Course Review: “The Gauntlet,” Fredericksburg, VA

The Gauntlet, Fredericksburg, VA

 A few years back, Lee Trevino, in an interview with Golf Magazine, was asked if he was worried about the current state of golf course design. “Of course,” he responded, while adding something akin to ‘I’m not sure what these guys are doing. Go build 18 greens, 18 tees, throw a few bunkers out there, and let people play golf.’

It is particularly hard to imagine what PB Dye was thinking when plowing through the wetlands of Curtis Memorial Park in Fredericksburg. He certainly wasn’t considering the 10-20 handicappers who would make up 99 percent of The Gauntlet’s paying customers. Numerous blind tee shots, blind approaches, multi-tiered greens, pinched in fairways… throw in poor drainage, a paucity of yardage markers, and a misguided decision to install bent grass greens (just about every collar was burnt out) and by the 4th hole you’ll be wondering why you didn’t volunteer to ferry your 5 year old daughter to the neighborhood birthday party at American Girl in Tysons for tea and cupcakes.

Now, one shouldn’t throw around poor reviews gratuitously, so let me highlight a few positives, along with some details that might explain some of my negativity:

a)    The price is right; $60 for a Saturday morning round can’t be beat.

b)   I didn’t see a house on the course.

c)    The superintendent appears to be trying; for late August, the fairways weren’t in terrible shape, and the greens (once you got around the burnt out collars) rolled relatively true.

d)   The management is trying as well; they’ve instituted a moderately priced Monday twilight golf league and are offering a tremendous deal on Tuesday afternoons.

e)    At this point, I’m pretty sure I’d decline to play Augusta National if confronted with “cart path only” rather than continue to engage in such silliness. Certainly traipsing back and forth across fairways with multiple clubs contributed to my mood.

f)     Perhaps PB spent up all his creativity on the front 9, because the back side was, in fact, much more playable, and thus, more enjoyable. Or, it would have been, had I not been spent myself by the 11th hole.

g)    The clubhouse staff was friendly and helpful, although it would have been nice had the roving marshall pushed along the one group preventing us from completing a sub 4 hour round rather than engage in back slapping and other frivolities.

 Maybe architects fear they won’t be remembered for creating a humdrum course along the lines of Trevino’s recommendation. Maybe they suspect the lack of buzz will ensure they never win another contract. But one thing is certain; pedestrian designs would serve the average golfer infinitely more than the monstrosities in vogue in the mid 1990s…