We spent Friday at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA. Son Tim, the golfer, has been accepted there, and although we had made a prior visit, we had not met golf coach Gavin Colliton. And in evaluating his choices, Tim insists on taking a look at the golf team's home course before he decides on his college (Davidson College and University of the South in Sewanee, TN are also in play).
We didn't have time to play the course, but we did stop to look at the sleek Lexington Country Club, whose original nine were opened in 1906. Today, the course is a hilly, tree lined 18 in excellent condition, very green for mid-April in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with just a little more grass growth needed on the greens. The adjacent community sits well back from the course, and from most holes you cannot see any houses.
At less than 6,400 yards from the tips, Lexington certainly is not long, but views of #1 and #18 from behind the clubhouse indicate it is tricky. The first fairway, lined with trees from about 200 yards out, tilts hard from high right to low left. Assuming the tee ball stays out of the trees, the approach is uphill to a smallish green with traps guarding its right half.
The finishing hole, a 520-yard par 5, is downhill from the tee, so a well-placed drive puts you in the go zone to the green. But the approach - whether the second or third - is not for the faint of heart, with a stream at the base of the steep hill that leads up to the elevated, two-tiered green. On the day we visited, the pin was on the far right, just in front of a trap. Put your approach on the top tier of the green on the left side and your putt will likely roll past the cup and off the green. Go for the pin and you will face the prospect of rolling down into the creek if you are short; or if you go long, a trap shot with an impossible downhill blast and the risk of being back down the hill. The only bailout area is to the right of the green, leaving a delicate but not unmanageable chip shot. It is a beautifully designed hole by Ellis Maples and Ed Seay, the course's most recent designers (1971).
The club has a longstanding affiliation with the university and offers membership to non-resident parents of students for just $1,000 per school year. Lexington is a small but culturally rich town, given its two schools (the Virginia Military Institute is just down the road from W&L).
If you are wide open to choices about where to relocate and would be happy playing just one excellent golf course is a strongly collegiate town, Lexington is worth a look. Phone: 540-463-3542. One caveat: The driving range is irons only.