen times now and feel like it deserves an updated review. Plus, I can add pictures that I took on a sunny day!
Besides Birdwood, Old Trail is the other public course that someone is going to want to play if visiting Charlottesville. Old Trail is about 25 minutes west of town in Crozet which is a developing community. Crozet is at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and most of the course is in a cleared out area. That makes for some stunning views which is one of the reasons that I love golfing at Old Trail! Plus, just a few homes border the course.
Another reason that I like playing Old Trail is the maintenance. I’ve never played there and had the course be in even average shape. It is always in excellent condition, even during the summer months! It is always lush, the fairways and tees are full, and the greens are quick and smooth. There are some flatter spots on the greens, so a bonus is that someone could get hot with the putter! If you are savvy when it comes to golf course grasses, then you will probably be pleased to know that Old Trail has zoysia grass in the fairways. I’m not an expert on the matter, but if you hit a fairway here the ball will be sitting perfectly. Somehow the ball always ends up perched up which makes both iron play and chipping easier. It is almost like the ball is on a tee in the fairway!
As mentioned, most of the course has an open feel to it which is unusual in the Mid-Atlantic. Fifteen of the eighteen holes play out in what feels like a meadow. These holes play through some native areas, around couple ponds, and through the fescue grass which separates one hole from the next. There is ample room to track down a wayward shot and many different ball flights can end up in the fairways and on the greens. In that respect, most of the course is a blank canvas! The 10th through the 12th are tree lined and could pose a few problems for crooked shots.
I’ve played from the black and white tees and find the course to be playable from both. The blacks play 72.2/131/6667 while the whites play 69.9/125/6176. The course plays as a par 72 with five par 3’s and five par 5’s which is a setup that I personally like. From both sets of tees, the yardages vary as much as you will probably find at any course. From the black tees, the par 3’s range from 136 to 222 yards, the par 4’s from 287 to 433 yards, and the par 5’s from 493 to 624 yards. I get a bit bored with all the short irons when playing the whites so I prefer to play the blacks. That’s what my hole by hole comments will reflect.
Even though Old Trail is playable, there are a number of challenges. There are some long holes, a few greens that run from front to back, and some semi-blind approaches. I find the fairways generous, but there are some tough driving holes too. There isn’t any extreme elevation change, but enough to have me adding and subtracting a club here and there. If someone is trying to put together a game plan, my suggestion is to take advantage of the holes throughout the middle of the course. The opening and closing holes are difficult, but there are some scoring ones in the middle. In the hole by hole section, take note of my comments about the 5th and 18th holes. They are a bit goofy and require some patience.
Old Trail is a bit pricey so I normally try to take advantage of the twilight rate or use my VSGA card. The afternoon rate is still $50, but I paid $40 with my card. It is only good during certain times of the year, but Old Trail is worth a higher price in my opinion.
#1 (570 yard par 5):
The 1st is a long par 5 that plays a bit uphill. From the tee, it is a forced carry over a hazard and that carry gets longer on a line more to the left. A couple bunkers out to the right could grab some slices. The layup should be played out to the right unless trying to leave ~50 yards into the green where the fairway is wider. I’d suggest hitting more club than normal on the layup as I always have a longer distance into the green than I’d like. The green cannot be seen from the fairway which could be a problem because it slopes from front to back. The 1st is ranked as the #1 handicap and I’m always happy with a par to begin.
#2 (222 yard par 3):
The 2nd is the longest of the five par 3’s. It plays over a hazard and it is about a club downhill. The hill to the right of the green can yield some good bounces, so I try to miss a bit short and/or right. Anything to the left will kick away from the green towards the woods.
#3 (624 yard par 5):
The 3rd is one of the scenic holes on the property! It is a long par 5 with a fairway that snakes to the right and then back to the left. The fairway to the left is split and a tee shot ending up just left of that tree should be in good shape. If the tees are up then there is another section of fairway to the right of the tree which leaves a better angle for the layup. I would suggest favoring the right side on the layup because the rough drops off to the left of the fairway. I’ve had some hook lies from over there which have added difficulty to an already tough hole. A draw is probably the best shot shape into the green because of how it angles. Two good shots can set someone up to knock an iron close.
#4 (389 yard par 4):
The 4th is a mid-length par 4 that doglegs left around a fairway bunker. Depending on the wind that bunker could be carried which leaves a shorter shot into the green. I’ve played out to the right of the bunker with layup club before and left myself 150 yards into the green. Depending on how well someone hits it and if the right to left shot shape fits their eye, a couple options are available off the tee. The semi-blind approach plays into a green with a back left section that is lower than the rest of the green. A couple slopes could be used to get one close to a flag back there.
#5 (370 yard par 4):
The 5th isn’t very long but it is one of the tougher holes on the course. There is out of bounds to the left, water to the right, and the left fairway is blind. There is a small section of right fairway that can be seen in the picture, but I’ve never played to that. I normally try to aim just left of center in the picture with my 3 wood or hybrid. I’d actually suggest aiming more to the left than you’d ever think from the picture. Someone can hit driver, but be careful of challenging the pond because everything slopes towards it. The approach is about a club extra into a green that angles from front left to back right around a bunker.
#6 (334 yard par 4):
I think the 6th is a brilliantly designed, short par 4! It plays a bit uphill and I don’t hit it far enough to drive the green, but I’m sure some folks could. What makes it a great hole for me is the fairway bunker and the green complex. The fairway bunker is maybe 250 or 260 yards to carry. Check the GPS as I just know that I cannot typically carry it. If someone can carry it, they will have a short pitch into the green. The fairway is narrow left and right of the bunker and I’ve gone both ways. I’ve also laid up short of it. The green is in the shape of a circle and doesn’t have any bunkers. It is elevated and almost like an upside down bowl. It is tough to judge the distance and shots can easily run off the edge, leaving a number of ways to play from all the fairway around the green. The play off the tee probably depends on the pin location. If it is a front pin then laying back for a full wedge probably is best.
#7 (208 yard par 3):
The 7th is another long par 3, but it has a bunkerless green complex. The green is deep and there is plenty of space short of the green to run one up. If challenging a left or a back flag, then out of bounds and some domestic trees can come into play, respectively. Therefore, the miss is short and/or right.
#8 (515 yard par 5):
After two monster par 5’s early on, the 8th is the start of three reachable par 5’s. Make sure to take advantage of this one! It is pretty straight from tee to green, but the right side of the fairway will leave the best view of the green. I always like to be as close to the green in two as I can get. There are some church pew bunkers short and right of the green which could catch some shots, but they are pretty flat. The green slopes from left to right and the only spot I’d try to avoid around it is long.
#9 (167 yard par 3):
The 9th is another hole that is a blast to play! It is about a club downhill to a large, two-tiered green. The back section is probably a good four feet higher than the front. The back tier makes it tough to judge the distance because missing over the green will leave a quick chip. If a pin is on the lower tier then there are a couple ways to get it close. Someone can go directly at the flag or try to throw the tee shot into the slope and let it trickle back.
#10 (493 yard par 5):
The 10th is a reachable par 5, but it gets a bit quirky inside 150 yards. Off the tee, the fairway slopes from left to right and it narrows the farther that someone hits it. I like to aim at the left triangle looking window at the house off in the distance if I am trying for the straight shot. If going for the green, then a long club has to be hit straight enough to get through trees on both sides of the fairway. If laying up, then the layup is extremely narrow and slopes down towards a creek short of the green. I’d suggest laying back more than normal if laying up. There is some fairway and a bunker short of the green, so trying to get up near the green in two is my strategy. The green is wide but not very deep. The 10th played as a par 4 the first time or two that I played Old Trail and I like it much better as a par 5!
#11 (427 yard par 4):
The handicap doesn’t indicate this, but I think the 11th is the toughest hole on the course. It is a long par 4 and trees line both sides of the fairway all the way up to the green. A draw is probably best off the tee, but the fairway opens up slightly to the right. The approach plays into a green that is guarded by bunkers short and left. A ridge in the green separates the higher left side from the lower right side. A par is a great score here!
#12 (287 yard par 4):
The 12th is a driveable par 4 and a great chance for a birdie. I’m not the longest hitter and I’ve managed to knock it on the green and hit few other tee shots up around it. To the right of the green is the 13th tee so it opens up a bit over there. Plus, there is some slope to the right of the green which can give some kicks to the left. It is a pretty comfortable tee shot for the fade that I like to play as I can start it at the center of the green. There is a fairway bunker that should be avoided if trying to drive the green. If laying up then chances are the approach will be from an uneven lie. The green slopes from front to back.
#13 (177 yard par 3):
The 13th is a mid-length par 3, but it normally plays about 15 yards shorter. That’s a good thing because I always seem to hit an extra club. The green’s surface cannot be seen from the tee so judging the distance is difficult. There is a bunker to the left of the green and rough to the right. Make sure not to aim at the flag on the 16th green which is directly behind this one!
#14 (495 yard par 5):
The 14th is the last of the par 5’s and it is another reachable one. The fairway angles to the left and runs out ~300 yards. From the white tees, I might have to pick a line more to the left depending on the wind. However, from the black tees I just aim over the cart path. If going for the green in two, there are some bunkers 5 or 10 yards short of it that should be carried. That shot will play a bit uphill over a valley of rough and the best place to miss is left. There is plenty of fairway short and left of the green. It is another par 5 where I would try to get it as close to the green as possible in two, even if I knew that I couldn’t reach the surface.
#15 (136 yard par 3):
The 15th is the shortest par 3 on the course. It looks like an easy par or birdie, but I rarely seem to knock down the flag. It plays between half a club and a club downhill depending on the shot that someone wants to hit. The green is wide and slopes from back to front. I’ve hit it pin high a couple times, but always have a putt that breaks a bunch so I have to be defensive. Short of the flag is best.
#16 (433 yard par 4):
The 16th is one of three difficult par 4’s to close. It doglegs right around a fairway bunker which might be 260+ yards to carry. The best line off the tee is probably to the left side of the fairway. That opens up a view of some of the green, which has a small false front and a chipping area short of it. It is a pretty fair hole and a good test.
#17 (390 yard par 4):
The 17th is a mid-length par 4 that plays longer because it is uphill. The tee shot is a long carry to the fairway which starts to upslope near the 150 marker. There is some left to right slope in the fairway too so I’d suggest favoring the left side of the fairway. The approach plays a club uphill into a green with a higher, left tier and a lower, right one. There is a greenside bunker which could be hidden from view.
#18 (430 yard par 4):
The 18th is my least favorite hole on the course. I don’t like the way that the tee shot was designed. The hole goes left and the green is out over the cart path to the left. Straight ahead the fairway runs out ~230 yards into some rough on a severe downslope. However, the fairway angles to the right running out closer to ~275 yards towards the fescue on the right. I’m still searching for the best way to play the tee shot. I’ve tried all sorts of lines with anything from a long iron to driver. I’ve even tried bombing it down the left side of the fairway hoping that the ball will get a big bounce onto a flat lie in the rough (short of a creek). You don’t want to be on that downslope though because that will make it very tough to chase one onto the green. The green has a back tier which I find too risky to try for unless I have a perfect number.