Located in Colonial Williamsburg, the Green course comprises 18 out of the 45 holes of golf at the Golden Horseshoe. Rees Jones (son of Robert Trent Jones Sr.) designed and built the course with the help of the local crew, including my new buddy Rick Viancour, long time Golden Horseshoe superintendent. The course winds through a historic area which is preserved for its history. The course is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, providing a wonderful and beautiful refuge for local creatures and vegetation.
The history of the course isn’t just that of pre civil war Virginia and the burgeoning independence of the USA. The course itself has a wealth of golf history dating back to its opening in 1991, including many famous championships, the making of the Ryder Cup trophy, and the famous 18th hole defeat of Michelle Wie by Ya-Ni Tseng in the 2004 Women’s Amateur Publinks Championship.
The most recent and perhaps most distinguished bit of history for the Green course, is my birdie on the 18th in almost complete darkness. I guess I play better when I can’t see what I’m doing. Hey does that mean I can beat Michelle Wie? I doubt it.
Tee shots at the Green course are very fun and interesting. There are many carries the player must achieve to simply “get” to the fairway. In extremely wet and cold conditions like the day I played, getting to the fairway is an achievement.
The shapes of the holes are distinct and the tee shots for those who can work the ball are very fun.
The landing areas are fairly wide, and slightly errant tee shots will likely catch the shaped hills on either side and stay fairly well in play.
Severely errant tee shots however, will not catch favorable bounces. Miss the fairway by enough, and you’ll probably never find your ball, “hitting three off the tee.”
Approach shots at the Green course are very fun. There are many contours and mounds surrounding the green which will remind the player to hit a solid approach, or end up with a tough chip to save par.
Unless the tee shots are fairly errant, lies in the fairway are generally flat with minimal uneven lies. Approaches from lies other than the fairway however, can be very extreme. Approaches with uphill, side hill, downhill lies are almost guaranteed if the fairway is missed.
The greens at the Golden Horseshoe Green course are fair and not overly undulating. There are no crazy tiers, circus slants or false fronts. Putts roll true and reward good strokes and reads.
Grain is definitely a factor on these greens. Occasionally while putting I would run one by why farther than expected, or I’d leave one short when I thought I’d put the right pace on the stroke. Examining the grain of those putts would reveal that I’d been going with or against the grain.
The complexes around the greens at the Green course are very interesting and challenging. Many hills, bunkers shaping creates all sorts of opportunities for difficult chips. Getting up and down on this course with slight misses around the greens is no picnic. The shaping around the greens calls for creativity and precise execution.
The Green course has every amenity a golfer may need, from a great practice facility to a well stocked pro shop. The on-course snack bars have friendly staff and carry many tasty food items and beverages. The ham and cheddar was tasty.
Ryder Cup Bar
Trivia time. Any idea where Ryder Cup trophies are made? Stop by for a drink at the Ryder Cup Bar, located in the clubhouse at the green course and you might figure it out.
The staff can really make a big difference with the experience a golfer has at a golf course or resort. Rounds on the best courses in the world can be ruined by grouchy or inattentive staff. No worries at Golden Horseshoe.
I had the pleasure of playing golf on the Green course with long time director of golf Glen Byrnes. Glenn is a special guy who has probably one of the best jobs in all of golf. Glen’s passion for the game and for his golf courses is unsurpassed, and he’s one heck of a player too. I was happy to tie him in a game of “seven” on the putting green. I think he let me off easy.
I also had the pleasure of playing a round of golf with assistant PGA professional Greg Lynch. Though he called himself a rookie at the course after four years, he had customer service skills of a seasoned veteran. It helps if you’re a down right gentleman like Greg.
As mentioned before, superintendent Rick Viancour provided some neat viewpoints about the course, its construction and what it takes to keep a 45 hole facility like this in top shape.
Other staff members I met, from starters to bag boys were all very friendly and helpful.
How many golf courses can you think of which have no homes or real estate developments associated with them? Not many is my guess. Most courses are built these days with the intent of flipping the land around it or turning it into a real estate profit center. The course is secondary, or just a tool to make the development more valuable.
The courses at Colonial Williamsburg will never have homes or buildings next to them. They’re part of a historic area which will not be expanded or built out any further. The golfing experience is made even more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about knocking out someone’s living room window with an errant drive. The aesthetic is greatly enhanced by playing a course which sits in nature without a bunch of buildings or development around it.
Awards And Accolades
- “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses,” Gold Course, Golf Digest (2009, 2007, 2005, 2003)
- “Top 100 Resort Courses,” Gold Course, Golfweek (2007)
- “Top 100 You Can Play,” Gold Course, Golf Magazine (2006, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1998, 1996)
- “State-by-State Public Access Courses – Virginia,” Gold Course, Golfweek (2007, 2005, 2003)
- “Top Short Courses in America,” Spotswood Course, Golf Range Magazine (2007)
- “America’s Top Golf Courses,” Zagat Survey®, Gold and Green Courses (2007, 2005, 2003)
- “Middle Atlantic 100 Must-Play Courses,” Gold and Green Courses, Golfstyles Washington (2007)
- “Best of the Best Design,” Gold Course one of Jones Sr.’s top six designs, Golf Digest (2004, 2000)
- “Top 500 Golf Holes in the World: Golden Horseshoe Gold Course 16th, Golf Magazine (2004)
- “Four and ½ Stars,” Gold Course, Best Places to Play, Golf Digest (2006)
- “Four and ½ Stars,” Green Course, Best Places to Play, Golf Digest (2006)
- “World’s Best” Readers Survey, Gold Course, Travel+Leisure Golf, (2003)
- “Top 500 Golf Holes in the World,” Gold Course, 16th hole, Golf Magazine (2004)
- “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary,” for commitment to environment (2007, 2005, 2003, 2001)
- “Best Golf Teacher,” Del Snyder named one of the best golf teachers in Virginia, Golf Digest (2005)
If you’ve read this piece this far, you know my conclusion already, so there’s no need to repeat much.
From the great amenities to the great staff to the amazing courses, Golden Horseshoe is a must-play.