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Stonewall G.C in Virginia – a Jackson course at a Benjamin price

There is a goodly amount to like about Tom Jackson’s design at Stonewall, but once again golf course economics tend to detract and distract from an otherwise good performance by a designer. Jackson may have done the best work of his career here on the shores of Lake Manassas and in the shadow of the famous and very private Robert Trent Jones Club. Tee shots must carry watery fingers of inlets and avoid stands of mature, fragrant pines and hardwoods. Verdant expanses of greens cling to cliff sides (4 and 15) or are mini amphitheatres (17.) One fabulous dog leg left par five (13) skirts Lake Manassas on the right, features a forced carry off the tee over another inlet of the lake, then sidewindes through the woods to a pedestal green.

Conversely, there are some weak sisters. The first three holes are uninspiring and maybe best suited merely as the means to get the players to the fourth tee, the first of the Lakeside holes. Next houses crowd far too close to the fairways all over the front side, especially at the start of the round. Even if one espouses the tired RTJ doctrine of “the first hole should not be overly difficult,” (I for one do not adhere to this), the openers have no resemblence in flavor to the meat and potatoes of the rest of course and do not stamp a definitive “statement of identity or character” from the outset. The houses are much more recessed on the back.

Also, the $90 wkday/$110 wkend price tag is over the top. Twilight rate is almost half price, but only a scant few will complete their round, even in high summer since it starts 4-1/2 hrs before sundown. Value is therefore an issue. Also, the course is walkable, but nevertheless, carts are required on weekend mornings.

Stonewall competes admirably for top spot in the greater D.C. area, but does not make a strong case for being called a course of national significance. At moments it is downright atmospheric. Moreover, the conditioning in winter was outstanding with the entire course green not “biscuit brown” and with the greens rolling fats and true. Reputedly, Stonwwall may also be the best condidioned of DC’s high end courses.

Nevertheless, purely from a value standpoint, many courses in the same price range avoid its pitfalls of houses and high price including TPC-MB, Wolf Creek, Caledonia, Red Tail. Nearby Royal New Kent and Stonehouse are a mere $50. With the national median for public golf sitting squarely at $40 and golfer’s clamoring for that number to sink (ideally to the $32.50 range – half way to the public consmuer target suggested price of $25), $110 is a very expensive splurge. Many courses in a lower price range in the region may take away some play, even though they too may be priced one tier too high. Stonewall will feel a significantly better bargain at its twilight rate, but tee times are few and far between. (There are frequent 1/2 price coupons and Internet specials.) Even the yearly membership rate (see below) is the most expensive by far in the DC region. Call the pro shop and speak with Jon for more details.

15601 Turtle Point Drive
Gainesville, VA 20155

Architect: Tom Jackson
Excitement Level: 8/12
Difficulty: 9/12

Design: Five stars
Natural Setting Five and 1/2 stars

Conditioning: Six stars (excellent even in winter/spring)
Cost: $90/$110, $65 reduced
Yearly Memb: Yes, $5,700 single, add $3400 per immediate family member
Value: Three stars
Overall: Four and 1/2 stars

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