Broad Run Golf and Practice Facility: In Pursuit of Practice Heaven

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

BRISTOW, VA – It’s often said that practice makes perfect. That’s highly debatable, and when it comes to playing the game of golf, it’s downright false.

For anyone who’s enjoyed an appreciable amount of golf knows there’s no such thing as perfection. Sure, there are perfect shots (some would call them ‘miracles’), but there’s no possible way to hit one every time. Golf is simultaneously cruel and rewarding, and perhaps the pursuit of perfection is what drives us to play.

So if it’s not possible to reach perfection, why practice?

Because we’ve seen what practice brings at the highest level. Professional golfers have attained lofty heights by building a mechanically sound golf swing, mastering some proven short-game techniques and spending years digesting the ‘mental’ game to hone their art. Then they hit the range (on practically a daily basis) and the course to try and achieve the ‘perfect’ round every time. They’re at the top because they’re able to hit golf balls more consistently than everyone else.

From a statistical standpoint, only small fractions of a stroke separate the ‘elite’ pros from the journeyman. So you could say, professionals spend thousands of hours trying to improve by hundredths of a stroke—that often makes the difference between lasting fame and fortune, or a trip back to Q-School the next year.

For recreational golfers, improvement is (hopefully) measured in larger increments—but it takes a lot of work.

Needless to say, the better the opportunities are to practice, the more likely you’ll improve. That’s why it’s great to have a place like the Broad Run Golf & Practice facility in Bristow, Virginia. Broad Run offers all the necessary essentials to improve your golf game—which is pretty much summed up in their slogan -- “We’re all about your better golf.”

Broad Run opened in 1998 as the ‘Golf Academy at Broad Run.’ Anyone who has driven south on Rt. 28 out of Manassas can’t help but notice it, but what you see from the road is only part of what’s there. In addition to probably the best practice facilities in the area, it also features a nine-hole Rick Jacobson golf course. Jacobson’s made quite a name for himself in Northern Virginia with his designs at Bull Run and Augustine Country Clubs, and it’s clear he’s done some fine work at Broad Run, too.

Rick Zarlengo, Broad Run’s General Manager and Director of Golf, says there are a few misconceptions about his facility that he’d like to see cleared up: “We’ve always had tremendous practice facilities here, but it’s been a struggle to let folks know that we’ve also got one of the best regulation length nine-hole golf courses you’ll ever find, too.”

“I’ve got some buddies who’ve come here and said ‘I thought you only had a par three course.’ Then I’ll take them out to the fifth tee box to show them the incredible view—and impressions are changed quite rapidly. But unfortunately, I can’t whisk everyone out there to show them what we have,” Zarlengo adds.

It’s easy to see Zarlengo’s perspective. Broad Run’s practice facilities are so enormous and impressive that it’s tough to even see where the golf course comes in. The range includes mats as well as a grass tee, several target greens to choose from (guarded by bunkers, too), a fairway bunker to knock some sand around, and wide open spaces to share your garbled practice thoughts with.

Off to one side is one of the finest short-game practice areas I’ve ever seen—with greenside bunkers, rough, fairway height chipping, and three target flags to aim at.

Zarlengo says it’s a shame that people don’t spend more time there, and sure enough, the times I’ve used it, there’s never anyone around. “The average golfer loves to spend big money on equipment—then when they go to practice, they’ll hit 75% of their range balls with just their driver. If I were directing them, I’d tell them to spend at least half their time in the short-game area and on the putting green. That’s where the average player really picks up strokes.”

Not a bad piece of advice. And the great thing is, Broad Run provides everything you’ll need to practice every type of shot—including a practice green that’s big enough to accommodate a score of golfers.

In addition to the expansive facilities, Zarlengo’s available to provide instruction. “I’ve taught pros from all the professional tours—PGA, LPGA, Seniors, you name it. I’ve also taught beginners who’ve never picked up a club before.” Broad Run’s also a good place to receive a club fitting.

“That’s one of the things we’re working hard to establish here—a well respected and wide-ranging instructional program. We’re going to be bringing on an LPGA pro, and she’ll be handling our junior program as well as conducting group lessons. If I have my way, we’ll cover it all,” Zarlengo commented.

One thing Broad Run’s considering adding is a second nine to compliment its already complete nine-hole layout. There’s plenty of vacant land around the facility, but it’s church owned property—and the church next door has yet to decide how it wants to use the land. Hopefully the church elders can be convinced—after all, is there any holier usage of God’s earth than for a golf course? Better tell everyone to keep the cursing to a minimum.

The course stretches to just over 3,000 yards from the back tees, but plays to a par of 35. Zarlengo says from the back tees, it’s quite a test. “I wouldn’t say our course is especially difficult, but there are holes, from the back tees, that will satisfy anyone who wants a challenge. We’ve got a 548 yard par five, a 422 yard par four and a 226 yard par three. We’ve also got some shorter holes, but it all adds up to quite a lot of variety in your trip around the course.”

Tight tree lines and water will also test your accuracy on several holes. If you’re hooking your driver on the range, better leave it in the bag on the course!

One final note is Broad Run’s pricing—you’ll have a hard time finding a better deal anywhere. Value is a fleeting concept—like beauty, it’s often in the eyes of the beholder. But even looking at it objectively, the most you’ll pay to play 18 holes at Broad Run (the greens fee plus a replay rate) is $45 (including cart), even during primetime in peak season. The course’s bentgrass tees, fairways and greens are almost always in good condition, too.

Taking a look at the layout, the course begins with a very tame ‘warm-up’ hole. 322 yards and straight on, take an iron off the tee to keep it in the playable area—as trees encroach on both sides of the fairway.

Skipping to five, you’ll marvel at the view from the tee box—downhill and you’ll need to carry a lake. Looks harder than it plays, because the landing area is quite wide if you clear the water. But your work’s not done after your tee ball--you’ll still need to carry a stream to reach the green on your second shot.

Seven is the polar opposite of the short but tight holes. 548 yards of par five, you’re again teeing down a considerable slope—and this time, the clearing’s incredibly wide. You’d really have to hook or slice badly to get in trouble on this hole. Big-hitting hacker’s paradise! It’s also an inspiring view.

When you finish up, perhaps one of the last things you’ll notice is the ‘thank you’ you’ll receive when walking out the door. Zarlengo describes it this way: “People have many choices as to where they take their golf dollars--and there are so many great golf courses around here, it’s our policy to tell people that we appreciate their business when they come here. For the people who come here everyday, it might get a little monotonous, but we’re glad they decided to come here.”

Even if you can’t achieve perfection with practice, the experience you’ll get at Broad Run makes you actually want to keep trying. It sure as heck beats working on those violin lessons your parents made you take when you were in grade school.

Note: Broad Run also offers a miniature golf course that’s proved popular for birthday parties and events. Some of the practice tees are also covered. Night lighting allows for practice after work!

General Manager: Rick Zarlengo
Course Architect: Rick Jacobson

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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