LANSDOWNE: A LOSS, A GAIN Local public golfers lose an excellent close-in daily fee course this year, with Lansdowne Resort's Robert Trent Jones II layout converting to private membership. A companion Greg Norman private course is expected to open by late summer. The good news: both will be playable by resort guests.
True, Loudoun County may not seem like a "getaway" to many in the region. But the resort is sweetening the nearby-escape deal with a recently completed upgrade of guest rooms, a new swimming pool complex (expected by Memorial Day) and a 12,000 square foot spa (by early 2006).
The Norman course will wind along the Potomac River, the tees and greens wisely raised above flood level. The Shark's design philosophy is "least disturbance," so the course shimmies gently through the trees, ravines and wetlands. The final four holes are billed as "the toughest mile [1,760 yards] in golf." No. 17 is a 642-yard (!) par-5; number 18 requires a carry over 200 yards of water to a well-bunkered green. Ever been tempted to lay up on a par-3?
Once the Shark's course opens, the resort will feature two-day/two-course stay-and-play packages. Expected price is about $190 per person per day.
GREAT GOLF, NICE PRICE Cannon Ridge Golf Course in Fredericksburg, Va., placed third on Golf Digest's 2004 Best New Affordable Public Course list. The course, designed by Bobby Weed and former PGA Tour commissioner, TPC at Avenel mastermind and Bethesda native Deane Beman, rambles along land that once hosted the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg. The top high-season rate, with cart, is $69. Twilight and walking rates bring the cost below $50. www.cannonridge.com or 866-857-4343
THE SLAMMER'S FINAL STROKE Poplar Grove Golf Club, in Amherst, Va., was among the last projects that the legendary Sam Snead participated in before his death in 2002. A retro layout carried out mostly by former Tom Fazio designer Ed Carton with inspiration and some guidance from Snead, the wooded, parkland style course is located not far from Lynchburg.
The semi-private facility will eventually sprout a gated community and a full package of upscale course amenities. But for now the clubhouse is temporary and the practice area won't open until this summer. Stay-and-play packages with the nearby Florence Elston Inn are available. At $60 per weekend round in high season, with GPS-equipped cart, it's a good value too. www.poplargrovegolf.com or 434-946-9933
ESCAPE TO LORTON Laurel Hill Golf Club is expected to open around Labor Day. Planned as Fairfax County Park Authority's trophy course, the 7,000-yard Bill Love design is being built on land that once housed the D.C. Correctional Complex at Lorton. A residential area is rising from the same ground. From the tee box of No. 12, a tricky 405-yard par-4 with a forced carry over water, you get an excellent view of the infamous facility's Central Maximum Security area.
WHITE OAK, WE KNEW YE A BIT TOO WELL We note the passing of White Oak Golf Course, a wonderfully shabby 9-hole track on New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring. The layout was gobbled up by expanding Food and Drug Administration quarters -- leaving players with precious few courses where you can line up a shot by aiming at a Toys R Us sign.