Dominion Valley Golf Club -- Mature As It Needs To Be

By Jeffrey A. Rendall; Photos By Jeffrey A. Rendall and Bob Kubler


HAYMARKET, VA -- Just look around, and the young are forced to grow up fast these days.  They’re bombarded with adult level images in the popular media, tied down with lots more homework than we were stuck with at that age, and some kids’ after-school schedules take no backseat to a corporate CEO’s busiest calendars.


In other words, they’ve got to mature before their times.


Dominion Valley's 6th hole will punish a ball with too much hook or slice, that's for sure.

The same is true in other parts of the culture.  Newness only gets you so many pardons – and in some ways, it gets you in trouble.  That’s definitely true where a golf course is concerned.  That’s why it’s refreshing when you find a relatively ‘new’ golf club that’s mature to begin with, hence skipping the typical growing pains associated with just starting out.


If you like the ‘mature’ feeling right off, try Dominion Valley Golf Club in Haymarket, Virginia.  Dominion Valley’s Arnold Palmer signature course opened in 2003 and immediately folks remarked at what a grown-up look it presented, right out of the gate.


According to Tom Sayre, Dominion Valley’s former Senior Land Development Manager, there’s a couple reasons why the course looks like it’s been there a while:  “This piece of land has kind of an interesting history – it was once owned by the Disney company, and was slated to become Disney’s ‘America’ theme park before they decided not to build it.”


Disney subsequently sold it to another owner (Exxon), then Toll Brothers purchased the land, to develop as a golf course community just a short jaunt north of I-66 in Prince William County.  The property also had a couple other unique attributes that would figure prominently in the land’s future, to the benefit of all those who like the ‘lived in’ look at their country clubs.

It's not apparent from this photo, but there's a large chipping area to the left of the par three 17th hole.


Again, Sayre explains:  “I believe when Exxon owned the land, it created a very wide tree buffer along route 15 – so we’ve had a great opportunity to move those trees to help landscape the golf course.  The property also contained an old nursery – that had 6,000 trees that are about 10, 12, 15-years old.  We moved the trees to areas in the residential community that would be impacted by the golf course (stray golf balls here), and now they’re protected by pine trees, loblollies, white pines and other greenery.”


It also gives a relatively new course the look of one that’s been there a while – and that’s only in the flatter, non-forested portions of the layout.  Much of the back nine moves up into the hills, where Mother Nature already provided stands of mature hardwoods to add that ‘smoky’ Virginia-aged flavor to the experience.


Dominion Valley, like its golf course neighbors – Piedmont across the highway, Bull Run Golf Club up the road a few miles and the courses along Lake Manassas to the southeast (Robert Trent Jones Golf Club and Stonewall Golf Club) – is blessed with an excellent piece of Virginia real estate, perfectly suited for golf.


You'll have to carry a creek off the tee of the par four 4th hole -- but it's no problem from the forward sets of tees.

The area is now almost completely developed, so there's yet another factor in its mature looks.


Erik Larsen, former Vice President at Palmer Course Design (and Project Manager at Dominion Valley), agrees that the land helped mold a dramatic golf course:  “Dominion Valley’s situated on great Virginia rolling land.  It’s got a big, bold roll and feel to the whole property, and the course we built parlays that character.”


“That’s what really makes every golf course unique, the land it’s on – unless you just manufacture something totally wild, which in some places, happens a lot,” Larsen added.



Looking back towards the par four 12th hole -- beauty and the beast, rapped into one golf hole.

“If there’s nothing there, you’ve got to make it exciting.  The golf course has to be as exciting to look at as it is to play, or you’ve got a loser.  At Dominion Valley, the land already provided a lot of that drama -- we didn’t have to move much dirt because the general roll of the land made the excitement.  We just carved it up a little bit with features,” Larsen added.

As alluded to above, the front side makes its way through the residential community on what formerly was relatively flat, somewhat featureless pastoral land.  This is where the nursery trees went, and if you didn’t know the course was only a decade old, you’d never guess that was the case.

Larsen said another way he created the course’s stimulating looks was in the bunkering:  “We put in some real big bunkers out there because it’s wide open and needs to have the scale of a big, dramatic feature like that.  We made that a consistent character trait throughout the golf course.”

He’s not kidding.  Perhaps the only thing more striking than Dominion Valley’s aged appearance is the size and prevalence of sand.  The bunkering is big and bold all right.  It does its job, guiding you through the layout, and away from the houses.

True to form, the course plays like a Palmer creation.  The King’s design philosophy focuses on creating beautiful, playable, traditional layouts without gimmicks – that will challenge the best players from the back (Gold, or Palmer) tees, but will also allow players of all skill levels to move forward and enjoy the experience.  This thinking is certainly represented well in Dominion Valley’s layout.

Mason Jobin, Dominion Valley’s Head Golf Professional, elaborates:  “The thing I like most about our golf course is the way the Palmer group was able to incorporate challenging elements for the better players, yet make the layout playable enough for just about anyone.  It’s fairly generous off the tee, so it gives you a lot of space to find your golf ball – there’s a ton of bentgrass on this course, as far as the fairways are concerned.”

“But at the same time, the fact that a lot of imagination went into the greens makes it a second shot golf course for those looking for a challenge.  There’s a lot of sand out there, especially around the greens.  There are some really big bunkers, and the greens aren’t your traditional round shapes – there’re some kidney bean shapes, and kind of diagonal putting surfaces where you can find some very un-accessible pin positions,” Jobin added.

The back sets of tees will have to carry this lake off the tee of the par five 5th hole, but the forward sets get to move to the other side.

Yet another benefit from Dominion Valley’s ‘maturity’ is its conditioning.  They had the firmest and fastest fairways we saw all season – unusual for any course, but especially unexpected from a course so new.


Jobin says the conditioning excellence extends to the putting surfaces:  “We’ve got the greens at a very fun speed right now.  They’re at a point where we could get ‘em really quick, but we’re going to take it slow, to give them even more time to mature.  It’s another bit of flexibility we enjoy.”


Flexibility all around, as the championship layout was joined by an executive course (also designed by Palmer) just across the way in the Regency development, which is an active adult community.  Jobin said, together, there are 2800 homes on the two golf courses (note:  a separate membership will be sold for the Regency course).  If you like the sights and sounds of the golf course lifestyle, Dominion Valley might be a good place to look.


Hole highlights include the sixth hole, a 200 yard par three playing slightly downhill, with water on the left and a bunker to the right.  The day we visited it was also very much downwind and played very short – which was a good thing, since the green slopes right to left – towards the water.

Dominion Valley's big, bold bunkering is amply demonstrated by the green of the par five 16th hole.


The front nine offers three par threes, three par fours and three par fives – which is a very pleasing configuration.  With the generous amount of roll in the fairways, a couple of the par fives seemed reachable for long-hitters, and there aren’t any of those 450+ par fours that you dread on most courses (the longest measures 429 from the back tees, number eight).


The ninth hole is probably the one you’ll remember most from Dominion Valley – this island green par three (165 yards) is hard to forget.


On the back nine, the twelfth hole is probably the most difficult hole on the golf course.  440 yards in length, your tee shot’s to a very wide landing area – but the second shot’s got all the drama.  Jobin says, “Number twelve is the only hole we have without a bunker – but the downhill second shot is very challenging, because the landing area is pretty small.  And if you miss left, you’re wet.” Indeed.


A beautiful, fitting conclusion to a round at Dominion Valley. The par four 18th hole will make you earn a final score, but you'll have fun doing it.

The course concludes with another Arnie classic finishing hole.  445 yards of Dominion Valley lies between you and the green – and the second shot, again, requires steely nerves, because you’ll need to fly two hazards that crisscross the fairway, and the green seems to shift away from you.


Just because the golf’s done doesn’t mean the outing is complete – Dominion Valley offers many club amenities to round out the day.  Jobin describes the full picture:  “The Sports Pavilion has a gymnasium, a weight room, a fitness room, daycare, office space, a golf shop and a grill – along with your typical golf club features, such as bag storage and club repair.”


“The clubhouse, offers locker rooms, meeting rooms and a restaurant.  We want our members and their guests to feel like they’re getting everything they’re putting their money towards, in terms of amenities, service, accessibility of the golf course, and the excellent conditioning of it,” Jobin said.


That shouldn’t be a problem.  Dominion Valley is still pretty 'new' in the temporal sense, but seems like it's been there quite a long time. Not a bad thing, in this case, since they won’t have to push this particular youth towards growing up before its time.


Dominion Valley Country Club
5300 Merchants View Square
Haymarket, VA 20169

Phone: (571) 261-4101


Course Architect: Arnold Palmer
Palmer's Project Architect:  Erik Larsen
Head Golf Professional:  Mason Jobin

Tees Yardage  (Ratings and Slope not available at press time)
Gold 7100
Blue 6580
White 6077
Red 5261


Membership inquiries:






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