Quality designers fill Va. Beach with top-notch tracks

By Steve Rocca, Contributor

Virginia Beach golf offers a variety of challenges from designers like Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples, Rees Jones, Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones. The challenges range from links-style to community living, from municipal to high-end daily-fee type courses. Pick your poison, and there will be a course for you, and most of them are no more than 15 or 20 minutes from the oceanfront.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach golf offers a variety of challenges from designers like Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples, Rees Jones, Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones. The challenges range from links-style to community living, from municipal to high-end daily-fee type courses.

Many of the courses are reasonably priced, offer a country club atmosphere and are within a short drive from the oceanfront. Here's a scouting report to the beach's top spots to get in 18 while the rest of the family is on the beach. You can escape for an early morning round and in many cases return in time for lunch.

Bay Creek

In 2002, Golf Magazine named Bay Creek Golf Club one of the Top 10 You Can Play. The Arnold Palmer design with four holes situated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay has been grabbing accolades from the day it opened. Golf Magazine wrote, "Playing the front nine at Bay Creek may just become one of the most stunning visual experiences anywhere on the East Coast." It even has grabbed some notice from PGA Tour players, including current member Omar Uresti, who said, "Of all the Palmer courses I've ever played, this is the best and most challenging."

Bay Creek Golf Club
1 Clubhouse Way
Cape Charles, Va. 23310
(757) 331-9000

Directions: From the oceanfront, go North on Pacific Avenue, which becomes Shore Drive. Turn right onto Route 13 and cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Continue on Route 13 for nine miles and turn left on Route 184. Turn left on Parsons Circle and go 200 yards to Old Cape Charles Road. Turn right and continue one mile to the entrance on the left.

Bow Creek Golf Course

This old-style municipal course provides some interesting play, but at just a par of 70 and 6,000 yards, it's not a true test for the seasoned golfer.

Bow Creek Golf Course
3425 Club House Rd
Virginia Beach, Va. 23452
(757) 431-3763

Directions: From the oceanfront, get on I-264 West to the Rosemont exit, and go left at the bottom. Go about 1 mile to Clubhouse Rd, then go left. About a quarter of a mile up, you see a sign on the right for Bow Creek. Go right and then turn left into the parking lot after about 100 yards.

Cypress Point Country Club

Tucked in a quiet golf community neighborhood, this course often gets overlooked in the discussions of good golf in Virginia Beach. This Ault and Clark design was rated "3 Stars" by Golf Digest's Places to Play-2002. The semi-private course is a local favorite that offers views of the Chesapeake Bay. The front nine has three par 5s, three par 4s, and three par 3s is unique, and the back nine features a par-3 over water nestled in a quiet little cove.

Cypress Point Country Club
5340 Clubhead Road
Virginia Beach, Va. 23455
(757) 490-8822

Directions: From the oceanfront, take I-264 West to 64 West to Exit 282, Route 13 North/Northampton Blvd. Veer right on exit and stay in right lane. At the first traffic light, turn right onto Wesleyan Dr. At the fourth traffic light (2 miles), turn left onto Cypress Point Blvd.

Hell's Point Golf Club

This is the place to play later in the week, after you've honed your game and worked the kinks out of your swing. They don't call Hell's Point for nothing. It's a difficult test, but one worth taking if you're the kind of person who loves a good challenge. Jones worked his magic on this course, utilizing numerous lakes and 61 sand traps. Some of the fairway angles are good challenges, some might be considered unfair, and the surrounding wildlife preserve makes spraying the ball a real no-no. When this course opened in 1984, it was named by Golf Digest as one of "America's 100 Best New Courses" and it has been since ranked as one of the top 65 courses in the country. It has received Golf Digest's prestigious 4-star Places to Play rating and been awarded "Best of the Beach" for 12 years running.

Hell's Point Golf Club
2700 Atwoodtown Road
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 721-3400

Directions: From the oceanfront, go South on Pacific, which becomes General Booth Blvd., turn left on Princess Anne Rd. Stay straight through first traffic light, and Princess Anne becomes Sandbridge Rd. after the light. Travel 1.5 miles and turn left on Atwoodtown Rd.

Heron Ridge Golf Club

After just five years, this Fred Couples and Gene Bates signature course is growing into a classic. With some of the priciest homes in Hampton Roads lining its fairways, Heron Ridge in Virginia Beach is becoming THE place to be. With a course that is challenging at every turn, you'll hardly notice the million dollar homes lining the fairways. Heron Ridge is located just 15 minutes from the Virginia Beach oceanfront, and after five years it now seems to be hitting its stride. The 7,010-yard, par-72 course that winds links-style through rolling hills and natural water hazards on the front nine and then turns into mature strands of oaks and elms on the back nine grabbed runner-up honors in the "Best of the Beach" course competition in 2003.

Heron Ridge Golf Club
2973 Heron Ridge Drive
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 426-3800

Directions: From the oceanfront, go South on Pacific Ave., which becomes General Booth Blvd; which becomes Princess Anne Rd. Turn left on Seaboard Road and continue 1.5 miles to the course and the entrance on right.

Honey Bee Golf Club

This is a challenging, sometimes tight (re: houses get close in some places) par-70 layout from Jones. It is open enough on the front side to be friendly to the high handicapper, yet it challenges the zealous golfer with a blend of length, water on 10 holes, elevated tees and huge sand bunkers. No. 18 is a par-5 finishing hole with an approach shot over water that is a delight. You can go for the green in two, but you better be able to carry it 200-plus over the canal. You can lay up and have a wedge into the green, and if you knock it close you still can card a birdie. But be careful, though, because the green has a ridge in the middle, so club selection is important. It's a nice finish with options that could decide your $2 Nassau.

Honey Bee Golf Club
2500 Independence Blvd.
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 471-2768

Directions: From the Virginia Beach Oceanfront: Take route I-264 west to South Independence Blvd., Exit 17A; Stay on South Independence Blvd. The course is located 5 miles on the left-hand side.

Red Wing Lake Golf Course

This classic designed by George Cobb was a healthy test in the 60s, but now many of the holes are outdated and overmatched for today's scratch golfer. For children or for high handicappers who love the game but don't want to pay an arm and a leg to play, this municipal course is a good fit. It features water hazards on nine holes and it has three par-3 holes that measure more than 200 yards from the tips, so it can serve as a good place to tune-up your irons. There are no houses on this course, which is nice, and there is plenty of space between fairways to give you a true golf experience.

Red Wing Lake Golf Course
1080 Prosperity Road
Virginia Beach, Va. 23451
(757) 437-4845

Directions: From the oceanfront, go South on Pacific Ave., which becomes General Booth Blvd. Turn left on Birdneck Rd. 2 miles from Rudee Inlet. Turn right on Prosperity Road. The course is on the left.

The Signature at West Neck

The grounds at Arnold Palmer's The Signature at West Neck have been transformed into something that might grab the attention of Home and Garden more than Golf Digest. The course has added more than 10,000 rose bushes, making this challenging 7,010-yard championship course look more like something that might belong in George W. Bush's backyard at the White House instead of the back yard of the sandy dunes of Virginia Beach's oceanfront. There are tree carvings of Palmer and his caddy in old oak tree stumps. There are palm trees on islands of green in the middle of the bunkers. There are flower beds and azaleas and trelises ringing the 9th and 18th greens filled with "knockout roses" that bloom from April to December. Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine called West Neck "a mini-Eden of roses, azaleas and other botanical lovelies (that) will happily pull even the most engaged golfer off the scent."

The Signature at West Neck
3100 Arnold Palmer Drive
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 721-2900

Directions: From the oceanfront go South on Pacific Avenue, which becomes General Booth Blvd., which becomes Princess Anne Road, which becomes North Landing Road. Turn left on West Neck Road and continue 1 mile to course entrance on right. Total time: 15 minutes to course.

Stumpy Lake Golf Course

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Stumpy Lake is located in a natural setting surrounded by water with lots of cypress trees. It's not unusual to see deer in the woods and watch red-tailed hawks swoop overhead as you play. This is a beautiful setting for a golf course.

Stumpy Lake Golf Course
4797 E. Indian River Rd.
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 467-6119

Directions: From the oceanfront, go to I-264 West and take it to I-64 toward Chesapeake. Take the second Indian River Road Exit, 286B (East) and follow that for 3.5 miles. The course is on right hand side. Look for the green sign.

TPC of Virginia Beach

This PGA Tournament Players Club course was designed by Pete Dye, aided by native son, Curtis Strange. The two created a masterpiece of "curves and undulations" not seen in these parts. A Nationwide Tour stop plays this course annually, but you can try your luck the other 51 weeks of the year. At more than 7,400 yards this is a place you can bring the driver, and with generous fairways, you usually have a few reasonable options on the tee.

The TPC of Virginia Beach
2500 Tournament Drive
Virginia Beach, Va. 23456
(757) 563-9440
www.playatpc.com or www.pgatour.com

Directions: From the oceanfront, go South on Pacific Avenue, which becomes General Booth Blvd., which becomes Princess Anne Road. Follow Princess Anne as it winds right by the Virginia Beach Municipal Center and look for the signs a couple of miles up on the left.

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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