Signature at West Neck: Swing away if you're a golfer, duck if you're a resident
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Signature at West Neck golf course, an Arnold Palmer design, is one of those love-it or hate-it propositions.
If you're a golfer, you'll probably love it. If you're a resident of one of the many houses built around it- well, let's just say you spend a lot of time cowering.
"Palmer screwed up," said member Dave Camion. "He built the houses too close to the course."
That he did. Camion said at least one resident is considering moving, after being pelted five or six times a day.
Errant shots here, either off the tee or from the fairway, can do some damage and not just to your scorecard. They should have armor-fitted windows at West Lake-and keep the kids and dogs inside.
That being said, Camion and other members love this course, even more than the other, well-known Palmer course in Virginia Beach-Bay Creek, which is a relatively safe 25 miles away on the pastoral Eastern Shore, across the Chesapeake Bay.
For one thing, West Neck is beautifully landscaped: Flowers are everywhere, arches over the cart paths and indigenous bushes planted strategically. All the Virginia flora gets great play here. Some say it should be a botanical reserve.
"The first thing people notice is the flowers," said Tom Stevenson, director of golf at both Palmer courses. "We have between 15,000-20,000 roses out there. I've never found anybody who didn't enjoy both courses."
There are also 13 lakes and other natural wetland areas. It's a little shorter and easier than Bay Creek-West Neck is 7,010 yards with a slope rating of 135.
"This is better than Bay Creek," Camion said. "The landscaping here is spectacular."
The course is set deep in Back Bay, one of the lesser-developed areas of Virginia Beach, but winds its way through two developments that found their way here: West Neck, which is a community for those age 55 and older, and Indian River Plantation with its multi-million dollar homes. The two developments are always with you as you make your way around the course.
Aside from the landscaping, the course has a good mix of yardages and is fairly open. Attention to detail is all over the place, with good movement on the fairways and greens and great bunkering.
"Palmer's philosophy is to make a championship course, then within a week make it so a family of four can go out and enjoy it," Stevenson said. "The landing areas are wide, with a minimum of 150 feet."
Signature at West Neck: The verdict
If it weren't for the closeness of the homes to the course, this would be another great Palmer course, but the homes, particularly around hole Nos. 1, 14 and 17, give it a constricting feel.
Still, if you can block out the development and its ongoing construction, West Neck is a great play.
No. 3 is a doozy, a 455-yard, par-4 dogleg right with a short carry over water off the tee, the toughest handicapped hole on the course. No. 9 is a long par-5 hole with water right and a serious series of bunkers left.
And No. 16 is a par 4 with a ton of water: "Buddy, this hole will grab you by the bazooms," Camion said.
Green fees range from $50-$79, making this an excellent deal.
Places to stay
There's a wide range of accommodations in Virginia Beach, from mom-and-pop motels to exclusive beach resorts. A good bet is the Cavalier Hotel, at the northern end of the "strip," the area of high rises, stores and bars that line Atlantic Avenue for about four miles. It's on the beaten path, but far away enough from it to get away from the noise and chaos.
The original hotel, built in 1927, sits on a hill overlooking the strip and ocean. The newer building is beachfront, with terrific views of the ocean to the north, where no high-rises loom.
The hotel has a "sunshine guarantee," in which guests who suffer through a "no sun day" in June, July or August get a free night in conjunction with a future trip — if it's within a year.
The Cavalier has five restaurants, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a 1,500-square-foot fitness club and the only private beach in Virginia. It also has tennis courts, including clay surface, basketball, croquet, volleyball, shuffleboard, a game room with pool tables and bike rentals.
Places to eat
There are, obviously, some very good seafood restaurants in Virginia Beach, like Waterman's, Mahi Mah's Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Salon, the Rockfish Bar and Grill and others like The Black Angus, Abbey Road Pub and Restaurant and Rockafellers.
If you want to stay at the Cavalier, it has five eateries, including Orion's, with its 11th floor spectacular, panoramic view to go with fresh seafood and hickory grilling. The Hunt Club Grill is at the hillside building and has wood-paneled walls and a fireplace, only for winter dining.
You may notice a statue of Palmer, cut out of an old tree, near the ninth green. You may also notice the club he's supposed to be swinging isn't there. It came loose and sits in Stevenson's office, waiting to be re-fitted to the statue.
August 31, 2005