Well Happy New Year everyone! I hope the day, and night before found you celebrating in whatever way made you the happiest. I played a couple new courses to start out my year, on what turned out to be an unusual weather day!
The Pines Golf Course was my first course of the day and is unique, at least in my mind, because it is a military golf course! If I turn back time, I only recall one other military course that I’ve played. And, that was The Courses at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. I don’t recall much about that that course besides I saw Air Force One coming in for a landing while I playing, which was awesome! I have no idea if the plane was occupied or not, but that was certainly unexpected.
The Pines is located on Fort Eustis, which was originally an Army installation before being combined with Langley Air Force Base in 2010. I believe the official name of the facility is now Joint Base Langley-Eustis. A little bit of trivia for you is that the base is separated by the city of Newport News and interstate 64! There are some neat looking locomotives, airplanes, and helicopters on the property. Also, the U.S. Army Transportation Museum is on site.
I got to the facility shortly after 8am as I knew that I’d have to check in and have my vehicle searched. Sure enough, the speed limit dropped from 45mph to 25mph before I parked under an overhang and was asked to turn the car off. I opened all the doors, hood, and trunk and showed my identification. It was a pretty simple process and I was on my way again just five minutes later. I didn’t have to show my registration or insurance cards, but I’ve read you might have to. If you are playing during a busier time then I’d allow for some extra time at the gate. From the gate to the course is probably another 10 minutes.
I had a little trouble checking in at the course using Golfnow. I booked through Golfnow the day before, but the proshop told me that the course is no longer using Golfnow for tee times. I’m not sure where the breakdown was, but if you book through Golfnow be careful. They honored my reservation, which was nice, and let me head out on the Virginia Pines nine. I then played the Ponderosa Pines for my back nine. There are 27 holes here and the Shortleaf Pines is the nine that I didn’t play. I drove by four or five of the Shortleaf Pines holes and those looked tighter than what I played.
The Virginia Pines is the course’s newest nine. It was added by Ault, Clark & Associates in 1997. They’ve done a lot of work in the Mid-Atlantic so I wasn’t surprised to hear their name. In all honesty, I wish they designed more holes like these here! The Virginia Pines nine makes the most of the area’s unique setting and has a wonderful routing. The course, and much of the base, is on some lowland between the James River and the Warwick River. For those nerds reading, the Warwick River empties into the James a few miles south of the base. This nine works its way out across some railroad tracks towards the Warwick River, plays alongside the river for a short period of time, and then returns to the clubhouse. My description of the routing wouldn’t be complete without mentioning all the pine trees that line the holes!
The middle section of the Virginia Pines nine, the 3rd through the 5th, were the highlight of anything that I played on the property. The 3rd is a position hole that completes the run out to the river. It is a dogleg right with a couple trees on the inside of the dogleg, meaning that you could be blocked out on your second shot if your tee shot misses to the right. The 4th parallels the river and is a potentially reachable par 5. There is a pond short and left of the small, angled green which makes the hole one of those awesome risk/reward par 5’s! The 5th is a longish par 3 with that same pond in play to gobble up shots short and left. Thankfully, the tees were up when I was there! If you have time, you might want to walk around and take a few pictures while playing the 5th. This whole section of the course is surrounded by the pine trees, the pond, and the river (behind the back tee boxes). It sure is a serene setting!
The Ponderosa Pines nine is the original nine and was built in the early 1950’s by George Cobb. I’ve played a few Cobb courses and always had a good time because they are on the friendlier side for amateur play. And, Ponderosa Pines is no exception! This is the longest nine, but that’s fair because it fairly open. The routing here is basic with the 1st and 9th being “out” and “in” par 5’s. The rest of the nine features mostly straight, parallel holes. It reminded me a lot of The Hollows near Richmond, just a longer version. The 7th, a dogleg left, is the only real position hole. As a fade player, I had to pull off my best draw tee shot to find that fairway! I thought the 5th, a 200 yard par 3 with bunkers surrounding the green, was the toughest hole on this nine.
I played the Gold tees which are 71.3/125/6523. The yardages are mixed nicely from there on the par 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s. Oddly, the biggest challenge was the distance for me. A lot of that is because I played on a cool, damp morning and the ball went nowhere! The Virginia Pines is more of a strategic nine where trees can affect shot selection. Even though they were missing their leaves, I was worried about clanking a couple trees off the tee. Ponderosa Pines is longer and has some smaller greens, so it could be a good test of your short game. Many of the greens slope from back to front at the course, so I’d make sure not to miss long!
The conditions were good for both nines, highlighted by the greens. The greens rolled fine and were cut short, they were just on the slow side. I’m assuming they are normally a bit faster, it just appears they’ve taken on a lot of water. The rest of the course was on soggier side and I didn’t get any roll. Because the land is so flat and close to the water, I don’t see this being a great draining course. But, I could be wrong. It has happened once before, ha! The tees and fairways had plenty of grass. For the $29 green fee, I was impressed and it looked like the course handled the summer heat well!
In closing, I enjoyed the nines that I played and think that The Pines at Ft Eustis would be a good course to play with a higher handicapper. The course is more player friendly than your average Virginia course and it struck me as a buddies course, where you can decompress. I bet that was exactly the intent of the folks who decided to put courses on base for our troops! There are flatter bunkers and greens with mostly a couple cups of break for the less experienced golfer. And, there are doglegs mixed in to challenge the lower handicap. The drizzle stopped around my 5th hole and the clouds broke for the back nine. I got around the course in 2.5 hours, which included extra time with me wandering around for the best pictures.
VP #1 (290 yard par 4):
VP #2 (378 yard par 4):
VP #3 (377 yard par 4):
VP #4 (495 yard par 5):
VP #5 (179 yard par 3):
VP #6 (484 yard par 5):
VP #7 (382 yard par 4):
VP #8 (180 yard par 3):
VP #9 (374 yard par 4):
PP #1 (531 yard par 5):
#2 (363 yard par 4):
PP #3 (398 yard par 4):
PP #4 (423 yard par 4):
PP #5 (200 yard par 3):
PP #6 (381 yard par 4):
PP #7 (378 yard par 4):
PP #8 (154 yard par 3):
PP #9 (556 yard par 5):