Ben Grehan lives in Virginia and is one of our Local Golf Advisors. In this installment of Ask the Local Golf Advisor, he takes us on a tour of the state's golf-rich Route 15. Read more of his golf course reviews in the state and around the country here.
Finding the best golf courses to play often requires driving (or even flying) in various directions toward upscale suburbs of big cities or resorts that are tucked away in the middle of nowhere. But here in Virginia, we have a unique way to experience some of the best and most diverse types of golf courses; simply driving down a single road.
U.S. Route 15 starts in Painted Post, New York and extends 788 miles to Walterboro, South Carolina but it’s the 106-mile stretch in northern and central Virginia that offers access to seven magnificent courses. Whether you can only afford a $35 round at a public course or can get in with a member at a prestigious private club that hosts PGA Tour events, Route 15 has something for every level and status of golfer.
Starting just outside our nation’s capital in Leesburg, you’ll find Raspberry Falls Hunt & Golf Club, a signature Gary Player designed course that has elements of Scottish links with pot bunkers and tuffs of fescue. With green fees from $40-105, you can play 18 holes with a cart and free access to the top-notch practice facilities. Enjoy the scenic views of the Potomac River valley as the babbling Raspberry Falls flows off to your right on the tee box of the finishing 18th par-5. Raspberry Falls was ranked #5 in the state by Golf Advisor in 2015.
Raspberry Falls Golf Club
Travel 16 miles down the road to Aldie to find our first private course on the route: Creighton Farms Country Club. The Jack Nicklaus signature design opened in 2007 to rave reviews and national rankings by the top golf publications. It’s hosted the Senior PGA Championship and boasts one of the most impressive clubhouses in America. The course is no slouch either, with the members tees playing a slope of 135 and the pros playing the tips at 152.
Fifteen minutes down the road, the exceptional golf courses start to pack in tightly, with four of the seven within an 11-mile stretch. First up is Bull Run Golf Club, owned by the same management as Raspberry Falls (part of the Raspberry Golf Trail which includes over a dozen other courses throughout the Mid-Atlantic). Perhaps not quite as uniquely laid out as its sister course and sometimes lacking in the same pristine condition, Bull Run nevertheless offers a great challenge to any golfer in the area and excellent off-course amenities. It’s also located in the town of the same name, home to one of the most historic Civil War battlefields in Virginia. Like Raspberry Falls, Bull Run Golf Club is open to the public and can sometimes be had for under $60 ($97 peak weekends).
Dominion Valley Country Club, the second of three private courses on the Route 15 golf corridor, is a quick 2-mile journey from Bull Run in neighboring Haymarket. Designed by none other than the late Arnold Palmer, this beautiful course is unfortunately open only to those invited. If you are, be sure to bring your ball retriever tool with you, as there are water hazards on at least eight holes. The signature par-3 9th with its island green is as intimidating as it is beautiful. Though the layout is challenging, it’s also visually stunning and is one of the few courses in Northern Virginia with mountain views.
The next town over from Haymarket, Gainesville, is home to Lake Manassas, which itself is home to three golf courses. Two of these are some of the very best in the state. Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas boasts immaculate course conditions and an exceptionally friendly staff. The layout along the banks of Lake Manassas is also compelling with great lakeside views and a peak at its prestigious private club neighbor next door (see below). Though not the cheapest course to play ($120 on peak weekends), Stonewall nonetheless is a good value for your money and offers online rates that go for as little at $41 for 18 holes. The views of Lake Manassas alone are worth the greens fees and Stonewall was ranked 12th in the state by Golf Magazine in 2014 and “Top 100 Modern Courses” in the country by Golfweek in 2017. (Read Ben's review of Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas)
Stonewall Golf Club
Right next door to Stonewall is our final private course on the itinerary and is none other than Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Every compelling aspect of its public neighbor is magnified exponentially in this RTJ Sr design and meticulous care of its superintendent. The original and four-time host of the Presidents Cup, you can still walk this private course as a spectator; RTJ is the occasional host of the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans National in late June. To play you will need some serious connections but if you have that opportunity, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The breathtaking par-3 12th with its steeply sloped peninsula green is perhaps the most iconic hole in VA.
It’s another 75 miles down Route 15 to Gordonsville and the final course on the itinerary, but it is absolutely worth the drive. Spring Creek Golf Club received the highest overall course rating ever by Golf Advisor in 2014 (4.96 out of 5) and has been ranked nationally ever since it opened as a semi-private course in 2007 and The Tom Fazio designed layout is serene and inviting but play from a tee box above your skill and you’ll soon find out it’s no pushover. The course also has perhaps the best course conditions you can play in the state. If you’ve ever considered playing this course you better hurry; the course will likely go fully private starting in 2018 (Green fees: $70-125). (Read Ben's review of Spring Creek)
If you make it to the end of the journey on US Route 15, you will be just 40 minutes from Richmond and 15 minutes from Charlottesville, both of whom have a plethora of excellent courses all their own. However, to play them all, you’d have to drive in opposite directions, leading to the problem you had at the beginning of all this, which is what makes the Route 15 golf corridor so unique.