I finished up my first round much quicker than expected and headed to find a sandwich. I drove through a couple sketchy looking parts of town before finding what I wanted (a sub from Harris Teeter). I don’t think their subs are as good as Publix, but I still find them tasty!
While eating I searched around for nearby golf courses and reviewed the online tee sheets that I could find. Ideally, I wanted to take U.S. Route 460 back home and was looking for my afternoon round to be south of the James River. Sleepy Hole was a course that I had seen before, and it looked convenient to where I wanted to play, so I gave them a call. I was told that they weren’t busy and to come on over.
I have no idea why it was so quiet because once the sun started shining it never stopped! It turned out to be mid 50’s and as nice a day for golf as you’ll get in the winter here. When I checked in the proshop told me that a group was going off the 1st tee and that I could play the back nine first if I wanted. I took him up on his offer and then played the front nine later on. This worked great as I cruised around again in 2.5 hours and never had to wait on a shot!
Before heading out, the proshop told me that the design consisted of an inner loop, the front nine, and an outer loop, the back nine. Both have their advantages and disadvantages! I played the Blue tees which are 72.3/133/6570 and the front nine is shorter. It has two 145 yard par 3’s and two reachable par 5’s so you have the chance to make some birdies. Sadly, a shoved five footer that didn’t hit the hole was as close as I came to birdie on any of these holes! Because the front is the inner loop, every hole except the par 3’s are doglegs so you’ll need to think your way around. The back nine is more about power as two par 4’s are 443 yards and a par 5 is over 550 yards. Generally speaking, the holes on the back are straighter.
From the Blue tees I found the green complexes and the positioning to be the biggest difficulties at Sleepy Hole! The greens here are small and have plenty of little tongues which require an almost perfect iron shot for a makeable birdie putt. I’m a high ball hitter and wasn’t quite sure how to attack some of the pins I faced. The greens are elevated ever so slightly which made chipping difficult. Plus, I didn’t get many good bounces around the edges of the green complexes. There are tiers and ridges to further complicate putting once you get on the greens. They aren’t my ideal complexes to play around, but if the course was playing shorter it would have more manageable.
The other item of concern at Sleepy Hole is how many trees your golf ball is going to rattle around in before the end of the day! I’d classify the design as a “modern parkland” style where about half the holes have tree trouble. There are trees off the tee, trees affecting approaches, and trees lining the fairways on these holes. Even if you end up in certain fairways you still may have to carve one into a green. Working the ball both ways is almost a necessity if you play here. At times it felt that there was only one way to play the course, exactly as the designer (Russell Breeden) intended.
The conditions were good for this time of year, especially for the $29 that I paid. As seen in the pictures, the course is mostly bermuda grass and has gone dormant because of the cold weather. I don’t know about everyone else, but I get sad seeing all of the brown grass! Plus the dormant fairways makes it so tough to clip the ball cleanly, especially around the greens. It was on the damp side too, but the conditions that the staff could control made it a good value, at least based on my first time playing here. All the grass was pretty full, just some thinner spots in wooded areas, mostly on the front nine. The greens were quick and smooth, definitely the best part of the maintenance!
I’m torn when it comes to my overall opinion of Sleepy Hole. The layout felt a tad cramped and I’d be worried about getting beaned on a busy day. The course is bordered by a housing community on one side, a road on another, and has to make a couple sharp turns to avoid Sleepy Hole Park. That left two sharp doglegs (the 6th and the 17th) which turn almost ninety degrees and a set of tee boxes which plays over the only road to the clubhouse (on the 10th). This seems like a classic case of a golf course being fit onto the property and handcuffing the designer.
On the other hand, I think the course offers local golfers a place to test their game, and it has some very good holes. Collectively, the the par 3’s are best holes on the course. They give you a chance to shape your irons and a couple of the greens are framed wonderfully by trees in the background. I found some pictures online of these par 3’s (the 7th and 16th) when the trees have leaves, and they have a great look! However, the main reason that you’ll want to stop and play here is the 18th hole! It is a 443 yard par 4 that plays slightly downhill to a green that sits along the Nansemond River! The drive is semi-blind and needs to avoid a marsh to the left before the approach plays over a tongue of marsh short of the green. The Nansemond River eagerly awaits to swallow approaches left of the green. I’m not going to say that it is the most playable hole as I’m not a fan of a carry to the green on the longest par 4 on a course. Plus, the right greenside bunker is just an annoyance to the average golfer if they do happen to clear the marsh. But, it is a special closing hole because of its location on the river and makes Sleepy Hole worth a play!
In the end I’d say that Sleepy Hole is a solid mid-level course in southeast Virginia. If you are in town visiting family and looking to play without breaking the bank, I say go ahead and check it out. The course just has it’s “quirks”, like many of us golfers! I’ll say again that the staff was fantastic and added to the experience.
#1 (371 yard par 4):
#2 (492 yard par 5):
#3 (385 yard par 4):
#4 (145 yard par 3):
#5 (512 yard par 5):
#6 (360 yard par 4):
#7 (145 yard par 3):
#8 (402 yard par 4):
#9 (415 yard par 4):
#10 (556 yard par 5):
#11 (334 yard par 4):
#12 (173 yard par 3):
#13 (455 yard par 5):
#14 (409 yard par 4):
#15 (443 yard par 4):
#16 (166 yard par 3):
#17 (364 yard par 4):
#18 (443 yard par 4):