It's the little things that set apart the Tides Inn

By Steve Rocca, Contributor

IRVINGTON, Va. -- The Tides Inn, a Mobil 5-Star destination on Virginia's Northern Neck, knows it's the little things that count the most.

Things like a par-3 course on the front lawn. Things like the limo driver making pick-ups at the local airport, daily paper in hand. Things like a cocktail cruise in the afternoon. Liquor lockers line the walls in the dining room. Things like bicycle helmets at the bellhop stand.

All complimentary.

"We are the only luxury, five-star, waterfront resort in Virginia or Maryland," said Bill Dougherty, director of sales and marketing. "People come from all over the Mid-Atlantic to be here, and we take that very seriously."

The Tides Inn, which has 3/4 mile of shoreline, sits on a 40-foot bluff overlooking the water, perfect for flyfishing for saltwater rockfish. The spa overlooks the water, and in fact, water plays a major role in making people happy here.

The Tides Inn, including the Golden Eagle Golf Club and The Tides Marina, is located on 500 acres on Carters Creek at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Tides Inn re-opened in 2002 as a Leading Small Hotel of the World after a multi-million dollar renovation by new managing partners, Sedona Resort Management. In addition to golf, the 106-room hotel offers saltwater and freshwater pools, five restaurants, a full-service day spa, a 64-slip marina that can accommodate yachts up to 150 feet, an on-site sailing school, a 127-foot historically registered yacht, the Miss Ann, tennis, and more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

The spa is booked 14 days in advance, and with a view of the beach, most can understand why.

"It's a relaxed, residential feel," Dougherty said. "We have a ladies clothing store here and while the guys are out playing golf, the ladies can go to the spa or shop or play tennis. It's all right here for them to enjoy."

The Golden Eagle, the 18-hole golf club, has been described by Golf Digest as "the toughest course no one has ever heard of." It's narrow and wooded, and stands as a true test of your accuracy skills. When you see the marina at the hotel, you're immediately thinking water will dominate this course. But it's more wooded than you'd expect, and houses are few and far between. You can find some houses on the course, but if you do, that means you're hunting pretty deep for your stray shots. Originally designed in 1976 by George W. Cobb and John LaFoy, the 7,020-yard course is carved out of a heavily forested setting that plays around, and over, a 50-acre lake with Bermuda grass fairways and Bent grass putting surfaces.

While membership at the Golden Eagle is closed with just 40 members, guests of The Tides Inn and the general public can get on the course, but you better warm up with a bag of balls first. Because when you get on the course, straight is the order of the day.

Without a doubt the toughest hole on the course is the fifth hole. It's a 463-yarder over water off the tee with no room right and water left. Any slice is in trouble, and the bailout area is 260 yards away. The drive must carry the water that guards the whole left side and travel at least 210 yards just to stay dry. The second shot, from about 200 yards out, must be long and straight to reach this green in two. A bogey is definitely acceptable here.

The ninth hole is a 423-yard dogleg right par-4, that was recently rebuilt. A long straight iron is a must in order to get a clear view of the green. The second shot with a long- to mid-iron must carry water. If you are not careful, you'll hit the ball over the green because of the severe slope from back to front. If you're short, you're only chance of not being in the water is to land on the bridge. Not likely. Par is an excellent score here.

PGA golf professional Kenny Clark, whose teaching experience spans 20 years and includes PGA Tour player and Virginia native John Rollins, said the changes were necessary at No. 9.

"It was just so difficult to get around the corner, so we took out some trees and gave the golfers a fighting chance," Clark said. "We moved the tees over to the left, put some playable bunkers where the trees were and now it fits in with the rest of the course much better than it did before."

The finishing hole needs no finishing touches. It is another dogleg right par-4, this one just 380 yards, but it is an exciting finishing hole. The ideal tee shot is down the left side, avoiding the bunkers on the right. The pivotal second shot needs to carry water to an elevated green. If you pull if off, you'll finish with a par. If you don't, you'll be in the water and you'll kick yourself for a bogey on a 380-yard hole.

After the round, be sure to take some time to relax in Cap'n B's, a popular local restaurant and bar just off the pro shop. It features a hammered tin ceiling, belt-driven ceiling fans, and an antique oak and marble bar relocated from Irvington's historic Steamboat Row area. Pull up a chair at the bar and you'll think you're in New Orleans, even down to the delightful mix of Old Bay Seasoning and other spices in the Bloody Mary.

After all, it's the little things that count.

Complimentary par-3 course

On the main grounds of the Tides Inn is a complimentary nine-hole par-3 course, which features holes 80- to 140-yards long. The course is great for children, seniors and those meeting goers who want to squeeze in a few swings during the lunch break. Many corporate groups enjoy "Night Golf" outings on the course.

Other activities

Recreational activities abound when you visit the Tides Inn. In addition to golf, you can play tennis, shuffleboard, croquet, basketball, or go for a bike ride.

For those planning a historical sightseeing trip, General Lee's birthplace Stratford Hall, George Washington's birthplace Wakefield, the Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library, Historic Christ Church, St. Mary's White Chapel, and Colonial Williamsburg are all within an hour's drive.


With five unique restaurants, dining at the Tides Inn is a celebrated event. The Dining Room is the Tides Inn's most elegant restaurant where jackets are still required for men after 6 p.m. As you enjoy a panoramic view of the Tides Marina and Carters Creek, you will savor traditional Southern-style regional cuisine like scrambled eggs with buttermilk biscuits, sausage gravy and fried oysters for breakfast or Roasted Rockfish Chesapeake crab, Smithfield ham, scallions and bay butter sauce for dinner.

Adjacent to The Dining Room is the Chesapeake Club offering panoramic views and live entertainment nightly.

Getting there by land

From Richmond and all points West: Take Interstate 64 East to Exit 220 for Route 33 East to West Point. Continue 17 miles past West Point to a stoplight at the crest of a hill and turn left. Stay on Route 33 onto U.S. 17 North for two miles and bear right into Saluda.

From Norfolk and all points South: Take Interstate 64 West to Exit 258 for U.S. 17 North to Saluda. Two miles after the light at Glenns, turn right onto Route 33 East into Saluda.

From Saluda: Take Route 33 East for 7 miles, turn left to Route 3 West and over the Rappahannock River to White Stone. Turn left at the only stoplight onto Route 200 North for two miles to Irvington. Turn at the second left on Route 634 (King Carter Drive) and continue 1/2 mile through the gates of the Tides Inn.

Getting there by sea

Located nine statute miles from Windmill Point on Carters Creek, the Tides Marina offers a full service 64-slip marina that can accommodate vessels up to 125 feet. After you dock, come ashore to enjoy complimentary laundry, shower and bath facilities and van and water taxi services. The marina has a rating of "5 Bells" by The Atlantic Cruise Club, the highest rating possible.

Lunch cruises are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and coctail cruises on Fridays start at 5 p.m. On Saturdays, settle in for a three-hour dinner cruise that starts at 6 p.m. Call (800) TidesGo for more details.

Fast fact

A unique feature of the Tides in is the $8 resort fee, which gives guests access to all the tennis courts, the freshwater swimming pool, bike rentals, live music, dancing and use of the par-3 course.

Steve RoccaSteve Rocca, Contributor

Steve Rocca has 16 years of journalism experience, including stints at the Virginian-Pilot, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Palm Beach Post and the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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