Royal New Kent **
Designed by the late Mike Strantz who cut his teeth in the Fazio organization. Known for his artistic eye, painting holes before he built them built a Tour de Force in the Eastern suburbs of Richmond, VA. I've had my experiences with Strantz's courses and never thought I'd give one **, but I did, far and away my favourite Strantz. I'm going on architectural grounds here. The entire front nine at this time is devoid of any building and is superb with astonishingly beautiful holes full of challenge and kept in perfect shape by the grounds crew. The turf conditions for my preference were the best outside of Links that I can remember playing. Firm and tight one could go at irons with reckless abandon. The visuals of the course are at times overwhelming. However, more than a pretty face resides here. The second nine suffers from a disjointed routing made even more noticeable by housing and a racetrack nearby but the entire course is just astonishingly good architecturally. A few favorite holes are shown. I was at the course before a thunderstorm in the afternoon and had the course to myself. I do wonder about pace of play at this being a public access course, but I thought the design was stellar. The second hole is a nearly horseshoe-shaped (more than 90* dog-leg) that almost works but clearly stands out as the odd duck.
The overall quality more than makes up for this one odd hole, picture perfect, it is as Strantz must have envisioned it.
One Par 4
Three Par 3
Four Par 4
Five Par 5
Six Par 4
Seven Par 3
Nine Par 4
Eleven Par 4
Twelve Par 3
Fourteen Par 4
Fifteen Par 3
Seventeen Par 5
Eighteen Par 4
Routing - A weak point with several long cart rides and a severe break in the second nine. Housing detracts visually for about four holes. Front nine other than a long ride twice is wonderful.
Quality of Hole Types - Threes are of great variety and are thrilling with multi-target greens and a range of clubs from 9-iron to near Driver depending on wind. Fours are quite varied from vexing, confusing to hard as nails and all in between. Fives are top notch despite the #2 quacker.
Cohesion - Generally quite good, design style is tight. It is very quirky, not for the Pasture Pool Lover.
Green complexes - Beautiful to look at, well-bunkered and quite challenging.
Bunkering Schema - visually dramatic and very strategic and then there's the 17th Par 5 with hardly a bunker in sight.
Conditioning - as good as I've seen off a links for my tastes
Appropriate Vegetation - Dramatic but reasonable. Felt like Coastal Oregon in places in a very good way. I wish Bandon trails design was up to this level.
Ideality - Not here. Definitely for the better player.
Club - Very well done for a public joint.
Milieu - Other than the intrusive housing on a few holes is tops. Front nine as it exists is definitely a "Place Away".
A lovely nouveau Country Club lost a bit in the shadows of Kinloch (literally across the street) but with 36 perfectly conditioned holes is the nutshell. It is perfect if you only want 36 well-conditioned holes to choose from.
I found the bunker surrounds a bit too puffy for my taste and a bit jarring to the eye but solid holes abound. Both Manakin and Sabot Courses recommended, but no time to get into details. No Top 100 stuff, but very good and extremely well-conditioned. If every town in America had one of these, everyone but the Kinlochs would go out of business.
Same for the Bobby Weed design Cannon Ridge closer to Fredricksburg, just off I-95 on the Celebrate Virginia Parkway. Thought of as Links style by most retail golfers, it is not treed and has more of the excellent turf that I think is standard in Virginia. (I only played in VA last fall for the first time). Very good value, Bobby weed is very talented.
The jewel everyone travels across country to see in the Richmond area is the famous Kinloch. Featuring the country's best conditioning according to Golf world readers it is an Augusta National Clone as the labels go, but very welcoming. The lush conditioning, service, practice area, coziness is All-American. The course is visually spectacular with greens that come alive with speed. One must watch the slopes past the hole whilst putting. Many double, split and option fairways define this course. The fans necessary to keep the bent grass alive were not yet out in mid-May. The playing corridors at Kinloch are extremely wide to allow air flow. The bunkers are big and bold and there is plenty of water in play especially the second nine.
Two Par 4
Three Par 5
Four Par 4
Five Par 3
Six Par 4
Seven Par 3
Ten Par 4
Eleven par 5
Fifteen Par 4
Eighteen Par 4
Routing - Two separate nines which wind through woods and then around an arm of the lake. With a cart ride in between very walkable.
Quality of Hole Types - Threes are defined by their greens although there is a general right to left tilt to them. The 14th is the shortest and hard to the water, the seventh is the longest and downhill. Slopes carry you away from missed greens. Fours are generally on the longish side with a few shorter ones featuring the split fairways at two and four. The ninth par 5 is unique with its island fairways and seemingly 100 of its own acres (13.32 by Google Planimeter). 11 and 13 are both reachable and three is guarded by water. Playing all three with a wedge third does not guarantee a single birdie.
Cohesion - Generally high
Green complexes - Built for speed with falls-off defining the short game needed
Bunkering Schema - BIG and boldly flashed
Conditioning - Unparalleled
Appropriate Vegetation - Parkland supreme
Ideality - 5 sets of tees, but those greens make life tough for the weaker player
Club - Southern Hospitality at its finest. Not a hair out of place.
Milieu - A truly defined sense of place. A trip of a lifetime kind of invite!