The Golden Horseshoe golf complex is one of the finest golfing destinations in all of the United States, featuring two formidable 18-hole layouts – the Gold and the Green – and a charming executive course named Spotswood.
A 9-hole course opened here in the mid 1940s and this served golfers until a Robert Trent Jones Senior-designed 18-hole layout came into play in 1963. The master architect also reconfigured the original 9-hole course around this time, forming the Spotswood.
His son Rees Jones added the Green course in 1991 then he returned later that decade to renovate his father’s original Gold design by thinning out trees, leveling a number of greens and adding or removing bunkers. This work was completed in time for the USGA State Team Championships when the gents played on the Gold course and the ladies teed it up on the Green.
Recognised as an unrelenting, punishing test of golf, the Gold is a tight course where narrow fairways lead to small, well-defended greens with water playing a crucial part at critical points in the round. Golfers are made aware of the challenges early in the round at the par five 2nd hole when they crest a hill after playing their first two uphill shots to find the green sits on the other side of a lake.
The quartet of par threes on the Gold form a magnificent collection of demanding short holes and their placement – at holes 3, 7, 12 and 16 – involves the need to carry water from tee to green. They’re beautiful, seductive holes but fraught with danger too. The last of these marvelous par threes plays from a hillside tee position to an island green – and the Golden Horseshoe club believe this hole was the template for others to follow such as the celebrated 17th at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
Golden Horseshoe's Gold course was closed during 2016/17 when an extensive renovation was carried out by Rees Jones and Greg Muirhead. Known as the “Open Doctor,” Rees Jones, son of Robert Trent Jones Snr, oversaw the upgrade of his father’s original golf course design. Bunkers were reconstructed, greens resurfaced and the entire course was re-grassed, using Bermuda on tees, fairways and rough and bent grass on the greens.
It’s fitting to have a historical golf club in such a historical part of the United States. I didn’t realise that so many world-famous golf trophies were designed at this venue, one of them being the trophy for the Ryder Cup. Even before you strike a golf ball, it is important to take a tour of the history room and you’re guaranteed to learn many new things about the history of our great game.
In the town of Williamsburg, VA – the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club has a variety of courses for all levels, but it is the Gold Course that stands head and shoulders above the others.
RTJ Senior laid out the 18-hole course in the early 1960s and in the past couple of years Rees Jones led a spirited team to renovate the course. From speaking with the golf executives at the club, Rees brought a high level of care and passion to this project to uphold the design merits of his esteemed father. It was a personal journey to restore and renovate.
It’s well documented that RTJ Senior courses are capable of severe use of huge bunkers, ponds, creeks, and undulating greens in order to defend his layouts from attack not just by the world’s greatest players during the US Open but also from the evolution of modern golf equipment and the golf ball. The Gold Course exactly follows that model and is a golf course that embraces the natural flow of the land with wonderful changes in elevation where every hole is “a hard par but an easy bogey”. As expected, the course has those trademark long tee boxes which look like a runway.
The short holes get all the documented attention, and for very good reasons, but there are plenty of holes to celebrate in this renewed layout. The playing corridors are delightful through the tall trees as the land rises and falls, and there is no shortage of heroic carries over water to devilishly placed greens, some of which seem to be floating up in the sky.
While only 100 trees were removed during the renovation (which really surprised me), everybody walks off this course highly satisfied. It’s such a treat and I certainly recommend getting a tee time if visiting the town.
I played this course about 10 years ago and loved it. I played with a couple of old lads that lived on the course and had been members for years. They helped me with my 'where to hit it' the par 3's are the stand out and the finishing three holes are very memorable. We had a few thunderstorms come through and instead of returning tot he clubhouse we stayed on one of the gents balconies and sipped a few buds. It is a terrific old style club that go out of the way to deliver you an enjoyable golfing experience. I would play it again without question. the Par 3 16th island green is one of the best par 3's in around.