By Jeffrey A. Rendall
MIDLAND, VA -- If variety's the spice of life, than Kastle Greens Golf Club rates at least Cayenne Pepper. Set in the rustic countryside of Midland, Virginia, Kastle Greens presents enough great golf hole variety to please even the most finicky of golfers. The club prides itself on having an open, Scottish links style front nine and a plantation style back nine, but merely dividing the course in half doesn't completely account for the tremendous variety found throughout. Virtually every hole is unique.
There really isn't a lot about the club or its surroundings that would fit squarely into the 'usual' category when you think about golf courses. It lies unobtrusively amongst working farms -- and was farmland prior to its conversion to a golf course two and a half years ago. Kastle Green's cart hut is a barn -- literally, and a quick glance at it makes you wonder whether there still might be livestock in there. There's also a pair of concrete silos standing adjacent to the structure. It's all part of the property's charm--the country theme works very well.
Further, you won't find Kastle Greens' course designer's name amongst the leading money winners on the all-time PGA tour list, or even as a member of the Golf Course Architects of America. Designed and built by Gary Cordova of Brothers Homes, the layout shows remarkable diversity in shot values for an amateur architect's first project. There's no doubt that Cordova's time spent studying golf course architecture for the project was used wisely.
All in all, you might say Kastle Greens is rather 'unusual.' But that's a good thing. You won't find it astride an interstate highway, and you'll have to look hard to make the correct turns on the country two laners to get there, but you won't be disappointed when you arrive. Add the fact the course is virtually unknown, and it's a golf oasis in a sea of commonality. Even the short drive onto the property defies your typical introduction to a country club -- you see mounds and links to the left and a Scottish castle to the forefront.
Brian Metzger, Kastle Greens' Head Golf Professional, says he wants the good times at the course to begin as soon as you enter the clubhouse. "We want golfers, when they come here, to experience a friendly, down-home type environment from the moment they walk through that door. And I want them to leave feeling they've just played a wonderful layout. I want them to enjoy their day, not just out on the course, but also inside the pro shop, or over at the bar and grill."
As you might expect from a course in the country, the staff was quite accommodating. We even got to meet the owner. Kastle Greens is a family-run operation, and guests in the clubhouse are treated like a member -- of the family. It's all a terrific prelude to playing the course.
We chose to walk the links, since the layout's pretty flat and the greens are near the next hole's tees. Metzger says walking is allowed, if not encouraged, at all times except during weekend primetime when carts are required to keep things moving. Walking the course enhanced the links style feel of the front -- it felt like playing the game the way Old Tom Morris did back in Scotland at Saint Andrews. The only thing missing was gorse -- but give it time, and perhaps that'll evolve too.
If there's a knock on the course at all, it's the fact it doesn't appear fully matured. The greens were aerated prior to our visit, so we certainly can't hold that against them. But the rough areas were fairly clumpy and uneven. Being so new, it's a telltale sign of a course that needs time to grow in. Once that happens, it'll be something special.
The round begins with two lengthy par fours, 410 and 458 yards respectively. There doesn't appear to be a single tree on either hole, giving the view from the first tee a definite links style feel. Mounds are prevalent on both sides of the fairways -- and although it looks wide-open, the landing areas seem relatively narrow. Thankfully, there isn't a single fairway bunker on either hole to avoid.
The first two links also introduce Kastle Green's large putting surfaces -- another allusion to Scottish style play. In addition, there are generous landing areas in front of the greens, allowing for bump up shots. The complete links style package.
Number three presents the first real nerve tester. The course's #2 handicap hole, you're teeing over water to a peninsula fairway -- 210 yards of carry from the back tees. Not only must you carry water, you need to be accurate or flirt with wetlands on both sides. The challenge becomes less severe from the other three sets of tees, and that's very much true throughout the course -- nothing unfair about it if you play the correct set.
The second shot on #3 requires a lay-up for most players, because the green's protected by a large oak tree to the front right. Going at it in two calls for a high fade with a fairway wood to a slightly elevated green -- not the easiest shot for most mid to high handicappers. Safe play is a mid-iron to a generous landing area, giving yourself a short iron into the large green.
There are several other excellent, thought-provoking holes on the front nine, but in the interest of space we'll jump to number nine. Some holes are doglegs -- this hole's like a boomerang. From the tee, you see water down the left side, and as you glance to the extreme left, you see the ninth green.
Metzger says it's 265 yards from the back tees to the center of the peninsula green -- all carry -- and there's water long as well as short. Some might call it a risk-reward, but unless you can hit a tee ball at least 260 yards in the air, then stop it quickly--we'll call it mostly risk, unlikely reward. An interesting hole though -- if your tee ball's not far enough on the 'safe' fairway side, you're still in trouble with your second shot -- bringing an awful lot of water into play for the approach.
On the back nine you'll find quite a few more trees, but the course is still pretty open. Number thirteen is the shortest par four on the course at 340 yards from the tips -- and without a single bunker on the hole -- you're thinking gift birdie at best and par at worst. It can be -- but it all hinges on the tee shot. With woods on both sides of the fairway and some tree limbs seemingly hanging over the rough areas, it calls for you to thread the needle to make the short stuff. You can play it safe with a long iron off the tee, but you'll leave yourself a longer iron into a narrow green with a big hump in the center. Gamblers paradise.
Fourteen is the course's #1 handicap hole, a 572 yard monster par five that requires a precise tee shot -- not just to land safely, but to give your second shot a good angle through a narrow chute to set up a less difficult third into another large green.
Eighteen is a great finishing hole to complete the layout. A 480 yard par five, there's considerable danger on your tee ball and second shot. A stream runs through the fairway 240 yards from the tee, and there's a wide (but not deep) landing area just over it. Second shots call for a mid-iron carry over a large lake to a slight plateau fairway, avoiding the water on the right. If you go for it in two, you'll need a fairway wood to shoot at an elevated, peninsula green. Play it smart, and it's a wedge into the large putting surface, leaving you with a solid birdie try for the last putt.
Much variety to go around, from the first hole through the last. Some target holes, some wide-open holes, some short holes, and some long holes. It's quite a golfing smorgasbord. Kastle Greens will certainly singe your golf pallet -- or true variety isn't spicy at all.
Kastle Greens Golf Club
11446 Rogues Road
Midland, VA 22728
Phone: (540) 788-3144
FAX: (540) 788-4416
Head Golf Professional: Brian Metzger, USGTF
Rates (Regular Season):
Weekdays, including cart, is $34. Twilight (starts at two): $28
Weekends, including cart, is $44. Twilight (starts at two): $36.
Twilight is unlimited play.
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