ASHBURN’S HARDEST HOLES
By Joe Motheral
What is it about Hole No. 7? Ashburn Magazine reached out to local golf pros and club managers to find out which holes are considered the most challenging at the community’s four golf courses. For some strange reason — each and every time, the consensus was that Hole No. 7 was the toughest, despite the courses being built at different times and having different designers.
“I can’t explain it,” said Linda Gaudi, a PGA and LPGA pro who teaches golf at Brambleton. “Every course is distinctly different. I guess it’s just ‘lucky sevens’ — or maybe it’s ‘unlucky sevens’ in this case.”
With this mystery in mind, here’s a look at the hardest holes and the features that confound golfers all season long. We also asked avid golfer Mackenzie Warren to chime in with his take on the No. 7s. The Brambleton resident competes in Virginia State Golf Association tournaments around the state and is a Top 100 course rater for GolfWeek Magazine.
BRAMBLETON GOLF COURSE
42180 Ryan Road
The Brambleton Golf Course is a public course, part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. It has trim fairways and rough laid out on relatively flat terrain. Golfers say it’s low priced and in good shape, and some refer to it as “very forgiving.”
Dustin Bethauser is the general manager. He says the most challenging hole is probably No. 7, a par-5 that runs 589 yards from the back tees. It’s long and straight — but also narrow with woods on both sides. Even more challenging, there’s a small creek, hidden in the woods, that runs along the right side the entire length of the hole, then crosses the fairway in front of the green.
“There are these big rocks on the far side of the creek – it’s not that wide, but the rocks make it look like it’s wider than it is,” Gaudi said.
The seventh hole at Brambleton is a really stern test — one of the hardest holes I have played on a municipal course anywhere. From the championship tees, it is a monster. It requires three of your best shots of the day just to be near the green. The window for the drive is very narrow, over a marshy creek bed. The woods on both sides are jail. Then for your second shot, you either have to hit a second consecutive bomb and clear a wall of rocks and a stream, or you have to lay up and hit your third shot through a narrow frame, still contending with the forced carry to an elevated green, which itself has two shelves and two bunkers. A par there is a relief, and a birdie a true achievement.
1757 GOLF CLUB
45120 Waxpool Road
1757 is sometimes called a “shot maker’s course” because — with water on all but two holes — it takes a fair amount of precision to find success. The most challenging hole at the 1757 Golf Club is the 241-yard No. 7. That’s according to Dave Ahart, the course’s director of golf.
“It’s a par 3 that probably averages a 4.7, which is a bogey. It’s definitely one of the hardest holes here,” Ahart said. “There’s an old saying that making a 2 on a par 3 is like skipping a hole. Well, making a 2 on No. 7 is like skipping two holes.”
No. 7 at 1757 is a long, demanding par 3 in between two ultra-short par 4s. The two par 4s both are classic risk-reward opportunities, whereas No. 7 is all risk. You play uphill, more than 200 yards from some tees, across water and with water right. The bunkers are tough and the green narrow and deep. The depth has led me to hit everything from an 8-iron to a hybrid, depending on the wind. If you are left, flipping a wedge up to the green keeps the bunker and water in play. Par is excellent there.
BELMONT COUNTRY CLUB & GOLF COURSE
19661 Belmont Manor Lane
Playing at the Belmont Country Club course in Ashburn is experiencing a piece of local history. The manor house was built between 1799 and 1802 by the son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. President James Madison spent time there during the War of 1812. Fast forward two centuries, and the history continues when golf legend Arnold Palmer designed the golf course and played the opening round there in 2003.
The hardest hole — as identified by club pro Adam Hibbs — is once again Hole No. 7, a par four that’s 454 yards from the back tees. “This hole might make you feel like taking up bowling,” Hibbs said.
“The first time I played that hole, I got a birdie,” said assistant pro Simon Dewsbury, fondly remembering one magic moment. “Ever since, I haven’t come close.”
Palmer and his team did a lot with an inconvenient sliver at the edge of the property. The hole is long and very uphill overall. However, hitting a big tee shot to trim distance on the dogleg left brings trees and water into play. The smarter play is short and out to the right, but that could leave you 220 yards uphill to a well-guarded green with OB [out of bounds] to the right. Another issue: The fairway slopes downhill and left to a creekbed, even as you’re being asked to hoist a long and high approach to the right. In other words, you have a draw-biased lie from which you must play a fade-biased swing. I approach this as a par-5 I’m trying to birdie, versus a par-4 I’m trying to par. That frees me to plot out a three-shot route to the green if I don’t have the best-placed tee shot. A miss 35 yards short and left leaves a pretty simple up-and-down through the only unobstructed channel onto the green.
THE GOLF CLUB AT LANSDOWNE
44050 Woodridge Parkway
The Golf Club at Lansdowne, at the Lansdowne Resort along the Potomac River, has not one, not two, but three separate golf courses: a Robert Trent Jones course, a Greg Norman course and a nine-hole course called the Sharkbite. The different courses offer variety to the club’s members and their guests — from different types of grass to variations in terrain.
Dan Warnick is the pro at Lansdowne. He believes the Norman-designed course has the most challenging holes. Running along the banks of the Potomac River, the lowland course features plenty of marshes and water features.
“Greg Norman named holes No. 6 through No. 9 as the ‘hardest mile in golf,’” Warnick said, singling out the 442-yard hole No. 7 in particular. “As you hit your approach, the green is guarded by a small bunker on the left and the water on the right,” he said, adding that the open space near the Potomac adds to the challenges. “These holes are normally played into the wind.”
The Norman course at Lansdowne punishes wayward drives. Like other holes there, to score on No. 7 you need to be not just long and straight, but long and straight to the right spot to attack the pin. One relief about No. 7: Unlike the several holes that run directly along the Potomac River, at least a slice on this slightly inland hole won’t mean your ball winds up in Maryland.
Joe Motheral has been a writer for more than 50 years. He’s a member of the National Press Club and lives in Lansdowne Woods with his wife, Marjorie.