Fredericksburg Area Golf - Still Geographically Desirable

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeffrey A. Rendall and Jeff Janas


Fredericksburg Golf Packages

FREDERICKSBURG, VA – By a trick of fate, Fredericksburg was stuck in the middle.  The year was 1862, and this small city in north central Virginia just happened to lie halfway between the capitals of warring ‘foreign’ nations (in this case the United States and the Confederate States) – creating a logical geographic meeting ground for armies on their way to or from.


Over the next two years, the town and its surrounding countryside provided the setting for four of the Civil War’s largest and bloodiest battles, the ‘place to be’ for action in the conflict’s eastern theater.  Over 140 years later, Fredericksburg still shows the marks of war – mainly in its national parks and monuments, but its geographic location remains significant in 2005.  Thankfully, it’s for different, more ‘peaceful’ reasons.


Looking from the tee of Cannon Ridge's 12th hole. Pure Virginia.

In the 21st century, Fredericksburg’s earning a reputation as a haven for quality upscale golf, as at least eight courses have been built there (or nearby) in the last decade and change.


It seems the ever-expanding population of Washington, DC has ‘adopted’ Fredericksburg as a suburb.  Anyone who’s lived in this region for an appreciable amount of time must be astonished at how fast it’s grown, and just trying to get anywhere on the town’s main drag west of town, Rt. 3, is certainly frustrating.  It’s hard to believe so many cars can be piled onto one stretch of road at one time.


Despite a few a growing pains, Fredericksburg’s a nice place to live, as evidenced by its quiet residential neighborhoods and its quaint, historic downtown area, occupying the banks of the famous Rappahannock River – the body of water that all those blue and gray clad troops fought over so earnestly, all those years ago.


It’s also great for golf, as it turns out.

Augustine's 2nd hole is tough, but it's also great to look at.


Enjoying one of the most diverse landscapes in the state, Fredericksburg offers an equally different set of courses, ranging from the marshy, ‘seaside’ quality of Swan Point (which is actually on the Maryland side), to the open meadows of Somerset and Meadows Farms, to the wooded parkland-style beauties, Cannon Ridge and Augustine.


The area also features an impressive sampling of course design talent, from PB Dye at The Gauntlet to Bill Love at Lee’s Hill, and the ‘King’ Arnold Palmer, at the private but very impressive Fawn Lake.


In other words, you’ll find a little of everything here, well worth the hour drive south of DC – and if you’re looking for a place to mix a little history with your few hours of great golf, there’s hardly a better place around.  Here’s a bit about each course:


Meadows Farms has some different kinds of holes, including one perched on top of a waterfall.

Cannon Ridge – The newest course in the group is also arguably its best, with one layout already opened and another under construction.  Longtime PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman is an owner of the property, and he takes the design credit for the first course, together with Bobby Weed (who’s designing the second).


Cannon Ridge is enjoyable for all skill levels, and Beman did a spectacular job with its wavy topography.  Head Golf Professional Bob Baldassari describes the golf course:  “One of the challenges here at Cannon Ridge is conquering the intimidation from the natural movement in the ground here.  You know, Deane didn’t just say ‘hey, let’s stick a gorge here or there,’ but there are ravines that have been here for thousands of years.  So, you’re going to get some carries out there – and we really stress to people on the first tee, to play the appropriate set of tees to maximize your enjoyment.”


You’ll also get some uneven lies.  Cannon Ridge is as challenging as it is beautiful, but Beman designed it so even beginning players will enjoy it (from the forward tee boxes).  Beman’s concerned with growing the game, so it wouldn’t behoove him to put in something goofy or out of place.  It’s a job well done.


Augustine – Just up I-95 from Cannon Ridge is Augustine, the leader of the DC area’s boom of upscale public access courses built in the mid-90’s.  Augustine’s residential development has certainly grown in around it from its early days, but there’s no doubt that this Rick Jacobson designed track remains one of the area’s favorites in most players’ minds.

Click here to book a Fredericksburg Golf Package


The course has always enjoyed a solid reputation for conditioning (though we will note the tough summer of 2005 has brought some complaints), and part of that was due to a longtime cartpath-only rule.  Happily for the weekend player, that’s been lifted, and now getting around Augustine is just as easy as it’s always been aesthetically pleasing.


Head Professional Bob Foster, talks a little about why Augustine is so favored:  “We’ve got one of the best layouts on the east coast.  It’s almost always in great shape; our service is in top form; and the course is challenging, but fair.  Every hole just seems to fit the land so well, and best of all, you can see the shot you have to hit.  I see the challenge as two-fold – first, you’ve got to drive the ball well, then you’ve got to place it on the right spot on the greens.”


2005 marks Augustine’s 10th anniversary, and we’re happy to say, with maybe the exception of the very noticeable houses lining the course, it’s even better than when it first opened.


You're in Maryland, but it kind of feels like coastal Carolina at Swan Point.

Meadows Farms‘Farmer’ Bill Meadows has always had a reputation for doing things differently, and a shining example of his philosophy is his homegrown golf course, Meadows Farms (which shares the name of Meadows’ famous nursery chain).


Bobby Lewis, Meadows’ Vice President of Golf Operations, explains why the ‘Farmer’ jumped into the golf business:  “Farmer Bill Meadows thought most golf courses weren’t run very well.  They were inefficient in course maintenance, lacked hospitality to their players and were too conservative in design.  You’d go to a course and have a hard time remembering one hole from the last.”


“So he took what he’d learned from his other businesses and applied the lessons to building a golf course.  He spent a year gathering truly different ideas in golf course architecture, then hired designer Bill Ward Jr. to implement them.  I think the end result is 27 holes that will leave you saying ‘Wow!’  There’re 27 different experiences waiting for you out there, and we feel comfortable in saying you’ll see some things you won’t find at any other golf course.”


That’s the truth.  You probably won’t remember Meadows Farms for its outstanding service or playing conditions, but you certainly will recall its golf holes… where else would you be pitching a golf ball over a baseball diamond?  Hit a homer and move on.

Somerset's clubouse is perched on a hill, which allows you to take in all of the property's panoramic scenic glory.


Somerset – Somerset Golf Club, just down the highway from Meadows Farms, is a rare example of a golf course that acquired a bad reputation – and then did something drastic to fix it.


The course shut its doors in 2002, after only a few years of operation, in order to bring in a new architect (Rick Robbins) to re-design its problems holes – and a new staff to provide the club a fresh start in the attitude department, led by General Manager Bart Wolfe.  Two years into its ‘resurrection,’ Somerset’s holding its own.


Wolfe describes the course:  “You really need to play a few rounds here to get a feel for it, because we have such a great variety of golf holes.  You’ll play some sharp doglegs that are fairly short; then you’ll play a long hole that’s kind of wide-open.  Then you’ll play a very steep uphill hole, and you’ve got a fairly steep downhill hole as well.”


Cannon Ridge mixes history with some great golf.

Variety is definitely the name at Somerset, though its four sets of tees will dish out the challenge accordingly.  The renovation’s made a big difference at Somerset, and the ‘new’ course is a great compliment to the high quality golf in the area.


Swan Point – Of all the Fredericksburg area courses, Swan Point is probably the most unique – not only because it’s in a neighboring state, but it’s also got a decidedly different ‘feel.’  Though you’ll travel through typical southern Maryland countryside to get there, once you’re on the course, you’re ‘transported’ to somewhere else.


Swan Point’s General Manager, Gordon Digby, says it’s the ‘low country’ feeling that’s so appealing about his club:  “We’ve definitely got that ‘Carolina’ feeling here, and that’s a comparison we hear a lot.  The course is fairly flat with lots of water, wetlands and trees, so you’d swear you’re somewhere other than southern Maryland.”


“We’re also fairly close to a major population center, yet it feels like you’re hundreds of miles away.  We only have two holes that run parallel to each other (16 & 17), so most of the time when you’re out on the course, it’s just you and the surroundings.  You certainly won’t have to worry about other golfers playing your fairway,” Digby adds.

Click here to book a Fredericksburg Golf Package


‘Playability’ being the operative word.  Swan Point’s golf course is a Bob Cupp redesign (yet another southern refrain — Cupp is a household name in the south) of an older nine-hole layout that was expanded to its current 18 hole configuration in 1990.  The holes are generously set back from the houses, granting a break to the horizontally challenged average player and maintaining a ‘private club’ feeling on its fairways as well.  The course isn’t well known, but what it lacks in name appreciation, it makes up for in quality recognition (it received a four-star rating in Golf Digest, which is usually reserved for the highest quality upscale courses).


Swan Point is certainly worth the effort to reach it, and not a bad drive from the Fredericksburg area.


Lee’s Hill – Yet another Fredericksburg area course with a tangible historical connection is Lee’s Hill, a few miles south of the downtown area.  Set in a residential neighborhood, Lee’s Hill has a similar story to Somerset’s – in that some conditioning problems occurred, forcing a course closure for a brief time (in 2003), only to re-open in much better shape.


Lee's Hill's 18th hole.

It wasn’t quite as drastic an overhaul as Somerset’s, however.


Also like its regional cousin, Lee’s Hill offers its own brand of variety, as Head Golf Professional Michael Kummer elaborates:  “Any chance I get, my clubs are going out there — because the holes are always a little different.  Some little change of a tee from hole to hole or day to day — you know, they move the tee markers just a slight bit in the tee box, or the pin placement on some of the greens, and it’s a totally different hole.”


“It always keeps you guessing and thinking out there, so you never get bored with it,” Kummer adds.


Adding to the variety and difficulty are Lee’s Hill’s contoured fairways.  It seems that shorter courses make up for length in certain ways — hazards, rough, or uneven lies — or all three.  Lee’s Hill fits the description.  Kummer says a lot of the fairways slope towards the trouble, mandating even more precision from the tee to avoid getting into it.

Glimpses of Curtis Lake at The Gauntlet.


Lee’s Hill’s ‘theme’ also fits well for the region.


The Gauntlet and Fawn Lake – Briefly, the Fredericksburg area also offers two other ‘different’ golf experiences to complement the ones highlighted above.  First, there’s the PB Dye designed ‘The Gauntlet,’ and close to the Wilderness Battlefield is the Fawn Lake Club – a private course whose architectural work was done by Arnold Palmer’s group.


Uniquely enough, both clubs offer Zoysia fairways, so you’ll never have a bad lie.  The Gauntlet contains some typical PB Dye oddities, but is an enjoyable and challenging experience, with several holes either on or within sight of Curtis Lake.  Very scenic, and quite a bargain for a public access golf course, too.


The 18th hole at Fawn Lake. Not much around except you, the golf course, and a lot of natural beauty.

Fawn Lake’s golf course isn’t actually on the lake, but is very peaceful and isolated, nonetheless.  If you’re an area resident, memberships are available and I would highly recommend that you check it out, as it’s well worth the time investment to see it and play it.


To sum up, Fredericksburg’s geographic location has impacted it throughout its history – first in war, then in peacetime community growth.  And fortunately for those golfers who’ll give it a ‘shot,’ it’ll establish a new reputation, all its own.



Check the links below for full reviews of all the Fredericksburg area golf courses, which also contain contact information.

Note:  Some of these reviews are from several seasons past, so rate information may not be current.

Related Links   Comments on this article?
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor: