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Historic Golf Discovery in Williamsburg, Virginia

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Historic Golf Discovery in Williamsburg, Virginia
Tee shot and island green par-3 16th on the Gold Course at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia is a lifetime memory. Add it to your "bucket list."

Golf Writer Andy Reistetter takes his exclusive "Play-Write" series on the road north to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. While known for its historical role in the emergence of American democracy, more should be known about its present-day role as a 45-hole world-class golfing destination. Whereas George Washington and Thomas Jefferson walked down the main street on the way to American liberation, so too have many famous golfers walked the fairways of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. Enjoy this autumn golfing trip with Reistetter, then schedule a golfing trip of your own!

"Are you people of the frontier?" cries Mr. Richard Lee, a historical re-enactor in the R. Charlton's Coffeehouse when asked a silly question about life and politics in the year of 1765.

The same could be said for seasoned golfers who have yet to play the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Colonial Williamsburg.

"Are you golfers of the rough?"

Come to the fairways and greens of the championship Gold and Green Courses designed by the renowned father-son golf course architects Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Rees Jones.

Jones Sr. called the Gold Course which opened in 1963 his "finest design—a natural arboretum upon which a great golf course has been built."

The following year the World Golf Hall of Fame member reconfigured the original 1947 Fred Finlay nine-hole course into the executive-length Spotswood Course.

This little family-favorite gem earned "the best nine-hole course in the country" distinction of Golf Magazine.

From where does the name "Golden Horseshoe" originate?

Spotswood, the course's namesake, was the colonial governor in 1716 and led an expedition from the coastal plains to the far western portions of the Virginia colony.

Many horseshoes were consumed due to the newly encountered rocky soil of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The expedition was successful and when they returned to civilization the governor gave each pioneer a Golden Horseshoe.

Four years after the Gold Course opened, Jack Nicklaus set the professional course record of 67 in an exhibition match.

More recently in collegiate competition, Daniel Summerhays of Brigham Young University and Michael Schachner of Duke University have posted 10-under-par 60s.

Though relatively short at 6,817 total yards from the back tees, the tightly laid out design nestled amongst rolling hills and a hardwood forest requires precise golf shots from tee to green.

Aesthetically pleasing to the eye and the soul are the four par threes which are memorable.

Three of the four, Nos. seven, 12 and the signature No. 16 cross water in a magnificent little valley near the center of the traditional layout which is free and clear of any adjacent development.

In fact you could be a million miles from civilization for all you know yet you are close by one of the earliest civilizations in our country.

The 16th is a true island hole. Having been constructed in 1963 it is one of the first holes with an island green anywhere.  

The second shot on the reachable par-five second hole is a risk-reward all or nothing shot over the same stretch of water.

Escape from all of the hullabaloo outside R. Charlton's Coffeehouse over a stamp tax and head to the links for a quick round of golf on the Spotswood, Green or Golf courses of the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.

The par-three third hole has water of its own cutting across the front of a diagonally placed green. From the elevated tee a bunker short right appears as a beach even though Virginia Beach is 60 miles away.

Originally the Gold and Spotswood courses met the needs of the locals and golfing guests to Colonial Williamsburg.

Director of Golf Glen Byrnes has been a golf professional at Golden Horseshoe since 1986. He recalls the design challenge of the Green Course as being "a playable resort course that can host a major golf championship as well."

Rees Jones, the younger son, answered the call and designed a green masterpiece literally next door to his father's legacy.

Both the Gold and Green Courses are certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries.

The Gold and Green Courses are the only father-and-son, side-by-side designed courses in the world. One could literally play the first five holes on the Gold then check in at the Green clubhouse, play 18 and come back to finish the remaining holes on the Gold.

With up to five or six teeing grounds on each hole the yardage of the Green Course extends from the red tees at 5,348 to the green tees at 7,120.

For a touch of history one can look to the right and see the timeless boathouse of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the man who championed the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s.

The par-3 16th on the Gold Course is as finest a par-3 as you will find anywhere in the world of golf.

The Rees Jones-designed Green Course opened in October 1991 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

With extreme flexibility of course setup particularly in tee and hole locations, narrowing of fairways and length of the rough this playable links style course can be transformed overnight into the most difficult test for the world's best golfers.

That happened in the 2004 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.

Defending champion Michelle Wie battled a young Yani Tseng down the stretch.

It all came down to the classic finishing hole a reachable par five with an elevated tee shot over water down into a valley with an upward slope—to the well-bunkered green.

All square in their 36-hole match both Wie and challenger Tseng bunkered their second shots greenside at the home hole. Tseng got it up and down and Wie did not.

Tseng, at age 15, became the second-youngest winner of the championship behind Wie, who captured the title as a 13-year-old. Wie is in the record books as the youngest titlist of a USGA "adult" championship.

Tseng, if by chance you have been out on the frontier, has gone on to become the youngest player ever, male or female, to win five major championships..

Colonial Williamsburg's motto is "The future may learn from the past."

Whether you play the Spotswood, Green or Gold or hopefully all three what you will learn is that Colonial Williamsburg is a premier golfing destination.

The par-3 third hole on the Gold Course has water of its own.

I guarantee that you will remember your rounds of golf at the Golden Horseshoe in 20 years' time.

My insider's tip when golfing Williamsburg is to make it truly a "Jones family affair." Prior to going, read older brother Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Golf by Design book. This will give you the knowledge to lower your score by understanding how golf courses are designed.

Perhaps once you come in from the frontier, armed with knowledge and faced with the challenge of these 45 holes of golf, your golfing experience at the Golden Horseshoe will be your best ever!

Golf Williamsburg's motto, in my opinion, is "Come play golf here and we will do whatever it takes to make it a memorable experience."

Besides the golf and American historical experience of Colonial Williamsburg, there are great restaurants, lodging and of course the full-service spa.

For an elegant dining experience may I recommend the Regency Room at the Williamsburg Inn (coat required)?

I had the Crabmeat Randolph for a first course and Grilled Angus Filet and Veal Sweetbreads for my entrée. In addition the steward recommended a local Virginia wine, Octagon vintage 2006—a proprietary blend by from Barboursville Vineyards.

My desert selection was the Carrot-Coconut Cake with caramel cheesecake frosting and pineapple relish.

Victor Fraile/Getty Images
Yano Tseng got the best of Michele Wie in 2004 on the Green Course at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club. This picture is more recent.

Truly a memorable culinary experience!

With nearly 700 guest rooms and suites available, whether you stay at the Williamsburg Inn, Lodge or the Woodlands you will be close to the golf courses and Colonial Williamsburg.

The Lodge is literally right across the street from the Gold (& Spotswood) clubhouse with the Green only a few drivers away.

Also across the street is The Spa. I enjoyed the sports massage which is really the golfers' massage. Even after 11 years of yoga I don't think my shoulders or hips have ever been so free. I only wish I had taken the massage before I played the golf!

One final tip—there are five taverns nearby. Don’t miss an opportunity to taste one of the locally brewed AleWerks beers.

That's all for now, reporting from a state of bliss…

To read more articles in Golf Writer Andy Reistetter's exclusive "Play-Write" series, go to the following links:

1. Daniel Island Club (Charleston, SC): Home of the Nationwide Tour Championship and the Charm of Charleston, South Carolina

The Williamsburg Inn recently enlarged both guest rooms and bathrooms reducing the number from 100 to 62. Spectacularly appointed and luxurious.

2. St. Johns Golf & Country Club (St. Augustine, FL): On the Road to the PGA TOUR

3. TPC Four Seasons (Las Colinas, TX): Home of the HP Byron Nelson Classic

4. Cog Hill Dubsdread (Lemont, IL): Deserving of a Future U.S. Open

5. Greenbrier's Old White Course (White Sulphur Springs, W VA): A Charles Blair Macdonald Masterpiece enveloped with the essence of Slammin' Sammy Snead at America's Resort

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. He spends time on all four major American golf tours—the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

Reistetter resides within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached by email at AndyReistetter@gmail.com.

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