MANASSAS, VA - One week ago, TravelGolf.com Senior Editor Shane Sharp reported in his weekly column that the NFL's most sought after commodity, ex-University of Florida Head Coach Steve Spurrier, was almost certainly headed to Charlotte to coach the pathetic Carolina Panthers. Sharp said it was close to a done deal-and the feather that'd tip the scales was the vast quantity of quality golf Coach Spurrier would have access to in the Carolinas.
Spurrier's known for a couple things-incredibly exciting offensive football, and a serious addiction to his golf game. On first glance, you'd think Charlotte would've been a good match for Spurrier-carte blanche to reform a horrible football team in his own image, a friendly year-round golf season, and all those golf courses within easy reach to squeeze in a round between two-a-days in July.
Those of us up north in the Washington DC region knew better, however-and our instincts proved correct when Spurrier was tagged as Head Coach for the Washington Redskins instead. Some (including Sharp) would say Spurrier signed in Washington because he screamed "Show me the money!!" in Dan Snyder's ear, and the owner robotically reached for his checkbook, to do just that. And it is true that Snyder will need to sell-out FedEx Field many times over to pay a portion of Spurrier's $25 million salary.
Spurrier's now the NFL's highest paid coach-not bad for a guy who's never overseen a down in the league. But I'd say Spurrier came to Washington because of golf. That's right, he was lured by the prospect of playing some of the country's best kept secrets-golf in the nation's capital region. If this weren't the case, then why would an offensive minded coach sign with a team with no proven quarterback on the roster for next season?
Let's look at the facts. Coach Spurrier will be spending the bulk of his time preparing his team for the next week's game, and he'll require quick access to some golf courses near Redskins Park, located adjacent to Dulles Airport in Ashburn. For stargazers, these golf courses may just be the best way to catch a glimpse of the area's newest celebrity.
That's because the coach will find several of Northern Virginia's finest layouts just a hop, skip n' a jump away from the practice field. Lansdowne Resort features a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course (the only one of its kind in Virginia)-which certainly has one of the finest stretches of holes on its back nine that you'll find anywhere-and it's a mere five minutes from Redskins Park.
A few minutes farther out on the north side of Leesburg is Raspberry Falls, the award winning Gary Player course that sheds allusions to the old country with stone walls, stacked sod bunkers and a links-style feel. It's consistently rates high with locals-not only for the quality of the layout, but because of its rural surroundings. In other words, a great place to get away from nosy reporters for a few hours.
If the coach heads south on Rt. 28, then moves west on Rt. 50, there's Pleasant Valley Golf Club and South Riding Golf Club close by-two pretty fine Golfmatrix managed properties. A little further south just off of Rt. 28 is Westfields Golf Club, Fred Couples and Gene Bates' outstanding parkland layout in the upscale Clifton neighborhood of Balmoral.
Other outstanding courses within an easy drive of Redskins Park include Bull Run Country Club, the Rick Jacobsen design featuring wide landing areas and scenic views of the Bull Run Mountains-and Stonewall Golf Club (pictured), just down the road in Gainesville, next to the legendary Robert Trent Jones Golf Club along the shores of Lake Manassas.
All of the aforementioned (except RTJ) are public layouts, just in case Snyder didn't include a membership to RTJ, Congressional Golf Club or the TPC at Avenel amongst the perks in Spurrier's deal. They also represent Northern Virginia's best chances to lure the coach to the links for a respite from the film room.
If the coach wants to hide out in Maryland, there are several more excellent courses within an hour's drive from Ashburn. Heading up towards Frederick is the little town of Ijamsville, home to three of the area's finest in PB Dye Golf Club, Whiskey Creek and Worthington Manor (actually in Urbana, just across I-270) from Ijamsville.
Game day at FedEx Field will no doubt be a special time for Coach Spurrier. And lucky for him, there are several more excellent golf courses within a few minutes of the stadium, in case he wants to duck out after a particularly embarrassing first half!
Renditions Golf Club will open in April, so it'll be practically seasoned by the time September's NFL opener rolls around-and it's just a few miles down the road from the stadium, as is Atlantic Golf's South River course. South River's a good place to blow off some steam for the better golfer (which describes Spurrier, a single digit handicapper), as he'll be tested by numerous forced carries and other challenging elements. Deciphering a defense is considered easier.
Also within easy driving distance of the stadium are Atlantic Golf's other courses, Queenstown Harbor (River and Lakes courses) and Potomac Ridge, which is opening up a third nine this year.
In other words, Spurrier's forte' is to throw the ball, but he'll have many chances to throw clubs (he does have a temperament!) in his own backyard.
There're also a plethora of opportunities to get away for a golf day trip in the region-with several more outstanding courses within an hour and a half of Redskins Park. To the south, there's the Fredericksburg area, highlighted by another Rick Jacobsen track, Augustine Golf Club. If the coach really wants some solitude, I'd suggest The Gauntlet or perhaps Meadows Farms, which are several football fields removed from the beaten path.
To the west, heading towards West Virginia, there's Stoneleigh Golf Club and Virginia National, both within an hour of Ashburn, but feel like they're in the middle of a beautiful, scenic, natural world, far removed from crowds.
To the far north (past Baltimore, in fact), there're several award winning courses around Aberdeen, Maryland, headlined by Bulle Rock. If Coach Spurrier wants to compare notes with another notoriously offensive minded coach, Brian Billick, they can meet up in these parts to have a chat while testing some offensive theories on the golf course.
Needless to say, Coach Spurrier will find all he wants in the golf sense in Washington, DC and the surrounding area-and if the region's courses aren't enough, there're always three major airports nearby - more than capable of jetting him to where he'll find more, including down that lonely tobacco road down there in 'Carolina.
So don't weep, Shane. You were partially right-Spurrier would sign for golf; but unfortunately, your prediction was just a few hundred miles off.
January 17, 2002