I left work early to take advantage of a warm, spring day to check out a new course! I was surprised to see a new addition to Teeoff.com, The Golf Club at The Highlands. It was a course that I’d never even heard of, and that’s rare considering my course obsession and its location near Richmond! Apparently, the course started allowing some public play this month, for the first time in 10 years! The course also goes by (went by?) The Country Club at The Highlands, which is how many holes were marked.
The course was pretty busy when I got there, mostly with members I assume! I overheard some conversations and those practicing seemed excited for a tournament this weekend. I waited for a foursome to go off the 1st tee before I teed off, and that group kind enough to let me through on the 2nd hole! I then trailed another foursome for much of the back nine. It worked out to 3.5 hours, which was a nice pace! I got the idea that quicker rounds could be common here.
It took me a while, but I found out that Barton Tuck designed The Highlands! I hadn’t heard his name before but found out that he also designed nearby Lake Chesdin, which is another course that I’d like to play. From the looks of it, his background is in golf property finance and he must have wanted to try his hand at course design. I’m sure there is a good story there!
When it comes to the design, The Highlands is one of those courses where I’d suggest deferring judgement until you play all the holes. The first two holes are benign, and I’d say that the 1st is a very good opening hole. It is a downhill par 4 with a wide fairway. The only trouble to run into is missing left of the green. However, the course almost flipped a switch on the 3rd, as it went from being fairly pleasant to play to being extremely difficult. Then, it got a little easier again.
I played the gold tees which are 72.1/140/6565 and felt every bit of that high slope from the 3rd to the 7th! On these holes the tee shots are intimidating, there are forced carries, and trouble lurks in many places! On this stretch you have to be so careful to land the ball on the high side because if you miss it on the low side, you most likely are just dropping a ball. There is more elevation change at the course than I expected! Unfortunately, at least from a golfer’s perspective, I think the nearby homes got the good land on the front nine and many of the holes there got what was left over. Speaking of the homes, most were set back from the course and didn’t distract visually from the round.
On these early holes, I found myself feeling forced into a lower percentage play here. For example, the 6th is a short par 4 (285 yards) but the fairway gets wider as you hit it farther. I hit driver, but I’d normally hit hybrid. On the 7th, a 469 yard par 5, I had 220 yards to the green but didn’t like my angle. My only layup option was a 100ish yard shot before the fairway ran out. So, I went for it and without much surprise hit a poor shot. I don’t want to be too harsh on that 7th hole, as it looks stunning! A tiny bit like the 13th at Augusta maybe!
Starting on the 8th, I found the course to be more fair, while still having some teeth. I may have liked the front nine better if I could draw the ball consistently, who knows! On the back, the fairways were wider and there seemed to be more space to miss on the high sides. I don’t think the back nine has a weak hole! In fact, it is highlighted by two awesome holes, the 11th and 14th.
The 11th is a downhill par 3 that is probably as good as any par 3 that I’ll play all year! It is all carry to the green, over a hazard and over some rock outcroppings. It was fun to play with the green angling slightly from front right to back left, and it had a great look! The 14th is a downhill par 5 that plays from an elevated tee down to a small community lake. The green is guarded by a finger of the lake, but you might be able to give it a go in two!
For the $35 twilight fee, the conditions at The Highlands were good. Most of the bermuda has perked up and was a nice green color. I’m sure some of that is due to this week’s earlier rainfall! I ended up in a couple patches that were still dormant, but I’d think those would green up shortly! Because of probably over an inch of rain this week, the course was soft so i didn’t get much roll. Around the greens, I had quite a few thin lies which made it tough to chip onto the greens.
The greens themselves were the highlight of the maintenance. The proshop told me they got pelted with hail earlier this month and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. They were quick, especially on downhill putts, and smooth! It was incredible the amount of slope the greens have, I had half a dozen putts break across the front edge of the cup. Make sure to overread the break here!
The Highlands is another solid choice in Richmond for those seeking to play a round a step or two above the average course! Think along the lines of Viniterra, Hunting Hawk, and Independence – those sorts of courses. The proshop was welcoming, which I found nice since much of the play still appears to be from members. The design is tougher than I prefer, but if you are looking to try out a new course near Richmond, I’d put The Highlands on your list. You won’t be disappointed with the back nine!
#1 (408 yard par 4):
#2 (166 yard par 3):
#3 (523 yard par 5):
#4 (384 yard par 4):
#5 (196 yard par 3):
#6 (285 yard par 4):
#7 (469 yard par 5):
#8 (163 yard par 3):
#9 (516 yard par 5):
#10 (576 yard par 5):
#11 (161 yard par 3):
#12 (386 yard par 4):
#13 (457 yard par 4):
#14 (519 yard par 5):
#15 (367 yard par 4):
#16 (423 yard par 4):
#17 (149 yard par 3):
#18 (417 yard par 4):