Nothing Confusing About Augustine

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

STAFFORD, VA - Augustine Golf Club is named after a Washington.

No, it's not named after George, and it's not named after the city that's about 35 minutes up I-95. It's not even named after the State of Washington. It gets its name from the father of the father of our country.

It's a good thing that the golf course itself isn't that confusing. Augustine Golf Club is a Rick Jacobson (formerly of Nicklaus Design Associates) design, and features all the characteristics that Jacobson's work is known for--fair challenge, aesthetic beauty and playability.

Opening in 1995, the beautiful Augustine golf course and housing development is given much credit for leading an upscale public golf course construction boom in the Washington, D.C. area that continues to this day--to the delight of area golfers. The proximity of the track to the capital metro area combined with its serene parkland setting guarantees that most local golfers put the course high up on their 'must play' list.

The land that encompasses Augustine Golf Club once was part of the estate of George Washington's father, Augustine. Hence, the developers decided to make a permanent tribute to the man who served as a role model to George. The analogy might be a bit stretched, but the Augustine Golf Club could easily serve as a model for how to make a public golf facility work. The course plays to 6,817 yards from the back tees, and a par of 71.

Steve Loomis, Augustine's Head Pro, puts it succinctly--"We've got one of the best layouts on the east coast. It's almost always in great shape; our service is in top form; the course is challenging, but fair. We want to make sure that every golfer's trip here is the best day that we can provide."

The layout is sneaky challenging. Jacobson's done a masterful job on framing the holes--and put along side his other major Northern Virginia work, Bull Run Country Club, confirms that he has an extremely keen eye for the way a golf hole should be laid out. A photographer should do so well with a set of proofs.

And what makes Jacobson's framing task more difficult than any photographer's--is the nature of the ground. As is true for almost every course in the area--there is serious topographical variation. A fancy way of saying--it's hilly, man. There just aren't many flat pieces of ground to work with. And although it can be said that golf architects can move the earth to shape a course--the best ones can take what they're given and use it to provide contrast and variation. That's exactly what Jacobson's done with Augustine.

The course actually plays shorter than the listed yardage, but doesn't play easier. Most of the tees are elevated, and there are only two par fours that are over 440 yards (including the 12th, at 441 yards). The fairways are certainly not skinny, and the forest really shouldn't come into play unless you miss one badly.

This being said, the difficulty lies in the placement of the hazards and through creative bunkering. Streams, ponds or wetlands come into play on numerous holes, and ensure that you're honest when taking shots at the layout.

Though hardly a target course, proper placement on drives and approaches is essential to shoot low. The greens are small and mildly undulating, but are pretty quick. Every part of the short game is put under the microscope. Better hope that doesn't reveal too much.

There are a few holes where you can't see the flag from the tee, but there are no blind tee shots. Every driving hole can use good distance. Jacobson's courses allow you to bring your driver, and use it. If the designer had anything to say about it, Calloway would never want for sales.

But while the architect allows you to rip the big dog from your bag fourteen times a round, he'll make you drive it straight, or pay the price. Hole #1 is a perfect example of the test. 411 yards from the back, the elevated tee shows a split fairway--that gives you the option of how to approach the green. Dead center is taken away by a wetlands area. The easiest approach to the green is through the left side of the 'Y,' but the landing area is fairly narrow. The right side is a little wider and allows for more error, but will leave a short to medium iron for the second over the wetlands area and a bunker in the front right.

The second hole is probably Augustine's signature hole (there are five or six outstanding ones to choose from). It's a 456 yard par four. Like #1, it requires a drive from an elevated tee to a fairway protected by water all the way down the left side, and a steep embankment to the right. Jacobson lets you drive it, but you'll have to determine from the tee how much distance you'll want to cut off from the second shot into a relatively small green. It calls for a steady nerve and sweatless palms to execute the shot.

The sixth hole is a stunning par three. 195 yards from the back, it often plays into the teeth of the prevailing breeze. You'll have to hit over water, but the lake's more for scare than for real. There's enough room to miss left with a bunker, short, and right to make this a memorable hole for beauty and not for the beast. Make no mistake, par's still an excellent score, but the hole looks harder than it is.

The back nine is less open than the front, and the trees seem to nestle more tightly against the fairways. The twelfth hole is the course's #2 handicap hole (the second is #1), but I'd say it's the toughest on the course. Measuring 441 yards from the tips, the tee shot is uphill to a plateau fairway, guarded by bunkers on the right. If you don't get enough distance, you won't be able to see the second shot--which calls for a long iron into an elevated green. If you're to the right or short off the drive, even a lay-up shot must contend with a stream that bisects the fairway. Be glad when this one's over and move on.

Jacobson gives you somewhat of a break with the fifteenth hole. Uphill and 305 yards from the back, it's not realistically driveable for 99% of us. But there's a big enough landing area to use the driver comfortably, which will leave only a half sand wedge or variations of it into the green. There are two bunkers protecting the front right which could come into play if the pin is tucked in that region, and the green isn't very wide. But take advantage of this scoring opportunity when you get it.

The round concludes with an uphill par five, reachable in two at 501 yards. You will have to have a strong tee shot in order to have a go at it--and there's a large bunker guarding the front center of the putting surface--and also one center-long. The green here is large for a par five, but its undulation will keep you honest. Even if your second shot makes the green, you still may be looking at par unless you're in the same vicinity of the flag. A fun hole to finish up the round.

The final hole typifies the experience at Augustine Golf Club. First, it's fun. Second, it's creative, and gives choices. Third, play it aggressively, and you can make a birdie. Fourth, misplay it and you'll find a double on your card. Lastly, there's nothing confusing about it. Challenging but fair. A role model for a golf round. And just as Augustine was a model for George, Augustine Golf Club's a model for public golf.

Jeffrey A. RendallJeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

Jeffrey Rendall is an avid golfer and freelance writer. After passing the California Bar in 1994, he moved to Virginia to pursue his interests in history and politics, where he's worked since 1995.

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