The pay and play course at Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club debuted in 1996 and it’s recognized as one of the best daily fee golf facilities in the state of Virginia. Fairways are laid out in a figure of eight and they’re set within a rolling landscape where rocky outcrops, wandering streams and majestic stands of trees all come into play.
Golfers may forget many of the natural and man-made features around the course but what they will remember for a long time are the deep, revetted pot bunkers that designer Gary Player installed around many of the greens – “Grant’s Tomb” on the 11th and “Satan’s Foxhole” on hole 14 are just a couple of the more notorious traps to be avoided during a round here.
The routing incorporates some very pleasing changes in elevation, exemplified at the 3rd hole, a long, downhill par four where golfers at treated to fantastic views of the Catoctin Mountains from an elevated tee position almost 100 feet above the fairway. The 6th is a different type of hole entirely, a short par four measuring only 333 yards from the back tees, leading to a green that slopes severely from back to front.
Two of the par three holes on the back nine are particularly memorable. The first of these is the 13th, measuring a meaty 184 yards, and it plays to a wide, shallow green protected to the front by an enormous bunker named “Motley’s Revenge”. The other “short” hole of note is the 15th which requires 220 yards of carry all the way to an elevated green protected on either side by yet more fiendishly-placed bunkers.
Writing in Top Golf Courses of the World, Gary Player commented as follows: "Raspberry Falls is like nothing you have ever experienced this side of the Atlantic... This is one of my favourite public golf courses, and I enjoyed designing it... Knowledge of contemporary golf course architecture and state-of-the-art building equipment made it possible for Raspberry Falls to replicate a traditional Scottish links-style course. Few Americans will have seen the stacked-sod bunkers they find here, inspired as they are by the great seaside courses of the British Isles."
A few beautiful holes going up the mountain but mainly very straightforward course that's maintained well with a few waterlogged areas. Staff is outstanding and very accommodating.
The design came into being during the go-go times of course development in the 1990s. It's fairly straightforward and connects all the usual dots but it's relatively uninspiring for a good bit of the early going. There are a few holes of note -- the par-4 8th is a strong two-shot hole and the concluding 9th hole rounds out the front side with a risk/reward presentation that is artfully created.
The inward half picks up the pace considerably. The long par-4 10th is very rigorous most notably on the approach shot as a menacing pond lurks ever nearby. The rest of the nine is a good mixture of different hole types and the routing does move about and avoid a straight-line predictability. The disturbing aspect is the distance one needs to drive via power carts to get to a number of the holes on that nine.
The ending hole does deliver a fine finish with a risk/reward par-5 with a green tucked in an offset fashion protected by Limestone Branch which must be thoroughly respected.
The green contours and the areas located just off them are also a mixed bag -- some leaning towards the vanilla side while others showcase some engaging aspects.
In sum, Raspberry Falls came into being during a period of course construction where cranking out one layout after another was the pattern for many efforts throughout the USA. This often-meant outcomes fashioned via an assembly-line oriented thinking. Raspberry Falls has its moments for sure, however, the lasting aspect of superior architecture is eliciting lasting emotional connection. On that front -- Raspberry Falls short.
M. James Ward