The leaves have long since hit the ground.
Snow hasn't fallen for a month, but its' frozen remnants continues to blanket Virginia's golf courses-keeping them closed. Seeing the golferless links is sad indeed-it's like a stadium without fans; a stage without a band; or a shopping mall on a national holiday. Something's clearly missing.
It's January, and golfers in the region definitely have the blahs. And the itch for golf that hits every year about this time is hankering to be scratched. I find myself observing a constant vigil in front of the TV-scanning the local news channels in search of liberating weather intelligence-a warm front that will increase temperatures to somewhere around 50 degrees. Sweater weather would seem like paradise right now.
Sunbelt state dwellers probably snicker at us as news of another wave of cold slush heads across the northern part of the country. In these sunny places, all people are concerned with is whether they'll need a wrap at sunset. They don't know how fortunate they are.
But fear not, cold weather sufferers. The passage of each day brings us one step closer to Spring. Spring presents the opportunity for another season outdoors partaking in our favorite pastime-golf. But while staring out at the window at a snowy landscape, it seems like an eternity separates us from the time when the leaves will once again populate the trees and mercury climbs up the thermometer.
In the meantime, there are a few activities to keep us distracted while our sticks gather dust in the basement. A president is about to be inaugurated, and the region buzzes with the anticipation of a changing of the guard-both for people welcoming the new leader, and those protesting the controversial way he was elected.
And there are always the attractions that silently offer themselves year-round, in any kind of weather. Those of the historic site variety.
In addition to being a golf enthusiast, I'm a serious history buff. A native Southern Californian, I purposely chose relocation to Northern Virginia in order to live closer to those places whose significance lies in chronological dates and the people who once lived there-or fought there. Winter's a great time to revisit the past while you're longing for the future. Historical sites provide the opportunity to get away from the TV weather channels, spend a few shivering minutes in the great outdoors and to contemplate what makes us who we are today.
With almost 400 years of recorded history (European settlement, that is-for our Native American friends), Virginia has plenty to offer in historical significance. Time, spatial concerns, and your attention span compel me to list only a few sites that stand out as my favorites. And part of the beauty of all these places is their proximity to outstanding warmer weather activities-namely golf courses!
As noted in my review of the Golden Horseshoe Resort, Colonial Williamsburg reenacts history year round. Because the folks there live in the past-they recreate the old days through snow, sleet or rain notwithstanding. Visitors are told by costumed interpreters that it used to get cold in 1776, too-it's all part of the experience! It's also a fantastic time of year to visit the historic town, when excellent package deals are plentiful and crowds are sparse. If you can put up with squeezing through the narrow doors (the Colonists must have been thinner as well as more hearty) with a heavy coat on, winter's a good time to try a trip to Virginia's Colonial Capital.
And the great golf's still available too, even in winter. Colonial Williamsburg in a typical year receives far less frozen precipitation than even us US Capital region inhabitants-just a hundred or so miles to the north. And what they do get melts faster. The same charm exists at the area golf courses whatever the temperature, and you'll save quite a lot on greens fees and accommodations if you should decide to give it a whirl.
Farther to the west is Charlottesville, hometown of the University of Virginia and the earthly habitation center for arguably the greatest American mind, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson chose the site for his future home as a child, and then designed and oversaw construction of the entire estate himself. Monticello is perched at the summit of a sizeable hill that overlooks the town and the college that he founded.
Winter's a good time to visit Jefferson's home for the same reasons as for going to Colonial Williamsburg-mainly access and cost. While you won't save money on the price of a ticket to the tour the mansion and grounds (which is only $11 as it is), there will be plenty of room at the neighboring hotels waiting with the light on--and you won't have to wait several hours for a tour of the house.
Further, you can combine a visit to Monticello with a day trip up to nearby Wintergreen Resort-for perhaps a little ski and golf combination. Spend the morning skiing at the summit, then head down the mountain to play a round at the resort's year-round 27-hole golf course, Stoney Creek. There's 3,000 feet of elevation difference between ski slope and green, with temperature changes to match. Wintergreen actively promotes itself as a year-round resort golf destination-and at this time of year (on warmer days), you easily can ski and golf on the same day.
Heading farther north, you'll find many of the most significant battlegrounds of the War Between the States in and around the town of Fredericksburg. This beautiful historic town was the halfway point between the Federal and Confederate capitals in the Civil War. It doesn't take a genius or a military strategist to tell you that the town would be a valuable place to possess if you want to win the war. And so the armies fiercely fought over it-for the better part of two years and three fighting campaigns.
Four major battles occurred within a 20-mile radius of the town, combining to spill the blood of 110,000 men. The battles: Fredericksburg, taking place in December, 1862; Chancellorsville in early May, 1863; the Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864 and Spottsylvania Court House a week later. Visits to the respective fields should probably begin at the Park Service's visitor's center in the town of Fredericksburg, though there's a second visitor's center near the Chancellorsville battlefield to the west.
There's great golf in the region, too-with Lee's Hill Golf Club just south of Fredericksburg and The Gauntlet and Augustine Golf Club just to the north and Meadow's Farms and Somerset to the west. A thorough study of the battlefields can take several days (if not weeks), but a nice brief visit can easily be combined with a round of golf (weather permitting!) at any of the aforementioned courses.
Finally, in the DC metro region there're the Manassas (Bull Run) Battlefields, about 30 minutes west of the nation's capital-where two battles 13 months apart were fought over the same ground. There you'll find the statue of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson staring eternally into the west at the top of Henry House Hill. Makes for some spectacular sunsets.
Nearby, great golf can be found at Bull Run Country Club, Westfields Golf Club, Bristow Manor, Virginia Oaks and farther to the North at Raspberry Falls outside the quaint historic town of Leesburg. Within an hour's drive are several more excellent tracks, including Lansdowne Resort and Stoneleigh Golf Club, amongst others.
All we need is a little sunshine provided by Mother Nature, and an absence of snow-and we'll be golfing again. In the meantime, I think I'll take in some of the historic sites that are in my own back yard.
Soon it'll be spring, and the January blahs will be just a memory.
Information on Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and the respective battle parks can be found at:
Colonial Williamsburg: http://www.history.org
Thomas Jefferson and Monticello: www.monticello.org
Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park: www.nps.gov/frsp/
Manassas National Battlefield Park: www.nps.gov/mana/