RESTON, Va. - The town of Reston and the classic Reston National Golf Course are no ordinary suburb of the densely populated northern Virginia.
Reston is a charming and, at the time of conception, revolutionary community. It was conceived in post-World War II America to become a "New Town" movement that stressed quality of life and a sense of togetherness. This meant creating a community where families, retirees and young adults could all live amongst each other and would gather at the same restaurants, shops and ponds. Developers built a town center and five village centers designed to bring residents together and uphold a strong sense of well-being.
In a letter by one of the founders, Robert E. Simon, in 1962, the first principle for the "New Town" concept at Reston was as follows:
"In the creation of Reston, Virginia ... the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. This means that the New Town should provide a wide range of cultural and recreational facilities as well as an environment for privacy."
Reston National, built around this same period by course architect Ed Ault, seems to have reflected this philosophy of leisure and privacy. It's a classically designed, secluded golf course lined with mature trees on gently rolling landscape that makes for as timeless a setting for golf as you'll find in the otherwise maddening hubbub of the Beltway.
The course won't break your back with yardage, given its pre-Tiger Woods-era 6,870 yards and its modest championship slope of 132. The opening hole is about as friendly as an opener can get. It plays gently downhill and is the most wide-open tee shot you'll find all day. At just 390 yards, you're left with little more than a short iron into one of the course's more accessible greens.
Reston National's par 5s can especially be chewed up by those big, shiny, modern-day drivers - as none of the three play longer than 530 yards. No. 2, especially heading downhill off the tee, can give you just a mid-iron into an elevated green if your ball can catch a firm slope and tumble its way down the fairway.
The rest of the golf course isn't as forgiving. The ensuing holes get much tighter where the sunlight struggles to make it over the trees and onto the fairways. Some long par 4s give the course its teeth, like the 440-yard 13th, which doglegs left and uphill to an elevated green. On the front side, the 408-yard ninth is the course's most severe dogleg par 4, where a slice off the tee lands you in jail on the approach.
Another dogleg, the par-4 seventh, is actually the best risk-reward driving hole on the course. Here, a partially blind pond on the left side guards a fairway that wraps around it. You can take off as much yardage on this 408 yarder as you dare, resulting in anything from a sand wedge to a mid iron into the green, depending on how much you can chew off.
The collection of par 3s are especially good. The eighth might be the most difficult, while the 16th is the longest, heading downhill over 200 yards, and a pond on the right swallows up weak slices that can get hung up in the wind.
Reston National Golf Course: The verdict
Reston National is a worthy option for those looking for a convenient getaway from the metro D.C. area, located about 14 miles from the District and 10 miles from Dulles International Airport. But the atmosphere at Reston is far more leisurely than its spot on a map might indicate. Aside from crossing a road between the 11th and 12th holes, then again between 15 and 16, it's a secluded golf course full of shaded fairways.
The course had earned a reputation for being somewhat out of date. That has changed since Billy Casper Golf Management took ownership of the course a number of years ago. Now it's in fine shape and features smooth bent grass greens that are great fun to putt on. The clubhouse facilities are modest with a small grill and pro shop, but there is a solid practice facility, complete with a driving range and short game area and practice bunker. Golf carts also come with GPS systems.
Peak weekend green fees are $99, though there are several different rates each day, going as low as $49 after 2 p.m. Reston National is also a participant on the Virginia Golfer's Card that offers discounts to area players.