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Quicken Loans at Robert Trent Jones
November 19, 2014•
Certainly no stranger to hosting major events, having welcomed four President’s Cups, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., is busy readying itself for the Quicken Loans PGA event for summer 2015.
In a very close vote, as many members object to the lack of access to the course around tournament time, Congressional Country Club has decided to host the event in upcoming even years only. TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm will host in 2017. The PGA event was formerly known as the AT&T National and continues to benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Having never even been to RTJ (Robert Trent Jones), I saw the tournament’s move as a great opportunity to learn more about the club. After a phone inquiry about the tournament, I was pleasantly surprised by an invitation to join the board member liaison for the event in a round of golf, along with the head professional and another long-time member. I cannot remember a recent visit to a golf club that I have enjoyed more.
On entering the club, the first thing I noticed was the mammoth glacier-white pile of sand being used to freshen up the traps for the tournament. Flags on lampposts announcing the dates came next. Expecting a beehive of activity inside the clubhouse, the wall of timeless serenity that greeted me was grabbingly comfortable. While the clubhouse furnishings, finishes, dining areas, bar, locker room and pro-shop were all architecturally immaculate, each of these areas reeked of usability.
Even with some construction happening on certain holes of the course, the round was absolutely picturesque, showcasing the October colors that Virginia is famous for, and I appreciated walking the course. The trap placements up the right side of the fairway on the first hole, a dog leg right par 4, were of a classical risk-reward design that are trademarks of Robert Trent Jones-designed courses. While water does not come directly into play on that many holes, the presence of Lake Manassas that can be felt on almost all of them gives off a non-threatening, almost meditative vibe.
The string of holes visible along the lake from the ninth green was an impressive view, and reminded me of the famous sequential holes at Teeth of the Dog in the Dominican Republic. The 11th hole par three over water could be considered a signature hole and was a favorite for me. The peninsula that made up the par 4 hole #13 was also a big favorite for me, with the changing colors of the trees highlighted against the lake on the walk down the fairway. I could have taken a nap in that fairway. There were not any bad songs on this album.
The quality of the course and the lack of design gimmickry left me with a clear feeling for where my game needed work, which is what a great course should do. The ending holes were a pair of par fours that delivered us to a stately and inviting view of the clubhouse, which is where we headed. The bar area has that perfect dark wood, comfortable chair, low table feeling that is a great place to digest a round of golf and tell stories.
There are no social memberships at RTJ, no pool and no tennis courts. It is all about the game of golf. A round here is designed to be something special for members and guests. In fact, a requirement of membership is that it be secondary to another golf club membership, ensuring that it stays a special treat.
This was the first time I really think I got a good understanding of what the negotiations between the PGA and a golf club are like when designing an event. Thanks go to board members Bill Craig and Mike Prentiss and to head professional Cary Sciorra for taking the time to explain the changes going on. Altering tee boxes, lengthening holes and updating sand trap designs are measures undertaken to ensure a fair fight. Like a boxing match, the exciting events are the bouts that go the distance. Nobody wants to watch pro golfers shooting fish in a barrel, and nobody truly wants to watch them hate their jobs either. The negotiators for the courses and the PGA are who make sure this doesn’t happen, and I will have a new appreciation for them moving forward.
I don’t think the PGA could have found a better venue to host its Quicken Loans event. While the next few years are spoken for, it would be nice to see the event eventually return to RTJ as a permanent fixture. What a welcome relief it is to watch a world-class golf club express humility in its approach to hosting an event and all the excitement about the game that it creates.
Wally Greeves is the golf columnist for the Georgetowner and is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and can be reached at Wally@wandergolf.com.
WandergolfJanuary 29, 2014
January 29, 2014•
While on a family trip to Nicaragua
recently, I made sure to detour
for a night from the sustainable
farm we were staying at long
enough to play David Maclay Kidd?s newly
designed Guacalito Golf Course at Mukul
Resort along the country?s Emerald Coast . . .
twice. On the Pacific, the resort has been open
less than a year.
The picturesque 18th green that has rounded
the golf magazine circuit tops off an amazing
round of jungle golf that blends into its
environment so well that I got the feeling the
howler monkeys probably never left during
construction. Maybe they were as impressed as
I was that not one of their trees was chopped
down to create the tract. Fifteen hundred trees
were relocated safely on the property to make
the course easier for me, and the wooden beams
used in the resort?s construction phase were
expensively collected from the wakes of hurricanes
to help me sleep better at night.
Starting with number one, Genizaro (a rain
or monkeypod tree), every golf hole is named
for a native tree found on it, and the artwork
above my bed at night was weaved with reeds,
made from the leaves of Nicaraguan coffee
bean trees. The golf course and resort overflowed
with domestic pride at every turn. The
only thing that could have made each of thesegolf rounds more enjoyable would have been my
two black labs running down the fairways chasing
iguanas, while I played.
The first two holes are each par fours, and
250-yard shots down the middle of the fairway
leave you fair approach shots, the second
one being more uphill and over riskier terrain.
Architect Kidd is building a stunning home
overlooking the par three 3rd hole that, if he follows
owner Don Carlos Pellas?s tradition, will
be rentable while he is not in residence. Holes 4
and 16 are similar par five target golf holes, both
fairways crossed twice with shot-stealing scrub
ditches. The par five number 7 hole has some
kind of weird dense-air-looking visual spatial
effect that guarantees you will use too much club
on your approach shot. You will be angry about
this but will probably do it again the next day,
too. The 8th green is accessed by a cool, locally
fashioned suspension bridge that you will really
like, if your ball is on the green already.
Hole #11 is a challenging downhill tee shot
that leaves you, in my opinion, the hardest
approach shot on the course. We agreed it was
the hardest hole on the course, but it was rated as
the 14th. I almost made par the second round and
was elated. The par three 12th hole tee box was
spectacular, and that was before we were treated
to a flash visit from a troupe of howler monkeys.
The Scotland-inspired, Redan-styled par three
15th hole was punctuated with a swale-divided
Biarritz green (ha, ha, ha, ha . . . Golf Digest,
here I come). The 17th hole was my favorite,
and the 18th is a one of a kind treat, leaving you
on the surf.
Adam Scott purportedly loves this place
because he can be fairly anonymous and surf up
from the Pacific Ocean to his golf cart and play.
I scored well both rounds here. So, I would have
to say it was probably the toughest course I have
ever played. Joking aside, Kidd has made this
a beautifully playable experience I could enjoy
every morning of a vacation, however long.
The cliff-side bohio we were delivered to bygolf cart after our round was a top-five favorite for me. High ceilings, wood, balcony, whirlpool, marble, little pillows, and flat-out style showcased the unrealized tree fort of my adult dream life. The kind of place you ashamedly find yourself texting pictures of to relatives before you start unpacking your luggage.
A chauffeured golf cart ensured that we were on time for our evening trip to the five-star resort?s award-winning spa. Each of the six spa buildings that make up the relaxing compound boast ultra-unique motifs, personal post-treatment pools, outstanding smells, and extremely knowledgeable masseuses. I am nowhere near spa-educated enough to tell you just how good this one was, but I had the best foot rub I have ever had there, and it turned my wife into a noodle.
Dinner in the formal dining room was elegant. The mural-sized black-and-white photos of owner Don Carlos Pellas?s parents wedding gave us the feeling we were celebrating with the owner in delivering a legacy resort that Nicaraguans can be proud of. Ninety-five percent of the workforce hails from within two miles of the resort, and the Mukul team spent years training them to five-star standards — another testament to the owner?s interests in the future of Nicaragua.
A breakfast decided upon the evening before magically appeared on our balcony table around seven, and we struggled with how to allocate our only hour left in a much too hurried visit. My wife chose a walk on the beach, and I finished a primo cigar from the evening before and scoured the ocean horizon hoping to see a whale. A shiny black sedan from Mukul?s fleet delivered us to the airport in Managua, and another Mukul team member stayed with us until we arrived at our gate.
A short flight later and an arrival home to roughly the same time zone we left from made the experience feel like a daydream. The only reminder of the recent past was the faint smell of cigar in my clothes, and the good taste it left in my mouth.
Wandergolf will be a frequently appearing golf column in The Georgetowner that will be reporting on the golf interests of Washingtonians. If you have suggestions for columns or comments, please email them to [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com)
Weekend at Kingsmill
January 17, 2014•
Existence of pre-historic Indians that lived 7,000 years ago on the bluffs of the James River where Kingsmill Resort is now located has been proven through the discovery of pottery and stone tools. I wonder what conclusion the future’s archeologists will come to when they find all of the post-industrial urethane-covered rubber Titleists I left all over the property three weeks ago? Most of the evidenc will be found on the River course, although similar deposits will be available for unearthing on the Woods and Plantation courses also.
The recent LPGA event at the River course left behind in its wake a series of well groomed fairways, immaculate greens and overall lushy factor where all plant growth was concerned, and made it visually pleasing to play. From the first hole, whose fairway was diagonally punctured with beckoning sand traps at tee shot distances, the bunkers reigned supreme in a way only possible in a non-beach town. A moat of sand surrounding the 5th hole makes the landing of the par three’s tee shot safely within the castle walls crucial to scoring well.
The picturesque and windy par three 17th hole along the river, immediately followed by a challenging tee shot over a souped-up water retention area to reach the 18th fairway make for a strong finish. The River course is clearly the benevolent bully of the trio worth befriending on your visit to Kingsmill.
The remoteness of the Woods course in relation to the Kingsmill hub was a welcome relief, and upon arrival I found myself looking for an archery instructor or some broken clay pigeons. The absolute dominant thought I walked away with after playing the Woods course was that the two sets of nine holes could not have been more different from each other, with the back nine utilizing three times more real estate than the front. If the back nine’s long wooden bridges, steep inclines, and tube-like tunnels between holes didn’t plant the idea in your head that you were adjacent to Busch Gardens, than the pleasant far away roller coaster shrieks audible from the 12th hole tee box sure did. The back nine here would make a great addendum to the championship River course when planning a 27 hole golf day.
The yardage reduction and less complex obstacles of the Arnold Palmer designed Plantation course will be a warm welcome for the mid to high handicapper or beginner golfer. Its signature hole features tobacco and grain era plantation houses from the 17th and 18th century, but otherwise winds through a neighborhood consisting of Williamsburg brick homes, seemingly each of original design. While I understand seasonality plays a role in their prevalence, I would have found flame throwers a welcome golf cart presence to combat the oversized and persistent horseflies in some dank areas of the course.
Boasting a marina, tennis courts, boat rentals, walking areas, and riverside dining, Kingsmill has plenty to offer the non-golfer before you even factor in the presence of Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg right next door. Since I was not here with my wife and am not metrosexually correct enough to enjoy spa treatments, I had to rely on my club’s length observations of the unbelievable amount of ways to pamper yourself one could avail themselves of at this spa. Decadent chocolate wraps, sugar scrubs, reflexological half hours, warmed basalt stone rubdowns, and something involving eucalyptus called nasal drainage stroking are only some of the plethora of treatments, available for age ranges starting at 5 to 11 through senior citizenhood.
Kingsmill Resort housing is made up of sprawling villas, only some of which are owned and operated by the resort. This ownership mix, combined with the sprawl, offers visitors a choice in how involved they would like to be in choreographing their stay. Whether a stay at the riverside villas will complement your visits to Williamsburg attractions and be a place to dine or whether you plan to never leave the premises and rely on the full service staff to plan your golf and spa weekend, your needs will surely be met. For more information, visit www.kingsmill.com/golf. 1010 Kingsmill Road, Williamsburg, Va. 23185 – toll free, 800-832-5665; direct dial, 757-253-1703
Wandergolf will be a frequently appearing golf column in The Georgetowner that will be reporting on the golf interests of Washingtonians. If you have suggestions for columns or comments, please email them to [firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto:email@example.com
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Wandergolf: Creighton Farms, Playably Hard
November 21, 2013•
With his plantation Oak Hill so nearby on Route 15, it?s a cinch that if James Monroe were alive and well today he would be playing golf at Creighton Farms. Stately oaks, mature maples, wispy cedars, and rigid pines form the 900-acre landscape that this new golf club has been painted into. The small valley of golf you are confronted with after entering the security-manned gates is warmly welcoming and serenely unbusy. With a membership base of 120 members right now, the density ratio of Creighton Farms is 7.5 acres per person: plenty of room to pound little white balls over water, to trudge through sand, or to build 10,000-square-foot homes.
The course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, is home to the Creighton Farms Invitational Hosted by Jack Nicklaus, which has raised close to a million dollars for local charities. Nicklaus is currently building an 8,000-square-foot home behind the ninth green. The standard fare Nicklaus design sporting massively undulating and shelved greens may limit views from his own back deck.
Two weeks ago, the leaves were in their prime as I teed off on the first hole with a mentor friend of mine and a retiring local orthopedic surgeon who had recently joined the club. The feeling that we were three extremely lucky cows in a very small herd on large range followed us from the first tee to the last.
The rolling downhill fairway of the par four that begins the experience had me feeling somewhat confident until we got to the green. The greens at this golf course are hard. The undulations, sizes and speed of these greens render pin placement an almost moot point, but credit to the designer (and quietly disheartening to myself), I walked off each one of them thinking that they were fair. The second hole is a short par four with a deceptively finicky green shot along the banks of a small creek that immediately negates the perceived advantage of a 316-yard hole. Walking off this green is when the course description in my head went from fair to what I would now say should be written on the entrance marquee: ?Creighton Farms, Playably Hard.?
The ubiquitous sand traps on the ?short? number three par five hole are the villains that rob you of advantage next. The access to greens on this course is so limited by sand traps that it became difficult to decide where to park the golf cart for the shortest walk to the putting surface. The only time I really felt like I had been truly wronged was when my blind tee shot on hole number eight found some unknown final resting place at the other side of an incredibly thin fairway. The fact that the ?Turn Shack? used to be the clubhouse before the current 30,000-square-foot building was completed speaks volumes.
The back nine continued to impress, with the largely untouched natural hunt country outlining a superb layout. The view down the eleventh fairway was majestic, and somehow hypnotized me into going for the green in two. Indirectly, this failure may lead to me staying at the nearby Salamander Inn at some future time, as guest privileges there are one of the only ways to play this course without joining, and I need to take that shot again. It is the fish that got away. I was warned to stay below the signature green on number twelve, and once again realized I was not terminally unique as I watched my ball roll down the sloped green like a surfboard down a wave. I got stuck in quicksand on a fairway bunker of hole #14, and my golf club became the tool I needed to literally and figuratively, get out of the trap.
I very much enjoyed this round, and the company I played it with. The facilities are brandnew and want for nothing. Nine spacious and luxurious club rooms are available to members and guests for overnight stay. Planned amenities include resort pool, Har-Tru Tennis courts, and wellness center. In categories focusing on ?Best New Private Courses,? accolades for Creighton Farms can be found in Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golfweek. While there are no shortages of prestigious golf clubs available to consider joining in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area, the expansive grounds, state of the art facilities, and top notch golf course design ensure that Creighton Farms will be a favorite of many.
Wandergolf will be a frequently appearing golf column in The Georgetowner that will be reporting on the golf interests of Washingtonians. If you have suggestions for columns or comments, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org