The up market Lansdowne Resort offers golf club members and residents 45 top class holes of golf with two 18-hole courses and an executive 9-hole layout. The first 18 holes were laid out by Kyle Phillips on behalf of Robert Trent Jones II, opening in 1992, and the remaining 27-holes followed in 2005 when Greg Norman designed a full sized championship course and a short track called Shark Bite.
The front nine of the Norman course are routed along the Potomac River, beside holes 16 to 18 of the RTJ II course, then the back nine returns west along the river towards Goose Creek. Many of the fairways lie adjacent to the Potomac Heritage Trail, an old Indian pathway that runs right along the banks of the river. As the holes lie on a flood plain, most of the greens have all been raised to protect them from possible future flooding.
From the tips, the Norman course measures over 7,300 yards, so it can play long but even the "grip-it-and-rip-it" brigade have to give strategy a little consideration when playing holes like the 331-yard short par four 5th. The final four holes measure 408, 442, 663 and 247 yards – a total of 1,760 yards which The Great White Shark describes as "the hardest mile in golf".
In spring 2017 a complete bunker renovation
programme was undertaken, managed by Chris Campbell of Greg Norman Golf Course
Design, who originally directed the construction of the Norman course, along
with Ron Despain of Troon Golf.
It amazes me how little attention Greg Norman gets as a course designer. The Shark doesn't have the comprehensive portfolio to match other former PGA TOUR superstores like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. But, when one assesses Greg's overall batting average his total efforts are quite noteworthy.
What makes Norman's effort at Lansdowne so successful is the wherewithal not to go off the rails with adding a wide assortment of inane features that would stand apart from the terrain -- rather than blending in smartly.
The close proximity to the Potomac makes for a scenic connection. Now, it's important to stress the scenery is more off-course than on-course. Being able to provide hole differentiation is no easy feat when the land you're working with is fairly flat and ordinary.
Much of the routing works alongside the Potomac going outwards on the front. But, Norman was smart to include three holes -- the 4th thru 6th - that actually play away from the Potomac and are a fine mixture with a par-5, par-3 and par-4 combination. The long par-4 7th is wonderfully positioned with water guarding the drive zone on the right and the fairway tapering so accuracy, in concert with distance, is needed.
The long par-3 9th that concludes the outward half is exceptional. Playing 247 yards one has to give the utmost respect to water which fiercely protects the left side and swallows up any half-hearted play.
The inward half starts with two straightforward par-4 holes. The par-5 12th reverses course and is situated on the facility's property line as it runs in a parallel fashion to the Potomac Heritage Trail. The two weakest holes follow with the lack luster par-3 13th and the woefully inadequate short par-4 14th which has little to offer and is simply unimaginative.
Fortunately, the round concludes with a series of challenging and well-crafted holes. The 15th and 16th are both stout par-4s and are situated in parallel fashion with the aforementioned Trail. There's no escape from the reality that solid play is the only recourse. The par-3 17th reverses direction and features a narrow landing area in the front before widening out in the rear. The closing finale is a testing risk/reward par-5. The hole turns slightly right in the drive zone and for those able to hit a long and well-positioned tee shot the opportunity to go for the green in two shots is certainly an option. To successfully pull that off one has to carry wetlands that guards the entire green.
For whatever reason in the Commonwealth the Norman effort at Lansdowne gets far too little attention outside the immediate area. As I said at the outset the lack of inspiring topography presented a range of hurdles for the Shark to face. The end result is a quality design that provides no quarter for half-hearted plays and with the exception of just a few holes demonstrates a design outcome that resolutely identifies the contenders from the pretenders.
M. James Ward