To hear the name Bull Run in Northern Virginia conjures up images of times long past when men in blue and gray took weapons in hand to fight the war for secession in the South. Today, however, the name Bull Run Country Club in Northern Virginia represents the old and the new in golf.
Bull Run CC, which opened in April of 1999, presents a new challenge on an old fashioned traditional layout that will please the new player as well as the seasoned golf veteran.
Laying in the foothills of the Bull Run mountains, approximately 45 minutes from downtown Washington D.C. and a mere few miles from the historic battlegrounds bearing the same name, Bull Run Country Club features a Rick Jacobsen-previously of Nicklaus Design Associates-design that winds through hardwood forests, over rich former farmland, and across some deep ravines.
Jacobsen, like he did with his other notable Northern Virginia design, Augustine-has set out to create a layout that incorporates nicely the natural contour of the land, while strategically molding the elements of golf course design to come together into one of the area's premier courses.
The finished product does not disappoint. Jim Devine, the club's Director of Golf and General Manager, commented "I think the strength of this course is its playability. It's a course where you can come out and be challenged without being beat up. The fairways are wide, but the course still forces you to hit good golf shots to score well."
The course's playability and rural setting contributes to its old style feel. In an age when many new courses have houses or condominiums bordering the fairways and greens, Bull Run currently has none (an upscale housing community is in the works, but the rural quality of the course will be well preserved). There are numerous opportunities for the player seeking solitude to find it here.
The fifth hole, a 387-yard par four, is at the farthest point from the clubhouse-and if one is not careful-you can lose yourself in the serenity of the silence. The golf's pretty good too. The hole features a reasonable carry over a waste area to a generous fairway, flanked by bunkers on both sides and woods to the extremes. The second shot is uphill to a severely undulating green, protected by a bunker to the front and right.
Jacobsen effectively uses the rolling nature of the ground to provide just about every conceivable shot possible-from a man-sized forced carry over a gorse filled ravine off the tee of the signature fourth hole-to a downhill, potentially driveable par four eighth hole. The tee shot at the ninth (the #1 handicap hole) makes the players carry a good portion of a lake, but the landing area is generous once it's cleared. You get the impression throughout the course that the hazards look more daunting than they are-and that's a clear indicator of an enjoyable golf experience.
The layout allows you to build up some confidence without being crushed by the golf gods. In addition, Jacobsen has incorporated generous landing areas fronting the putting surfaces on most holes, which will give players the option of running the ball onto the greens.
Because of the five sets of tees, the magnitude of the challenge is apportioned according to ability. The yardages range from 7,009 from the back tees to 5,069 for the ladies. Advanced players must execute well thought out tee shots to give themselves the best angle to the medium sized, mildly undulating greens. Jacobsen on most holes has provided for adequate bunkering, making sure that misses will be punished-but not too severely. You won't find any 10-foot high bunkers here. Once again, a fair test of golf.
There are also the risk-rewards characteristic of today's preeminent course layouts. Perhaps the best example of the concept that I've ever seen is embodied in the 18th hole, a 583 yard par five from the back tees that features a downhill tee shot to a welcoming landing area.
The second shot presents all the challenge, as one must decide whether to hit a long iron or a fairway wood over a lake into a well bunkered green, or to lay up over the same lake onto a safe landing area with a medium iron. To add to the complexity of the hole, a large oak sits right in the middle of the shorter landing area-and must be avoided to have a clear third shot to the green.
Mark Bryson, the head pro adds, "the eighteenth is a great example of a hole you either love or hate. Some players don't like the fact that they may even have to lay up short of the lake on their second, but in total, the hole presents quite a fair challenge."
It's a great ending to a truly terrific golf experience. A superb layout that won't beat you up, but will leave a feeling of satisfaction with every par marked on the card. The service is also worthy of a fine club-and the carts are equipped with the GPS system-so you never have to wonder how far it is to carry the lakes. There are no blind shots, and you can see the flag from virtually every tee. No excuses on this course.
After the round, you can make a trip up to the brand new clubhouse (opening in late September or October) which features all the latest and best in golf equipment and apparel, a men's and ladies' locker room, and corporate conference facilities.
You can join your partners for a cold one on the patio overlooking the 18th green-or take in the Redskins' game in the Stonewall Jackson lounge. One gets the sense that the soldiers would have felt fortunate to fight for such a privilege.
Practice Fac.: A
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: A
Pace of Play: B+
Overall Rating: A