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Virginia Beach Golf Offers Great  World Class Courses at Tremendous

By Scott A. Sumner

    My day began November 12th with a flight to Minneapolis, MN from my home town of Thunder Bay, Ontario on Northwest airlines.  Then it was on to Norfolk, Virginia and a car ride to Virginia Beach some 20 minutes away. This was a great opportunity to play some golf when our
courses at home are closed, eat some great food and to see a part of the US  in which I had never been. The hotel I got to stay in was one of the best right on the Atlantic ocean and had a spectacular view of a great beach from both sides of the 1 bedroom suite. The Ocean Beach
Club is a newly renovated luxury development which also included a beautiful Hilton just a minute away. Reaching Virginia was easy by plane with only two connections for me and direct flights for many depending on your home city.

    Our golf would  would include 4 great courses in 2 days designed by Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Fred Couples. That would be a great foresome and the courses were certainly fantastic. The weather peaked out at 79 degrees Fahrenheit which also added to the positive experience. This was a higher temperature than normal for Virginia Beach in Mid November.
    My day would  begin the next day with an 8 am tee time at the Palmer designed Signature at West Neck. This beautifully laid out course opened in November 2001. The housing development started at the same time and now includes some 1700 homes. How did I like the course? It was very playable for me and yet offered a challenge to keep your ball in play which allowed for some good scores. My score of 45 on the front nine and a 37 on the back was good for this 12 handicap playing rental clubs on a layout I was just seeing for the first time “ I like it’s fairness as it challenges good players and less skilled from the different tees. It will play to over 7000 yards from the back,” noted Nathan Mitchum, Assistant Golf Professional at Signature at West Neck.

“   A full membership is $2500 for an individual and $3500 for a couple. Right now we have 800 members  who play  much of the 36,000 to 38,000 rounds per year. You can golf all year round depending on the weather. The general public can play in season  for $80  and today  for
the out of state rate of $ 70 and in state of $ 53. There is a social program for $23 with a cart and $34 on the weekend.”

image    On the Palmer layout some of the bunkering is called beach bunkering where the bunkers go into the water.  A premium is placed on going into the green with your approach shot. This course is unique as the owner plants a lot of flowers to make it more more aesthetically pleasing to frame the holes, stated Mitchum.
     That afternoon the Virginia Beach National was our next stop. The course was constructed in 1999 by Pete Dye and plays some 7500 yards  from  all the way back there.  Virginia Beach National started life as a TPC course, a trademark of the PGA until April 1st. The Nationwide 
Tour played here from 1999 to 2006.

    “ The course was originally designed to be a destination golf course such as in Myrtle Beach or Kiawah. The demand was not here and the tourists found the dollar amount too high at $120 a round. Virginia Beach always owned the land and the TPC owned the facilities and managed the course. The city bought the assets and the remaining management contract so that  Virginia Beach LLC now runs the course.” stated Nathan Palmer, Asst Golf Professional at Virginia Beach National.
    “  It was a good move for the people in Virginia Beach. It provides them the opportunity to provide a tournament quality course at an affordable price. Right know they can get on the course during the week for $ 55 including cart. You won’t find another course as nice in the
area for the price,” smiled Doug Kelly, Assistant Golf Professional at Virginia Beach National. “  The number of rounds has picked up tremendously. The old TPC did around 11,000 and we are hoping to do 30,000 this year.  We have two different memberships: an  Associate is
$ 549 a year, with the major benefit  being a green fee of $ 30 on  week days and $ 40 on weekend including cart. A Dual full membership is $ 2500 and you pay a  $20 cart fee each round.”
    I especially enjoyed the Virginia Beach National course.  There is no housing on this course as it is  all city owned land. It is more of a links style course that is quite open and always has wind. The closing holes on 9 and 18 usually have the wind in your face. The fairways  are bermuda  and greens bent.  The course will stay open all year round but you can have frost delays in the am from 45 minutes to 2 hours.  “ Last year we closed 1 day all year. You may have days in the 30’s and the next day 50’s. Most of the players are from the Tidewater
area of Norfolk etc.” stated Kelly. “  We think our course  is the best in the area and was esigned as a high level course. We are an upper tier course.  It is a challenge from every tee on every hole depending on your ability.”
     After two nice rounds of golf we sat down to a great Salmon dinner at the beautiful Hilton at Virginia Beach. Fresh seafood is the speciality of this 5 star restaurant, Catch 21, and I really enjoyed the dining experience.
     It was off to bed and a early start to play our next course, the Bay Creek Resort and Club.  The course opened in 2005 and included The Jack Nicklaus Signature and Arnold Palmer Signature courses.  Our mission was to play the Nicklaus course, something I always enjoy doing in my travels across North America.

    The Jack Nicklaus course has 5 sets of tees and stretches back to 7417 yards. There are 100 formal bunker’s and 13 waste areas.The greens   are pretty small and the bunkers pretty deep which requires good approach shots, but the hitting areas are pretty generous. The current membership  fee is $25,000 and $305 per month.

  “  We are semi private with 200 members. Our green fees are $100 normally and  in off season $70. We get a reasonable amount of play, with some 15,000 rounds  per course per year. This amount of play means we keep good course conditions at all times,” stated Joe Burbee, Head Golf Professional at Bay Creek Resort and Club. “ We have members from
all over the world. We get play from Tidewater area of Virginia and from just north of here in Maryland. We also get quite a few Canadians from Quebec.”

     “ I like everything about the course. It runs along the Chesepeeke Bay which is very pretty. Nothing is forced and very little dirt was moved to construct the holes. It is very fair but you have watch your shot. If you try to hit the hero shot you probably will not be a hero.  I play the course carefully  and play 15 to 20 rounds per year. The  course conditions will be very good in January  but the weather can vary.  It is fairly mild.  People tell us how much they like the
courses.” smiled Burbee.

    After a great steak sandwich lunch it was off to Heron Point a Fred Couples course. This course is also owned by the same manager of the Virginia Beach National course we had played yesterday. The course showed off some of the most  expensive real estate we had seen. It also proved to be a great layout with fast greens and good conditions. This
is really another fabulous course offering in Virginia Beach.    In my opinion Virginia Beach is a definite must golf destination for the travelling golfer. The easy accessibility of this city and the
beautiful beach setting gives you the best of both worlds. The cost to get here and play and stay  is very affordable. This should be your next golf destination and I’m sure you’ll be coming back  again and again!

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