Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bull Run Golf Club: Where Have You Been My Whole Life???

Bull Run Golf Club in Haymarket, Virginia is your classic, daily-fee up-scale facility.  The course is well maintained, and the staff is friendly. 

Everything about the course is run of the mill, except the course itself.  WOW.  Who knew it was such a nice place to play golf???

I have been playing golf in the DC Area for about four years now and I only heard of this course last year.  Sure, its a hike from downtown, but its not further than most of the other good golf in our area. 

The ownership of the course, or at least its day to day operation, recently changed hands, and that may have something to do with it.  The course is now "sister courses" and managed by Raspberry Falls which is just a few miles up the road.  Despite arriving about 30 minutes after our scheduled tee time, the staff was friendly and accommodating.  They even gave us a few minutes to hit putts and take swings at the range before sending us off.

From the first shot on the first hole, I could tell that this was a course I should have played before.  The grass on the fairways, greens and rough just looked and felt like it was well cared for.  The bunkers, even though they were wet from the recent rain, also felt luxurious.  The tee boxes were straight.  And the holes were cut sharp.  Just looking around, you felt like you were playing a course from a magazine.

The tee shots were particularly picturesque.  There were at least half a dozen forced carry drives that present players with risk/reward situations.  Among these, the tee shot on nine stands out.  The tee box sits on one side of a lake, and the fairway sits upon the far shore.  The entire hole bends to the right, with the lake framing the length of the hole, only ten yards off the fairway to the right.  From the tee players can see an abundance of fairway, but the most appealing line, with a forced carry of about 175-200 yards is blocked by a bunker.  Challenge the hole to the right to try and give yourself a shot at a green in regulation, and the water is brought into play with even the smallest push or slice.  Look to the left of the trap and you are left with 230 or more yards as an approach to this long par four.   This shot got my entire group; each of us, one after another, took the risky shot to the right and ended up in the water.

While the par threes are somewhat forgettable, the par fives are anything but.  Number two and number 14 are both mid-length winding par fives that put a premium on your second shot.  Miss right or left on either approach and you will be lucky to escape with a bogey. 

While there are 17 very good holes at Bull Run, no hole on the course is more spectacular than the closing hole.  A long par five, players are forced to cross two bodies of water and approach a well guarded green that is difficult to reach even on the best days for true long ball hitters.  From the tee, a generous fairway entices players into thinking that this hole may present a real birdie opportunity to close out the round.  Not so.  Once you arrive at your ball, players realize that in order to go at this pin, a carry of over 240 will likely be necessary.  Even if you are to lay up, players will have to carry the ball a healthy 180 yards and contend with a massive tree that sits in the middle of the second fairway.  The green is well bunkered and severely undulating.  If you walk away with par here, you have played an excellent hole of golf.

Bull Run will be making it into my regular rotation of courses.  It is a stellar layout and very well maintained.  It is a shame that it took me so long to find this gem.

Grizzly Golfer Rating: 8.0

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