Periodically I look through my VSGA book to see which courses offer plays and when those plays can be used. Birkdale allowed some play this summer during the weekends and I wanted to check it out. As I’m sure you know by now I’m always looking for an excuse to play a new course! A friend and I headed out there for an afternoon time and paid $39 each.
Birkdale is a community course that is located on the southwest side of Richmond, just off the 288 beltway. I looked at the satellite image of the holes before we played and wasn’t too impressed after my initial glance. It looked like most holes were going to be lined by homes which isn’t something that I get excited about. As it turned out though, they weren’t a bother! Only a handful of homes were visible because most holes were lined by trees which created separation.
The layout isn’t dramatic but I thought that it was playable, which I enjoyed. I had an average driving day and got away with it because many of the fairways are generous. We played the championship tees which max out at 6,644 yards (rating 72.0 & slope 133), but the course doesn’t play that short because it is a par 71. In fact, there are some very long holes! The five par 3’s are all long and play between 183 and 213 yards. Plus, three of the four par 5’s are around 575 yards! Besides the yardage being a challenge, the greens were the other one that stood out to me. There were random small ridges and slopes which made putting tough.
Unfortunately, the course wasn’t in pristine condition when we played. Tee to green it was dry, but playable as both the tees and fairways were full. Overall, those parts weren’t bad except for a few dirt patches. The dry conditions allowed for some run which was nice! I struggled putting on the greens because they were fuzzy and a bit chewed up. There were even a couple bare spots on them. It certainly looked like summer took a toll on them. The greens weren’t slow, but it seemed that I needed some luck to make any putts because they caused the ball to wobble.
Even though there weren’t any “wow” holes I enjoyed the layout. I found it reasonably friendly to play and it is a community course with a natural feel. However, with the shape of the greens right now, I don’t see any reason to go out of the way to play Birkdale. I always enjoy playing a new course no matter how it goes and liked adding this one to my list!
Sorry if the below hole yardages are off. I forgot a scorecard and had to look online at a third party site for them. Most look correct based on my recollection though.
#1 (363 yard par 4):
The 1st isn’t too difficult, just the way I like to begin a round! It is a shorter par 4 that parallels the range to the right. There are fairway bunkers both left (~230 yards) and right (~260 yards) so the club off the tee will determine the best line. I hit my 3 wood and still had just a short iron into the green. The green is tricky as it slopes from back to front and has a small false front.
#2 (345 yard par 4):
The 2nd is a pretty easy hole. It is almost a straight line to the green from the tee and the fairway is wide. Two bunkers to the right narrow the fairway ~235 yards but it is another tee shot that will allow someone to warm up without a lot of fear. Even a layup club off the tee can leave a chance to knock the approach close!
#3 (377 yard par 4):
The 3rd is a demanding hole. The tee shot plays to a semi-blind landing area before the fairway slopes downhill and runs out into a creek. There is some left to right slope in the fairway so landing the ball on the left half would be a good idea. The bigger hitters aren’t going to want to hit driver. I hit it about ~240 yards which left me with a flat lie in the fairway.
#4 (183 yard par 3):
The 4th is one of my favorite holes on the course because it is scenic and interesting to play! It is a long par 3 that plays a bit downhill to a green that is narrower towards the front and wider towards the back. Water guards the left side of the green which has a back tier.
#5 (574 yard par 5):
The 5th, at 574 yards, isn’t even the longest par 5 on the course! The main difficulty here is going to be the distance, especially since the hole plays uphill. It is a bit of a forced carry off the tee and even though I hit a good drive, I had an uphill lie on my long layup. A fade is probably best from the tee. The third is made tougher because much of the green’s surface cannot be seen from the fairway. There are a few fairway bunkers to deal with off the tee and on the layup.
#6 (404 yard par 4):
The 6th moves right to left and the slope of the fairway works the same way. The best play off the tee is a draw which could run out. The green is wide and left half falls left and towards the back edge.
#7 (429 yard par 4):
The 7th is the longest par 4 on the course and there are couple ways to play it. It doglegs left and an aggressive tee shot will carry the left fairway bunker which is probably 230 yards. I took the more conservative play and hit my 3 wood out to the right, towards the edge of the dogleg which is ~240 yards. I had a long approach into a deep, bunkerless green with fairway short. That allowed me a chance to run my approach onto the green. It isn’t a bad design, but I wish the dogleg was closer to the green.
#8 (184 yard par 3):
The 8th is probably going to be another long iron par 3. It played uphill about a club and the left half of the green is guarded by a bunker. The back half of the green is a good play and there is some room over it.
#9 (577 yard par 5):
The 9th is a tough, three shot par 5. The first two shots should be played straight ahead before the hole goes ninety degrees right. An aggressive play on the layup will challenge trees on the right side. A left fairway bunker (~240 yards) and another bunker through the end of the dogleg should be avoided. From there, the third plays over water to a three tiered green. The front right pin should be the easiest because that area of green is bowl-shaped.
#10 (397 yard par 4):
The back nine starts out with a mid-length par 4. The hole is on the opposite side of the range than the 1st and it moves a bit left. The fairway is wide short of the two fairway bunkers which narrow the landing area. The pin was in the narrower front section of green which will require an accurate iron.
#11 (375 yard par 4):
The 11th is a position hole. It isn’t very long, but some strategy is needed off the tee. The green is located off to the right (over the taller trees in the first picture), but a line to the left off the tee is best. There are two fairway bunkers and the left one is a good spot to aim. I’d try to get as close to the left bunker as possible for a good angle. The fairway runs out ~250 to 260 yards so a layup club might be needed. A drive to the right half of the fairway, depending on the distance, could be blocked out to get to the green. After a good drive it could be a chance for a par or birdie!
#12 (213 yard par 3):
The 12th is the longest par 3 on the course. The green is deep and sets up best to receive a draw because of the left bunker. However, if that left bunker wasn’t there the best shot would be a fade because of the way the green angles. You might look at the satellite to see what I’m talking about! The green is almost one big hump with gentle fall offs on most sides. All that makes it tough!
#13 (473 yard par 5):
The 13th is the shortest par 5 on the course and a chance for a birdie! There is trouble left, but the ideal tee shot will challenge the right fairway bunker (~250 yards) for the best view of the green. I ended up on the right side of the fairway and went for the green in two, even though it was semi-blind. Most of the elevated green is guarded by a bunker short which could be a popular spot. The other sides of the green fall off left and right. If laying up I would suggest playing for a shorter than normal yardage because it opens up to the left closer to the green.
#14 (191 yard par 3):
The 14th is another long par 3! It plays uphill too but I don’t think it is an extra full club. I couldn’t see all of the green from the tee and it turned out to be smaller than I expected considering the length of the hole.
#15 (389 yard par 4):
The 15th is a narrower hole that moves just a few yards to the left from tee to green. A draw, or challenging the left side of the fairway, is the best play off the tee because of some left to right slope. I like the fact that there is a bunker ~235 yards off to the right (on the low side of the hole) to catch some tee shots. The approach plays bit downhill and around a tree short of the green. The tee shot is probably the most important shot here.
#16 (207 yard par 3):
The 16th is the last of the long par 3’s! The green blends in with plenty of fairway that surrounds it, especially late in the day with the shadows. There is some space around the green which could allow someone’s short game to save a par. You’ll see a bunker in the picture which looks close to the green, but it is about 30 yards short and shouldn’t be in play. Unless you clank one like I did!
#17 (379 yard par 4):
The 17th is a straight away par 4. The fairway narrows and there are a couple fairway bunkers which create options off the tee. The approach plays a bit uphill into a green that slopes from back to front.
#18 (584 yard par 5):
The last is a monster! It creeps up on 600 yards! There is trouble to the left off the tee (trees) and on the layup (water). Right is the best spot to miss off the tee as some mounding might kick the ball left towards the fairway. The layup should be played short and right of some fairway bunkers before the hole goes right. You can be proud of a par on this one to finish the day!