South Riding Golf Club - Come Join the Community

SOUTH RIDING, VA -- “I want our golf course to engage the community,” answered South Riding Golf Club’s General Manager, Greg Nesbitt, when I asked him about his course’s goals for the future.  South Riding GC lies at the southern end of the South Riding residential community (near Dulles airport, 35 minutes from Washington, D.C.), so proximity to the people alone will help Mr. Nesbitt accomplish his objective. 


Opening in 1997, the course is a Dan Maples design (the only Maples track in Northern Virginia), featuring eighteen thoughtfully placed holes weaving in and out of open space, stands of trees and wetlands, and yes, even the community.  And like its neighbor to the east, Pleasant Valley, South Riding’s come under the wing of a common ownership company, which is dedicated to making improvements and keeping the course in great shape for members and daily fee players.


Morning sunshine lights up the dew on South Riding's short par four 8th hole.

Nesbitt describes some of the history of the course:  “Well, we started out under the management of Golf South, then went to Golfmatrix, and then decided (in 2002) it would be better for us to just manage ourselves internally.  Our ownership group, the Nova investors, has appointed a liaison between themselves and the courses to work with me -- and I’m now the General Manager at both facilities.”


With some of the management changes taking place during South Riding’s youthful existence, the club acquired a reputation for somewhat spotty conditions.  Just a few years ago, for example, they lost all their tee boxes due to a superintendent’s error (not the current one!), and it’s taken some time to recover.  Having played it a few weeks ago (April, 2004), we’re happy to say those issues are in the past.  It’s in the best shape we’ve ever seen it.


South Riding Golf Club resides on the site of an old sod farm, and its condition is about what you’d expect from a golf course taking over from a series of green, green fields.  You probably could putt off the fairway if you wanted to — and when you get to the greens, you’ll sometimes wish the green stuff there wasn’t quite so short.  Not only are the putting surfaces in great shape, they’re sneaky fast. 


Looking back from the 18th green, you'll feel relief that you've survived a pretty tough finishing hole.

That’s not to say it’s pristine – to be fair, there are a few spots that need some help (as is true with most golf courses) – but Nesbitt and Superintendent Steve Zarnick are working towards eliminating those.  And the ownership group’s onboard, too, having spent $200,000 on improvements in the past few seasons, installing a completely new irrigation system (great for the rough).


It’s not only conditioning that was upgraded at South Riding.  You’re bound to see the staff hustling around trying to give visitors the complete golf experience, too.  Nesbitt explains, “We’re really trying to concentrate on the areas where we can make a difference.  Our course is in excellent shape, getting better all the time, but we also want to deliver that extra 1% in service to give our players an enjoyable day.”


“I try to drive that concept home with our staff — we need to be engaging.  And since we’re essentially a community golf course, we’re taking strides to engage the community — we want everyone to feel welcome, like this is a great place to be.  We want you to able to walk outside on the balcony and look down and see it all in front of you — the practice facility, the starter, members of the community having lunch.  We have a unique opportunity at South Riding — we’ll provide ‘atmosphere’ on our golf course.”


The 201 yard, par three 2nd hole looks tame, but the green's undulations will make for a difficult putting test.

“It’s all about service, and it’s all about having a good time.  We’ll show our patrons that we’re enjoying doing what we do, and it’ll make it a lot easier to translate the message to them,” Nesbitt said.


If there’s a knock on the layout at all, it’s because there are times where the South Riding ‘community’ may be a tad too close — some houses and townhomes are intruding on a couple fairways, but this is far from a run-of-the-mill house golf course.  There are stretches on both the front and back nines where you don’t even see a house.  So you can get the ‘community’ feel along with isolated serenity.  Not a bad combination.


South Riding is also very playable, making it easier for Nesbitt and the staff to provide a memorable day.  The fairways are wide, and the rough areas supply additional space.  There are a few holes parallel to each other — and for those links, there’s always the next fairway option.  Players won’t spend all their time looking for wayward shots — and that’s good for pace of play.  The greens are severe in places, but they’ll give you a lot of room to hit them.  A fair test of your flat blade game awaits.


Looking back from the 18th tee, you'll see the raised nature of the 17th green. The pond's actually in back of the green, but if you miss it long, it might come into play.

For his part, Architect Dan Maples said variety and making great golf holes are very important in golf design, and he tried hard to bring both to South Riding:  “When we set out to design a course, we work really hard on building 18 good golf holes.  I may understate that by saying ‘good.’  We want them all to be really spectacular, each hole.  We don’t do that many golf courses – we work too hard, and spend a great deal of time at the ones we do design, so we’re very low volume.  High quality is the main goal.”


Maples continues, “I think the biggest compliment my Dad (famous architect Ellis Maples, who worked with Donald Ross) ever paid me – was that I spend too much time on golf courses, pay too much attention to detail.  And if you look at the detail on some of our newer courses, they are even more detailed.  They’re graded from tee to green with swales and getting the elevation of the tees just right, as well as making sure you can see all the hazards and the golfers in front of you whenever possible.”


You’ll find all of Maples’ philosophies at South Riding, ‘attention to detail’ seeming to be the theme throughout.  There aren’t any blind shots, and though (as stated before) a few holes run parallel to each other, you won’t need a Patriot missile battery to shoot down incoming projectiles from the group next door. 


There's a tree splitting the fairway on the par four 4th hole. Maples will go to great lengths to save a particularly attractive tree, much to the delight of golfers.

It’s not a bad place to play, either.  Nesbitt describes it:  “You’ll play every club in the bag on this course -- it’s not a grip it n’ rip it type layout.  But there are plenty of holes where you’ll need to hit the ball long, and plenty of holes where you’re hitting a three-wood, five-wood, or an iron off the tee.  If you have a weakness, it’ll be brought out.  But I do think the course is very fair — it won’t penalize you too much.”


The course is certainly fair, and the first hole will ease you into it -- a very reachable, straight-on 523 yard par five.  Last year the nines were reversed (this had previously been # 10), but now they’re back to the way they originally routed.  Off the tee of number one, there’s a small forced carry and wetlands to the right, but the fairway’s pretty wide, too.  Two strong shots will give you an eagle try.


Three and four are two interesting par fours, at 405 and 427 yards respectively.  Three has a creek bisecting the fairway at about driver distance, so you’ll either have to carry it or lay-up.  Four’s got a huge tree seemingly in the middle of the fairway (a Maples signature), surrounded by a small wetlands area.  Choose the left or right option.


This old wooden building accents the par three 14th hole -- brings a little of the history of the property to life.

Eight’s my favorite hole on the course.  Short at 351 yards, it’s a severe dogleg left that dares you to try and go over trees to cut off the leg.  You can’t see the green from the tee, and there are several bunkers protecting the saddle shaped green.  Take a shorter club off the tee, and the fairway’s extremely generous — but the second shot’s no picnic because of the green.  Lots of options — it’s up to you.


Nine is a straight-forward 431 yard finishing hole for the outward nine, wetlands down the left side and the range to the right.  Second shots must go high and land soft to an elevated green.  There’s a nice view of the clubhouse behind the green, from which you might want to take a break and get some liquid refreshments after your first nine.


You’ll need it for the first hole on the back nine.  592 yards from the back, it’s every bit of a true three shotter that slightly doglegs left.  You’ve got to bring your draw swing to put your tee ball in good shape, but there’s a lot of room if you miss it.  Woods and wetlands frame both sides off the tee, but probably don’t come into play unless you really miss one.


206 yards in length, it's a long carry over water to the par three 5th hole.

The twelfth hole is the outward nine’s second par five, and is South Riding’s signature hole.  There are wetlands down the entire left side, plenty of room on the right, and a pretty stream crossing the fairway in the distance — makes for quite a picture (there used to be an old barn on this hole, but apparently it was taken down).  It’s also a great risk reward hole, as it’s reachable on a day when the prevailing wind’s behind you, as it often is — but the creek’s standing in your way.  It runs just in front of the severely sloped, elevated green.


Number eighteen is South Riding’s #1 handicap hole, and can be quite a monster from the back tee boxes.  471 yards separates you from the green, with a good sized forced carry over a lake and woods all down the right side.  Even with your best drive of the day, you’ll still have a mid-iron into the green at best.


Driving back to the clubhouse after the round, you’ll pass by the deck up and to the left, the practice facility to the right and then make your way around to the parking lot.  It’s easy to imagine lots of folks milling around, having lunch and watching as the golfers return from their rounds.  It gives a sense of community — and that’s just what South Riding is all about.


South Riding's new irrigation system helps keep all its playing surfaces lush and green. Here, the green of the par four 3rd hole.

Note:  See links below for reviews of golf courses nearby.



South Riding Golf Club

43237 Golf View Drive

South Riding, VA 20152


Phone:  (703) 327-6660

FAX:  (703) 327-2809




General Manager:  Greg Nesbitt, PGA

Head Golf Professional:  Marc Granahan, PGA

Golf Course Designer:  Dan Maples



Championship:        7147   134               74.5

Medal:                    6460   130               71.0

Club:                      5683   118 -131 (L) 67.8/73.0

Forward:                5004   116               68.9



M-Fri:  $65; Weekends & Holidays:  $79

Weekends after noon:  $64; twilight after 2, everyday:  $52 twilight after 4, everyday:  $39.

Junior and replay rates are also available.


Walking allowed after three for non-members.  Caddy program also available—call ahead to inquire.


Taken from the South Riding website:

Introducing "The 2004 Virginia Player's Pass" - A $600 value for only $299! 

Start saving immediately with benefits that include:

  • Complimentary range plan for both South Riding & Pleasant Valley Golf Clubs
  • 5 free rounds of golf
  • $36 special rate Mon-Fri    (Standard rate is $64)
  • $64 special rate Sat-Sun-Hol (Standard rate is $79)
  • $40 special rate >2pm on Sat-Sun-Hol (Standard rate is $52)
  • 7 day advance tee times
  • VSGA Handicap service
  • "Player's Pass Tournament Series"

Participating Courses:

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