Whether you’re a world traveler with your clubs in tow, or a lifelong Virginian local looking for new spots to test your swing, you’ll find that the people of Old Dominion state know golf almost as well as they know hospitality, and will not disappoint.
As is common in many places, some of the best spots to golf do cater mostly to their club members. But the good news is that some of Virginia’s killer municipal courses rate among the nicest public courses available in the U.S. After perusing this list of Virginia’s best spots to play (both public and private), you will understand why Virginia is one of the country’s favorite golf destinations.
1. Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia
Rated the number one course in Virginia, and among the top 100 courses nationally by both Golf Digest and Golf Week, Kinloch is everything you would expect from its accolades. A relatively new course (opened in 2001), Kinloch is not necessarily well-known outside of Virginia, but has been working its way up in the eyes of those who pay attention.
Distinctive features include immaculate grass that stays that way by being a walking-only course (with an expert caddy program, of course), as well as its signature finishing hole with a dramatic lake view.
2. Cascades Golf Course in Hot Springs, Virginia
The Homestead Resort in the Alleghany mountains is the idyllic setting of this top-rated public course. The resort has two other courses, the Old Course and the Lower Cascades, making Homestead a dynamic and varied spot for a golf trip (J.P. Morgan was once a frequent guest).
The Cascades course, built in 1923, is the jewel of the three. Rated among the top 100 public courses in the U.S., Cascades promises southern rural charm and a common theme across its 18 holes of difficult slopes and blind lies. Do you want a challenge? You’ll love the second hole, nicknamed “The Dip.”
3. Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia
After reading the name you won’t be surprised that the famed Robert Trent Jones designed this world-class course. Its convenient location in relation to Washington D.C. (only about 30 miles away) makes this course a frequent host to powerful men and women. In fact, the RTJ Club, as it’s sometimes called, hosted the very first annual President’s Cup in 1994, and has since hosted it three more times in 1996, 2000 and 2005.
Its “aesthetically perfect” terrain, according to the designer, includes several water features, but only one over-the-water shot on the eleventh hole. With a 65,000-square-foot clubhouse, built in the style of a red brick Georgian mansion, members can relax or wheel and deal in impressive luxury.
4. The Highland Course in Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Set in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains, the Highland Course is the gem of the opulent Primland Resort. With a rating of 75.1 strokes, and a 150-slope measurement, you can be sure of a challenge when you golf this distinctive course.
Offering memberships as well as golfing packages to the public, this inclusive but challenging course designed by Donald Steel boasts fast greens due to its use of bent and fescue grasses. Award-winning accommodations, spa and dining options make this a great place for a buddy’s golf trip.
5. The Olde Farm in Bristol, Virginia
This links-style course set in Virginia farmland was designed by Bobby Weed and has been the recipient of dozens of “best of” awards from places like Golf Digest, Golf Week and more. As a club, the Olde Farm is positively impressive.
An onsite winery, garden, culinary greenhouse and honeybee operation, combined with lavish clubhouse, cottages and even facilities, make this one of the most expansive private clubs in the state. Although the setting is traditional, this challenging course features a modern design with bent grass greens, and a 74.5 championship rating.
— C. Pedroja