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Two Counties Offer Plenty of Sports

By Angela Watts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page LZ10

Whether you are an avid competitor, prefer spectator sports or enjoy a mix, there are plenty of sports opportunities unique to Loudoun and Fauquier counties.

Most popular by far is the Washington Redskins training camp. Although the team hasn't won much in the past decade, loyal supporters flock to Redskins Park in Ashburn in late July through August hoping to get more than just a glimpse of their favorite players.

Chris Gentile drives out of a sand trap at the Raspberry Falls golf course. (L. William Kobelka For The Washington Post)

Events such as Fan Appreciation Day allow the public to get autographs and pose for pictures with players. Fans also can try to get autographs and talk to players as they exit the practice field after morning and afternoon practices. Although there's no guarantee you'll be able to shake LaVar Arrington's hand, you'll at least be closer to him at training camp than at FedEx Field.

Plus, the atmosphere is informal, so players are more prone to interact with fans who line up two and three rows deep behind ropes that separate the viewing area from the practice fields. Parking and admission are free, and spectators can bring blankets, chairs and coolers with food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Best of all, optimism for the upcoming season always runs high.

For info: 21300 Redskins Park Dr., Ashburn. 703-726-7000. www.redskins.com.

Another rare treat for sports enthusiasts is the annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase at Great Meadow in The Plains. The Gold Cup, which has been run in Fauquier County each spring since 1922, is held the first Saturday in May and draws as many as 45,000 spectators. The all-day affair doubles as a social event and features nine races before concluding with a closed circuit TV showing of the Kentucky Derby.

For info: Great Meadow, 5089 Old Tavern Rd., The Plains. 800-69-RACES, 540-347-1215. www.vagoldcup.com.

High school sports are hugely popular in both counties, reflecting the large number of families with school-age children. They offer a consistent reminder of the fun of rivalries and the hope that stems from watching such promising talent.

In particular, Loudoun County has become known for its dominance in volleyball and softball, with it schools consistently ranking among the Washington area's best. www.loudoun.k12.va.us;www.fcps1.org.

If participatory sports are more your interest, Loudoun offers a dozen public golf courses, according to the Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association. It's not exactly Myrtle Beach, S.C., the unofficial golfing capital of the world, but Loudoun has courses for every skill level and budget.

Raspberry Falls Golf and Hunt Club in Leesburg is the only Gary Player-designed course in Virginia and, as one of the best in the mid-Atlantic region, has garnered rave reviews from virtually every major golf publication. It's a links-style course that can challenge and at times confound low handicappers, but the sightlines make the frustration well worth it. At $76 on weekdays and $96 on weekends, 18 holes at Raspberry Falls isn't cheap, but the serious golfer will find the 7,191-yard, par-72 layout commensurate to the price.

For info: 41601 Raspberry Dr., Leesburg. 703-779-2555. www.raspberry falls.com.

Less daring golfers may want to consider Algonkian Regional Park Golf Course in Sterling and Goose Creek Golf Course in Leesburg. Algonkian, a 7,015-yard, par-72 course, includes fairly straight and flat tree-lined fairways suitable for higher handicappers. The back nine features hills, abrupt turns and water holes but is generally wide open, another blessing for those who don't hit it straight every time. Algonkian is also easy on the wallet. Fees are $29 during the week and $39 on weekends.

For info: 47001 Fairway Dr., Sterling. 703-450-4655. www.nvrpa.org.

Goose Creek Golf Club, a 6,444-yard, par 72, boasts a classic design and a layout favorable to quick play. Open fairways give confidence from the tee box to golfers who tend to slice. And players can find out where they rate relative to one of the greatest golfers of all-time, Ben Hogan. The winner of nine major championships shot a course-record 59 at Goose Creek. Fees are $40 during the week and $57 on weekends.

For info: 43001 Golf Club Rd., Leesburg. 703-729-2500. www.goosecreek golf.com

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