Bayville Golf Club -- Golf's Private Oasis In a Sea of Humanity

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA -- Wide-open spaces; they're becoming a rare breed in our heavily populated 21st century world. Though most city slickers live in densely inhabited areas by choice, they certainly crave chances to get away from it all from time to time.

Bayville's Website

Looking at the par three 5th hole, you'll find it hard tobelieve this land was once perfectly flat.

If that weren't the case, then nobody would go on vacation.

At the same time, it'd be nice to find some open ground for a few hours, yet still be able to sleep in your own bed at night. If only there was a retreat that provides an 'island' of peace within a sea of everyday congestion.

Fortunately for its members in Virginia Beach, there's Bayville Golf Club. Opening in the fall of 1996, Bayville's Tom Fazio designed golf course has faithfully provided members with the wide-open spaces they were seeking. Formerly a dairy farm in a rural area, the Bayville property was slowly encircled with development over the course of decades. Then, in the early 90's, Bayville farm's owners decided to turn it into a golf club. The neighborhood is now a highly populated part of Virginia Beach.

From behind the 11th green, you'll see the contouredopen space that is Bayville Golf Club.

But once you're on Bayville's private sanctuary, you'd never know it. There's an incredible sense of privacy providing the 'escape' at Bayville, and that's exactly the way the club's 300 members like it.

Tom Fazio says he liked the land from the beginning: "The Bayville property really presented a lot of potential for us. That may sound odd, considering it was basically a flat piece of ground that was serving as a dairy farm. But there was an attractive manor house in the center of the property, some beautiful tidal marsh on the edges, and the ground around the manor house was 'high,' meaning down to groundwater. So we were able to cut the golf holes into the ground, and create a whole ridgeline around the central part of the property."

"We were also able to use the existing roads for access, and had no real constraints, other than just fitting the golf course onto the land. To me as a designer, that was a major positive. And we framed the outer edges, building a berm along the roadway and landscaped it for privacy - so you still have this big 'open space' feeling when you're there. Add the owner's commitment to building an outstanding golf facility, and we were able to create a fantastic course," Fazio added.

From the back tees, it's a double water carry on thepar four 12th - on your tee shot and the approach.

That's no exaggeration. Bayville Golf Club definitely provides that 'wide-open' feel, and though Fazio won't exactly call it a links-style layout, it at least qualifies as a semi-links course (in his words). Several holes border the marsh, and several more take advantage of some man-made water hazards on the 'inland' holes. That too, was by design.

"There already was some water on the property, bordering one, two, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, so it made sense to bring water into the interior of the property also. So we dug some lakes, which provided the soil to create landforms for tees and greens, which gave the holes some contour. It also afforded areas to store water, because all the runoff is captured on top of the ground, and then piped to the lakes. That way, we're literally recharging our own water supply," Fazio said.

Bayville is known for more than just being an open space haven, however. It's acquired a reputation for having the finest greens in the region. Dean Hurst, Bayville's Head Golf Professional, elaborates: "People who visit here for the first time often remark that we've got the best greens they've ever played on. Our Superintendent, Cutler Robinson, is nationally renowned for maintaining excellent putting surfaces. He even travels the country, lecturing on the subject. And from the competitions that we've hosted here, the players went away raving about the greens."

Deep bunkers guard the left side of the challenging 433 yard par four 14th hole.

The raves are real. The greens lived up to billing, not only in conditioning, but also in challenge. Fazio often builds large and undulating greens, and Bayville is no exception. You'll have big targets to shoot at with your approach shots, but be sure to bring your 'A' putting game.

Part of the greens' slick character is due to the strain of bentgrass used. Hurst said they were the first course in the region to use A4 bentgrass, which is known for its heat tolerance as well as requiring a low-cut. As a result, Bayville's greens have been known to reach 14 on the stimpmeter. By comparison, Augusta National stimps its greens at 12 for The Masters every April. (It should be noted that Bayville doesn't keep them at 14, or they'd hardly be playable.)

Hurst, like Fazio, touched on the wide-open feel of his club: "We're sitting on 268 acres with no houses, and yet we're only 18 holes. The golf course takes on a very spacious feel, considering it's in a high-density area like Virginia Beach. It's kind of an oasis out here for a lot of our members. We don't have the claustrophobic feel you might find elsewhere."

The view from the tee of the par five 15th hole.If the wind's not friendly, you might consider bailing to the left.

"And because there's so much room, we have a very player-friendly but challenging course. There's a lot of room to drive the ball, but we also have some rather penal fairway bunkering, elevated green complexes and those fast putting surfaces. I always tell people not to short-side themselves here, because getting up and down will be incredibly difficult," Hurst said.

Adding to the character of the course is the prevalent wind blowing off the Chesapeake Bay. Hurst says it'll influence play: "We don't have that many trees on our property, and the wind really howls during certain times of the year. When the wind blows hard, it makes the greens even faster, and you've really got to concentrate on hitting the correct spots on the putting surfaces. It's all part of what I call the 'Bayville experience.' To me, our course is the way golf's meant to be played, in the old Scottish tradition of feeling the elements and working the course and the wind."

Despite the wind and the water, Fazio's managed to keep things pretty tame from the forward sets of tees. And in typical Fazio style, there are very few forced carries. You wouldn't necessarily realize it standing on the tee box of the first hole, though. Fazio explains: "I don't particularly like forced carries on any hole, if I can help it. But the play over the water on the first tee just turned out to be the best way to route the course. We could've taken the golf course and reversed the holes. But we felt the drama of the property, with the clubhouse and the beauty of the marsh, and the view, that that spot would be an obvious place to put the first hole. If you put the first hole where the ninth is now -- and we did a plan for that when we walked the site - we felt it wouldn't have played a whole lot different than number 10."

Greenside at the 18th hole, you may have to contendone last time with a Fazio-created sand monster.

Having two holes the same wouldn't be in the Fazio mold. If there's anything that characterizes his work, it's the fact it can't be characterized. Bayville's hole variety plays it out, particularly in the short par fours. Hurst adds, "What I think Fazio does better than anyone else is design really good short par fours, like our ninth hole. You'll probably have a short iron into the green, and it doesn't look all that threatening, but you can spin the ball right off the front of the green into the waste area if you're not careful."

Other highlights include number five, a slightly downhill 151 yard (from the back tees) par three. Rated the easiest hole on the outward nine, it nonetheless offers challenge to match its beauty. Two bunkers short and one long guard the putting surface, and the prevailing wind will blow tee shots towards the water on the right side. After seeing this hole, you'll hardly believe the land was once perfectly flat.

The inward nine has more water, as Fazio hinted at above. A lake divides eleven and twelve, two par fours of roughly equal length. But whereas eleven is pretty straight, twelve doglegs left - again, exceptional variety.

Glancing back from the 18th green, you'll see glimpses of Bayville's agrarian past, and some pristine golfing present.

Fifteen begins an excellent closing stretch. 520 yards in length, the biggest challenge just might be clearing the lake on the tee shot. After that, the hole doglegs right, and the marsh backs up the green (though it really shouldn't come into play).

Sixteen might be the most spectacular hole on the course. Hurst describes it: "If anybody asked me - and I hesitate using the term 'signature hole' - but if there was one, it'd be 16 (208 yard par three). If you're standing out at that point, you're in a high-density area of Virginia Beach, yet there's nothing around you. You can see for quite a long ways. It's a unique feeling."

Seventeen's a brute of a par four at 464 yards. If the wind's against, it might take you four shots to reach it.

Eighteen's a fine par five to close out the round. When you're done, glance back and notice Fazio's fairway mounding, with a silo in the distance. Bayville's agrarian heritage is never far away, yet it's golfing future is certainly more than assured.

Bayville is very private, and that's part of its charm. Members don't need tee times, they don't have to hurry, and it's a golf-only club. Hurst says, "We're all about golf here." If a member invites you to play the course, you shouldn't pass it up. If for anything else, you'll get a little flavor of what's it's like to play on a golfing island in a sea of humanity.

An additional note: Bayville's 16 acre practice facility is one of the best you'll ever see.



Bayville Golf Club
4137 First Court Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23445

Phone: (757) 460-7936
Pro Shop:  (757) 460-2616
FAX: (757) 460-1720


Course Designer: Tom Fazio
Head Golf Professional: Dean Hurst










5704/120/132 (ladies)



Membership Information:

For membership and corporate or charity outing information, contact Dean Hurst.

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