Review: Spring Creek Golf Club

Course Name: Spring Creek Golf Club

Designer: Ed Carton (2006)

Location: Gordonsville, Virginia

History: The semi-private Spring Creek opened in 2006 to rave reviews. Immediately, it won 2007’s Golf Digest “America’s Best New Public Course Under $75.” It is currently ranked 55 in the Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses and has been on the list since 2011. It was also ranked 8th best course in all of Virginia and 3rd best public course in Virginia by Golf Digest in 2016 (behind two resorts, making Spring Creek the best daily fee course in the state). Built in a sprawling gated community, there are rumors that Spring Creek might go private soon.

Conditions: 9/10, I was blown away by the conditions at Spring Creek in March. Despite it being so early in the season, the course was in better shape than pretty much all the courses I play in season. Most notably, the fairways at Spring Creek are some of the best I have ever played.

Value: 7/10, For offseason rates, we played 18 with a cart and range balls for $55. For a course of this caliber, this is a huge discount. Even in season, the maximum price is $125 on a weekend morning, with discounts for Seniors and Twilight.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Champion             72           7389               76.5               152

Marble                    72           6673               73.1               144

Onyx                       72           6197                71.0               139

Salmon                   72           5589               68.2               132

Pewter                    72           4781               68.7               129

Best Score: 86 (Onyx Tees), 3/17/2017 with Ryan S.

Front 9 Best: 42 (Onyx Tees), 3/17/2017 with Ryan S.

Back 9 Best: 44 (Onyx Tees), 3/17/2017 with Ryan S.

Hole Highlights: Designed by Tom Fazio protege Ed Carton in 2006, Spring Creek very much resembles a Fazio course in the way it weaves through the nature of Central Virginia almost effortlessly. Spring Creek features extensive bunkering, elevated protected greens, and plenty of forced carries to give you all you can handle. Despite this, I think that the slope is too high here. At 152 from the Tips, this course should be on par with some of the hardest courses in the world. Even at 139 from the tees I played, I still think I’ve played more difficult courses in the low 130s.

The opener at Spring Creek is a strong dogleg left par 4 playing 389 yards. You are immediately met with a forced carry of about 130 yards to this fairway. Finding the fairway here is important, as misses left will find a long bunker or go OB and misses to the right will contend with awkward lies on two mounds and a long shot in. A large, deep bunker guards the left side of the green. At 499 yards, the 2nd hole is a straightaway par 5 that places a premium on hitting the ball straight. This fairway is rather tight and OB and bunkers line the left side of the hole.  At about 250 yards off the tee, the fairway is bisected by a creek, so longer hitters will want to think twice about club selection. Bunkers line both sides of a very narrow lay-up area, and the hardest part of this hole might be the green. When we played, the pin was back right on a tiny plateau and nearly impossible to get to. At 389 yards, the par 4 3rd is the number 1 handicap. Admittedly, it plays a lot longer from the tips, but it definitely wasn’t the hardest hole from the Onyx tees. This skinny fairway is flanked by two large fairway bunkers, the one on the right running about 35 yards between 180 and 215 yards from the tee. The most difficult part of this hole is the approach shot, which requires a carry over a small pond just before this green. The 4th hole is the shortest par 4 on the course at 317 yards. I recommend hitting less than driver on this hole, as there is all kinds of danger near this tiny green. Out of bounds guards the entire right side of this hole and this fairway narrows considerably about 185 yards from the tee. This approach shot is slightly uphill, with two deep bunkers dropping off the right side of the green.

At 155 yards, the short par 3 5th is a strong one-shotter and probably the best on the course. With the teebox surrounded by foliage, this hole requires a carry over brush to a green surrounded on three sides with bunkers. Good shots will be rewarded with reasonable chances at birdie but up-and-downs are hard to come by here. The uphill 369 yard par 4 6th is probably my favorite par 4 on the front side. This hole plays severely uphill and is thus much longer than it appears on the scorecard. Trees and bunkers line this skinny fairway and a large bunker short right of this green catches plenty of shots. I was also a big fan of the 7th, a strong 380 yard hole with a forced carry and two long bunkers flanking this fairway from about 180 to 230 yards. This hole is notable for it’s severely elevated green and large right front bunker that has a huge lip and might take more than one shot to escape. The 8th hole is another short par 3 playing only 139 yards. Like the 5th, hitting this green is imperative due to various hazards including a deep bunker short left. At 467 yards (from the Middle tees, the Back tees here play 615 yards!), the par 5 9th is a birdie hole for those who hit the fairway. With no fairway bunkers in play until 300 yards and a wide fairway, this is a definite driver hole. This green is also relatively unprotected and allows runners to scamper on the green.

The opener on the back is a quirky design and one of the more confusing holes on the course the first time you play. At 384 yards on the scorecard, this hole plays considerably shorter because the fairway turns hard right at about 210 yards. Your first goal on the drive should be to clear the forced carry to this uphill fairway. Drives that run long through the fairway will encounter a bunker at the elbow of the dogleg about 250 yards from the tee. I suggest thinking about cutting the corner here, but doing so is risky, as you must carry it about 215 yards to avoid a bunker. Drives too far to the right will be blocked out by trees. The approach shot on 10 is also uphill to a rather tiny green by Spring Creek’s standards. While I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the 10th, the 11th is one of the most memorable holes on the course. At 353 yards, this hole plays longer due to its uphill gradient. The forced carry here is one of the more daunting on the course, and a rock wall separates the fairway from the hazard. Two bunkers line this fairway about 230 yards from the tee and a hollow grass bunker guards short right of the green. The 12th hole is another short par 5 playing downhill at 499 yards.  This hole provides another good birdie chance with a generous fairway that invites you to hit driver. The fairway does narrow considerably in the lay-up zone with two large bunkers on the right side before the green. At 150 yards, the 13th is another short par 3 that requires a carry over brush to a triangular green. Bunkers guard the front two sides.

The 14th is easily the most intimidating driving hole at Spring Creek. This straightaway par 4 plays 379 yards from an elevated teebox over a forced carry of about 150 yards. This double fairway is guarded by a small creek on the left and a giant hill full of weeds on the right. There are no bunkers on the entire hole (the only one at Spring Creek I believe), but this green is small and drops off hard on the left. The 15th is a fun little par 4 that plays 330 yards. Up to about 220 yards, this fairway is extremely generous, but a fairway bunker on the right and trees on the left narrow it considerably after this point. This hole is conceivably drivable, but becomes narrower and more hazardous the closer you get to the green. I really enjoyed the 344 yard par 4 16th. This hole is beautifully framed by tall trees on the right and features OB on the left. This hole features a downhill drive to a fairway split into two levels by rough. The green here is long and skinny, with a large deep bunker guarding it to the left. Sandwiched between two fantastic holes, the 150 yard par 3 17th is the weakest hole on the course in my opinion. With no forced carry and only one bunker, the only protection here is a large, sloping green. Out of the four par 3’s, the longest one only played 155 yards, which was pretty disappointing. I shouldn’t have to play the Tips to get a long par 3. The signature hole at Spring Creek is the 504 yard par 5 finisher. This hole immediately grabs your attention with its water hazard that lines the entire left side of the hole. You have more room to the right than you think, which is a savior because it looks like you have no fairway from the teebox. While this hole is reachable in two for longer players, the green juts out to the left and you need to carry the water and bunkers to get there. At about 100 yards from the green, the lay-up area gets extremely tight on both sides, so I recommend laying up shorter than this. The clubhouse and patio are visible to the left of the water along the entire hole.

Best Par 3: 5th hole, 155 yards, 13th handicap. Overall, I found the par threes to be weaker designs than the longer holes, but the 5th hole was the best of the bunch. This short par 3 is notable for it’s extensive bunkering which surrounds an elevated green. Up-and-downs are hard to come by here.

Best Par 4: 16th hole, 344 yards, 10th handicap. It was hard for me to chose just one par 4 at Spring Creek, but it was impossible to pick against the sheer beauty of the 16th hole. This hole isn’t the longest or most difficult, but it is a brilliant short par 4 complete with a forced carry, double fairway, elevation changes, and a characteristic elevated green that drops off into a bunker. Other notable par fours include 6, 11, and 14.

Best Par 5: 18th hole, 504 yards, 8th handicap. The signature finishing hole features the only water hazard on the entire course, and it’s not subtle, with water lining the entire lefthand side of the hole. A tight double fairway and another stellar approach shot with the clubhouse in the background make this a hole to remember.

General Comments: They say people in the South are nicer and I’m inclined to believe this after our encounter with the Head Pro. He was extremely engaging both on the phone and in person and went out of his way to treat us like we were members. I was extremely impressed with the overall customer service at Spring Creek. The practice facilities here are also top notch, with a large driving range, chipping green, and putting green available for all players. I can’t speak for a busy weekend morning, but pace of play was incredible when we played, as we finished in under 3 hours.

Verdict: I had high expectations for Spring Creek and it did not disappoint. Superb conditioning, customer service, and a beautiful design make Spring Creek a must play for anyone in the Central Virginia area. It is one of the finest public courses in the country.

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