Nestled among the trees in a plush neighborhood just west of Richmond, Virginia lies the Kinloch Golf Club. It's number 53 on the Golf Digest Top 100 courses for 2017-2018 and became the second course in my quest to play all 100 courses on the list within the next twelve months. The neighborhood is not gated, but the entrance to Kinloch is. I dialed the access code, provided my name and the gates opened. I was now at Kinloch. As I drove through the gates, I was struck by the expansive nature of the facilities. There were numerous practice areas for the short game, bunker shots, full shots, and putting greens. There was no concern about space. The beauty of the grounds just grabs you and puts you in a peaceful mindset.
As I drove along roadway that led to the club house, I couldn’t help but think back to something that the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry once said to me in 1979 as I was driving him from National Airport in Washington, DC, to the Country Club of Fairfax for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Pro-Am. As we drove through the lush green rolling hills and tree line roads of Northern Virginia, Tom remarked, “This is really beautiful country, I can’t believe God didn’t put this in Texas!” Such could be said for the expansive beauty of the Kinloch Golf Club.
Once you pass through the gates, it’s all golf. While the facility is tucked into a neighborhood, it is separate from the neighborhood in that there are no houses visible from within the facility. In every direction, you look, there are trees, tee boxes, fairways, greens, bunkers, water, and the rough. All combined to present a challenging but playable golf experience.
As I approached the club house, I was greeted by an attendant. I asked where I should park. I was told that the car would be parked for me and that my clubs would be waiting for me at the driving range with my caddie, Brian. I was then directed to the entrance of the club house and given directions to the gentlemen’s locker room. The locker room was just as expansive as the golf facility itself. It included a bar and area for dining. Despite the earliness of the day, I was offered an adult beverage to get me ready for my round. I politely declined. What I did need, was to have the dust of the walk on the municipal course that I had played in Washington, DC, cleaned from my shoes. On the day before my round at Kinloch, I played golf at the East Potomac Park Blue Course. The facility that I had just gotten a glimpse of was certainly no municipal golf course. Resources did not seem to be an issue. This was a well maintained facility.
The locker room attendant, who had offered me a drink, was more than happy to clean the dust from my golf shoes for me. Once they were cleaned, and on, I headed for the driving range. Brian was waiting there for me with my clubs. There were surprisingly very few members present, which made the facility look even larger. Brain and I introduced ourselves to each other. He is entering his senior year at Virginia Tech with a major in systems and information technology. Brian is a native of Richmond, but as we walked the course, I learned that his parents have a home on Kiawah Island in South Carolina, just off the coast of Charleston. We also have a vacation home there, so this gave us much to talk about between shots.
After a solid warm up and a couple of putts, which confirmed as I had suspected, that the greens rolled true, we headed for the first tee. I chose to play the blue tees which measured 6400 yards. I thought this distant would provide a sufficient challenge while still allowing me to enjoy such a beautiful course.
The first hole on the Kinloch Golf Course is a 385 yard par 4. Brian advised me to aim down the left side of the fairway, which I did, but apparently not enough. The ball landed on the left center of the fairway, but rolled just off the fairway into the rough on the right, but only 135 yards from the pin. But this proved problematic as the rough grabbed the club face and kept it open during my swing. My ball stayed right and missed the green by a couple of feet. I still felt good about the shot since I was pin high. I figured I could still make par with a chip and a putt. I figured wrong! My chip rolled pass the hole, leaving me a 12 foot down hill putt. I missed my come back putt and settled for a first hole bogey.
The second hole is a 340 yard par 4 with a split fairway with a couple of bunkers surrounded by rough, dividing the fairways. I chose to take a three wood down the right fairway. This left me with a 100 yard approach shot. A sand wedge to the green and three putts later, I’d recorded my second bogey of the day.
My first par of the day came on the 525 yard par 5 third hole. A drive to the left side of the fairway followed by a five iron to just short of the pond that guards the green and makes you think twice about going for the green in two. I hit my lob wedge to about 15 feet and promptly two putted for my par.
The fourth hole is a study in course management. Its a short par 4, 310 yards with another split fairway, but with a creek running between the fairways. I aimed for the left fairway, but faded my three wood too much (more commonly called a slice) and ended up on the bank of the left fairway just above the creek. I was a 110 yards out with the ball above my feet. I managed to hit my pitching wedge onto the green and two putted for my second par.
The fifth hole is a 165 yard par 3. I faded by tee shot into the right front bunker. A sand shot and two putts later, I was back on the bogey train. The sixth hole is one of the most beautiful holes on the course. It’s also the toughest hole on the course even though it only plays 365 yards. It has all of the elements that make Kinloch a beautiful and challenging course. There is water, an undulated fairway, trees, and an uphill green. Brian advised me to hit a 200 yard shot down the left side of the fairway. Also along the left side of the fairway was a cluster of trees. I pushed my tee shot with my three hybrid into those very trees. We managed to find my ball but I had no shot and just pitched my ball back into the fairway leaving me a 120 yard uphill shot over the creek to the green. The operative word here being over the creek, not in the creek. Yes you guessed it, I went in the creek. But no worries, up steps that second golfer in me, who hit my fifth shot onto the green, 10 feet from the pin. A nice read by Brian led to a one putt and my first double bogey.
I bogeyed the par 3 7th hole and found the 8th hole to be more of a challenge than I could handle. It is a 407 yard dogleg left that gets even longer when you fade the ball. I was short of the green on my approach shot, pitched onto the green and promptly three putted for my second double bogey.
The final hole on the front nine befuddled me for a moment. It has a lot of stuff going on. It’s another split fairway, I chose to hit my ball to the left fairway. My ball chose the left rough of the right fairway. I was just happy that it didn’t choose the creek that bisected the left and right fairways. The befuddlement didn’t stop after the tee shot. Where to lay up was also befuddling. Luckily I had Brian there to guide me. I hit my layup to about 150 yards, then flushed a seven iron onto the green. I two putted for my par to close the front nine out with a 44.
The distance between the 9th green and the 10th tee box is too much of a walk to handle on what started as a warm morning, but turned into an absolute hot morning. Now this is something from Texas that I couldn’t believe God did put in Virginia – this sweltering heat.
We made the trek from the 9th green to the 10th tee box via golf cart with a stop at the turn house for some much needed Gatorade and a banana. However, the Gatorade didn’t help on by next tee shot. I chose to use by driver as a 5 iron, popping up my tee shot 170 yards, fortunately over the creek between the fairway and the tee box into the middle of the fairway, but 245 yards from the green on this 415 yard par four. I informed Brian that I was going to hit my driver off the deck since I had not yet hit a drive on the hole(I may have hit my driver, but I don't think a 170 shot counts as a "drive"). Brian informed me that there was a second creek on the hole between the end of the fairway and the green. The shot to the green was a blind shot as the fairway ran up and then back down to the green. Undaunted, I addressed the ball and gave it a go. It was hit well, but I didn’t think well enough. I looked at Brian and asked whether he thought I landed in the creek. He said "Nope, that one is probably on the green." As we got closer to the hole, we could see the ball on the front of the green. If you look close in the photograph below, you will see my ball on the front of the green. From there I putted close enough to tap in for my par and a nice start to the back nine.
The 11th hole is a 500 yard par 5 with yet another creek dividing the fairway into two sections. Brian and I were both beaming with confidence after that driver off the deck shot on 10. He instructed me to hit my shot down the left side of the fairway, and that if I could hit it 260 to 265 yards, I’d be in the go zone for going for the green in two. I did exactly as he instructed and it what was probably my best drive of the day, right on the line he had suggested. My second shot was a three wood that missed the green to the right. I chip onto the green and I recorded my second par for the back nine.
After a bogey on the 12th hole, we approached the second of the two par 5’s on the back nine. Another strong drive down the left side of the fairway on the 13th hole, left me about 270 yards out from the green. As we approached the ball, I asked Brian for his suggestion on my second shot. Without hesitation, he said “driver off the deck.” I was happy to oblige. It was another well struck ball. Again Brian stated that I’d probably be on the green. This time he was wrong by about 15 feet. With a tight lie in front of the green, I used that good ole Texas wedge to get the ball onto the green, but still two putted for my third par on the back nine.
Hole 14 presented me with my best shot at a birdie. This is the easiest hole on the course. Playing 130 yards I hit my pitching wedge to a front pin location in attempt to leave the ball below the hole, I actually ended up three feet above the hole on the right side on the pin. Unfortunately, I hit the putt too hard and missed the birdie putt, but did make my par.
As we approached the easiest par 4 on the course, hole number 15, Brian had apparently gained a lot of confidence in my game. This hole was a risk and reward hole. If you drive the ball over the fescue between a single tree on the right and a cluster of trees on the left, you could possibly drive the green. The conventional way to play the hole is the hit to the generous fairway on the right with a hybrid and then hit a short iron to the green. Brian’s confidence in my game proved to not be warranted on this hole as I hit a very low drive that didn’t clear the fescue. I bogeyed the hole.
Holes 16, 17, and 18 are three of the most beautiful successive holes that I've seen on any golf course in the country. The 16th hole is the second hardest hole on the course. Even with an excellent tee shot, the best I could muster was a bogey. I also bogeyed the par 3 17th hole.
As we approached the 18th hole, I just stood there for a moment to take in its beauty. There was a manicured green fairway lined by trees on the right and water on the left that had to be carried on the tee shot. A longer than desired drive went through the fairway and into one of the two bunkers lining the right side of the fairway. Fortunately, I was far enough back in the bunker to clear the lip of the bunker with a 9 iron to cover the remaining 130 yards to the flag. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick the ball clean and only advanced it 100 yards. I then pitched onto the green and two putted for a bogey, giving me a back nine score of 41 and an 85 for the round.
Now it was time for the watering hole. Now you know I don’t drink, so I’m not referring to the 19th hole that you would find at most golf clubs. At Kinloch, the 19th hole is an actual hole. It’s a par 3 with about a 140 carry over the lake. This hole allows golfers in a match, an opportunity to settle the match with one extra hole. For me, I played for it for fun. The hole was playing 150 yards, I hit a seven iron that hooked and landed in the bunker on the left front of the green. This prevented the ball from rolling back into the lake. Two sand shots and two putts later, my golf experience at Kinloch was over. And what a wonderful experience it was. This is a magnificent course in a gorgeous setting. My thanks to Jack Snyder, the Pro at my club in Charlottesville, Virginia for setting it up for me and my thanks to Kinloch’s staff for hosting and making it such a spectacular experience. I should note that when it was time to leave, my car was waiting with the air conditioning on and the inside already cool and comfortable. That’s service!
Next up I play Flint Hills, Prairie Dune, and Valhalla during the week of June 19th before heading to Ireland with the family for a summer vacation.