Fans lucky enough to secure a seat behind the 17th will have a great view of the hole and the James River at Kingsmill Resort's River Course.
The River Course at Kingsmill is everything you would expect of a professional golf tour stop. It is in terrific shape, and not nearly as good as it will be in a month when the LPGA makes its stop for the Michelob Ultra Open. You may recall the PGA used the course for 22 years as its local tour stop. In 1994, Pete Dye renovated his own original design, adding new fairway bunkers and softening some of the harder edges on and around the greens.
From the blue tees at 6,300 yards, the course rating is a modest 70.9 with a slope of 133, which seemed a little inflated for the routing. The comparables from the gold tees, at 6,800, are 73.3 and 138. Distance counts for a lot at the River Course, and when the blue tees were back near the gold tees, the holes played much tougher.
Kingsmill must have spent a fortune in over-seeding its courses last fall because everything was green and near lush, including the rough, which was close to tournament length. The greens were smooth but very difficult to read; Dye's typical mounding around the greens made it seem as if putts broke away from them, but looks were often deceiving.
There wasn't a bad hole in the 18, and a few memorable ones. The 17th, the par 3 that runs along the James River, is about what you see on TV - treacherous right of the green and nasty to the left (nasty is better than treacherous). The 15th, a benignly distanced par 5 at just 473 yards, requires that you thread the needle off the tee between one trap left and four at right. If you make the go zone, a deep ravine awaits, covering the entire right half of the fairway in front of the narrow green. Left and front of the green almost guarantees a par, if not a birdie; the ravine leads to bogey or worse.
We were restricted to cart path only, and one ranger told us he expects it to be that way right up until the LPGA arrives. I'm sure the course will close in the next two weeks as the heavy resort play has left many divots in the fairways.
I had the pleasure of playing the round with Chuck Coe, a self-described "rug merchant" from Maryland and a member of the Bethesda Golf Club. We had a great conversation during the round and at lunch about golf, family and exercise (Chuck was quite articulate about how yoga has helped him regain and maintain flexibility and improved his golf game after serious shoulder and knee surgeries). Yes, it's fun to go away with your buddies for a week of golf, but one of the glories of the game is the match-up with total strangers who, for four hours at least, turn out to be good friends. Thanks Chuck.
Modern art: From the tee at #5, the stream, bunker and mounding form parallel lines around the smallish green.
Chuck Coe of Maryland played some excellent golf and was great company.