After plenty of rain and gloomy weather in recent weeks I was anxious to get out and play some golf at a new course on Sunday! It was supposed to be a sunny, but windy, day. I’m running out of new courses near Charlottesville so I decided that I’d check out a shorter course, Gypsy Hill. The course has never really been on my radar, but I’ll play almost anywhere once and it was a short drive by my standards. I didn’t expect a whole bunch, but the price was only going to be $20 so it wasn’t a big ticket item if the place turned out to be a dump.
The golf course is close to downtown Staunton, located in Gypsy Hill Park. You drive though the decent size park to get to the clubhouse and pass by baseball fields, tennis courts, and some picnic areas. You could play almost any sport that you’d like at the park! The course sits on the side of a hill with the recreation area on one side and some homes on the other. The homes can only be seen on a handful of holes so they shouldn’t be much trouble. I can only think of two or three holes where they possibly could come into play.
I looked at the satellite image of the course before heading out and was feeling good about my chances of putting together a good score! From overhead, the course looks like a short, parkland style layout. Upon arrival, I saw that the course was under 6,000 yards from the Blue tees and had a low rating and slope. The stats on it from the Blue tees are 5899/67.8/117. It plays as a par 71 and I was licking my chops for an easy round!
Well, uh, I got a few holes into the round and realized that Gypsy Hill was going to be a tough little course! What I failed to take into consideration before my round was the terrain. The course is built on a hillside and I’d almost call it a mountain/parkland hybrid course! There is a ton of elevation change and it isn’t a course that you’d want to walk. Just about every hole has some elevation change and some holes have a two club change, uphill or downhill! Many holes play down towards a valley in the property and then back up; or they go across the valley. It is one of those courses where you might twist an ankle just getting to/from the cart! I faced some incredibly uneven lies and you have to be careful about launching the ball too high and coming up short from the upslopes. I’ve started to swing it pretty good and I hit less than my average greens for the year just because the slopes were so challenging to play from! You do get some nice views so make sure to pause to take in the scenery.
I couldn’t find much on the designer of Gypsy Hill, but I think it is Gene Hamm. Although another website shows it was designed in the early 1900’s, before he was born. So I’ve got no clue on the accuracy of those items! However, I think it would be safe to say that Gypsy Hill is an older course based on observations alone. As an older course, it has many of the features that you’d expect from that era such as narrow fairways, small greens, and tee boxes that are close to the greens. Most of the holes are close to each other, separated by trees. There is more space to find shots than it looks in the pictures, but the areas between fairways weren’t always cleared out so you might want to consider a provisional if you head towards a parallel fairway.
Besides all the elevation change, the greens and a few severe doglegs will present the most trouble at Gypsy Hill. The greens are small and are very difficult to play on because of so many slopes, at least on the front nine. There are false edges on multiple sides and you could easily chip or putt it off the other side. It is almost like playing on upside down tea cups! The back nine does offer some relief, especially the last six holes as the greens are flatter and easier to putt. Some of the perimeter holes are crammed onto the property and dogleg at odd distances (the 7th, 11th, & 17th). I hit the wrong club on one and ended up through the fairway in some ankle deep grass so you might want to play conservative on those holes your first time around the course.
There’s no shortage of interesting holes at Gypsy Hill and it is probably worth of a hole by hole review, if I had the time. On the front nine, the 2nd (a mid-length par 3) is one of the best looking holes on the course. It plays over water to a green that is cut into a hillside and framed by trees behind it. Make sure not to miss short as there is a steep bank that can kick shots back towards the water. The 7th, a 453 yard par 5, is the other standout hole on the front. It seems like it should be an easy birdie or par, but it horseshoes off to the right around some tall trees. You have to be on the very left edge of the fairway to consider giving it a go in two. If you aren’t playing from there, you might just be laying up with a wedge. On the back nine I’ll mention the 13th and 14th, which are back to back short par 4’s that offered some relief after we got beat up earlier in the round. They are only 275 and 260 yards, respectively. Both my friend and I drove the green on the 13th and then I drove the 14th, leaving me with two eagle putts in a row! They were playing downwind, but even on a calm day should allow an opportunity to knock a tee shot on the green.
The course is city owned and considering the price, I didn’t have high expectations for the maintenance. The word that comes to mind to describe the conditions would be “long”. The fairways and tees were a consistent height, but long. I never knew if the ball was going to jump from the fairway or come out a bit dead. The rough was a handful too and we spent plenty of time looking for balls after missing a fairway! Once the grass slows down growing the crew might be able to cut it shorter. The greens were on slow side, but there weren’t any bare patches and they rolled fine.
To be honest, there probably isn’t much of a reason to play Gypsy Hill unless you are a course nut like me. There are better options nearby and the course is super challenging, at least the front nine. I had a good time as we played in a little over 3 hours and always love adding a course to my list. If you can hang around on the front then you might be able to advantage of the final few holes, which could be fun. I actually went -4 over the last 6 holes!
#1 (399 yard par 4):
#2 (145 yard par 3):
#3 (400 yard par 4):
#4 (410 yard par 4):
#5 (160 yard par 3):
#6 (323 yard par 4):
#7 (453 yard par 5):
#8 (158 yard par 3):
#9 (415 yard par 4):
#10 (346 yard par 4):
#11 (377 yard par 4):
#12 (192 yard par 3):
#13 (275 yard par 4):
#14 (260 yard par 4):
#15 (484 yard par 5):
#16 (325 yard par 4):
#17 (305 yard par 4):
#18 (472 yard par 5):