Farmington Country Club
Virginia, United States of America

Tenth hole, 250 yards; As is evident from the photographs on the prior page, Farmington is a spacious course. Yet having just concluded play across the most open portion of the property, the golfer now steps on the tee of the only hole that might be construed as, well, less than spacious. Out of bounds lurk close by on the left in the form of the main club road and another auxiliary road. Cruelly, the green is both narrow and long. Restraint is often difficult for the modern player but he would be wise to summon some here. Select a club that might enable one’s tee ball to crawl onto the very front edge of the putting surface but no more. Even better to emulate Billy Casper who famously tamed the third at Winged Foot and be content with a five or ten yard pitch to the putting surface. At the end of the year, you’ll find that your prudence has saved you strokes.

The tenth has been considered for decades among Virginia’s best one shot holes. Out of bounds is just to left of the photograph and activity from the main club road may unsettle the golfer, especially if he is standing on the tee holding a balky driver.

 

Eleventh hole, 425 yards; Many of Findlay’s greens are located on high spots with putting surfaces sloped from back to front. At this sharp dogleg left, the green complex is actually built on the downward side of the hill. As such, the natural slope for the putting surface should be to continue the same grade as the surrounding land. And guess what? That’s what Findlay did with this green falling away from the golfer from front to back.

The downhill view to the green can be maddening as you watch your approach shot roll and then continue rolling along the front to back sloping green.

 

Thirteenth hole, 310 yards; Great short two shotters have the ability to produce a wide variety of outcomes; that’s what makes them so exciting.  At a recent Kenridge Invitational (Farmington’s highly regarded amateur event now in its seventy-sixth year), a decorated amateur champion five putted from less than twenty feet for triple bogey while a collegian made a hole in one for a double eagle from the Sunday forward tees from where the hole plays 265 yards (i.e. just slightly longer than the tenth).  A 1 and a 7 by players of similar skill – such is life at the thirteenth!  Interestingly enough, this hourglass green with a ridge in the middle is the largest putting surface on the course at 7,840 square feet. Yet, the left and right sections of the green each plays effectively small. Tales of horror dominate the Grill Room from various mis-adventures suffered here. Be content with finding the fairway with a utility club, a short iron to the correct section and two putts.

Short but treacherous, anything can happen at the thirteenth.

Short but treacherous, anything can happen at the thirteenth.


Fourteenth hole, 465 yards;
There are trees at Farmington and the last three holes could be deemed ‘tree lined’ but the ten mile view from the fourteenth tee toward Buck Mountain belies this characterization. Farmington is not so easily classified. Is it a parkland course? Mountain? What? No matter – it is unique which helps it gain a special spot in one’s memory.

The full glories of a round at Farmington are on display from the fourteenth tee.

The fourteenth features the most undulating fairway on the course and the distance for one’s approach can vary widely based on the first several bounces that the tee ball receives.

 

Sixteenth hole, 560 yards; Farmington only has two par fives and Findlay should be congratulated for making them so different. The first one (the seventh hole) features a long view to the green and was reachable even in the days of hickory golf. In fine contrast, the sixteenth is a daunting three shotter. A solid poke is required to reach the edge of the dogleg left and another one to cross a ravine (and this shot is played from a sloping stance). The green comes into view only after two well played shots.

Advancing the ball well down the fairway off the sixteenth tee is essential for the golfer to entertain …

… carrying this ravine with his second. Findlay’s routing around this depression makes the hole.

 

The only solace is that the sixteenth green is relatively large and is open front right which allows for a running shot from well back in the fairway.

Seventeenth hole, 185 yards; Facing a one shooter as the penultimate hole is nothing new.  Famous ones abound, some with water (TPC-Sawgrass) and others with greens even more fiercely protected (Sand Hills). No other in the author’s experience plays so precipitously downhill and the rub here is that nothing prior in the round prepares the golfer to calibrate the required shot. In addition, this is far and away the smallest target on the course at 4,550 square feet. The screws are on as this steeply pitched green begs for the tee ball to be positioned below the day’s hole location. As is true at so many nuanced courses from the Golden Age of architecture, bet on the local if the match gets to this late stage.

There are worse misses than the front bunkers at the seventeenth.

There are worse misses than the front bunkers at the seventeenth.

 

Eighteenth hole, 415 yards; The most manufactured tee complex is handsomely benched into a steep hillside and serves as another reminder to the golfer that he is playing in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. Even more evidence is provided ahead in the fairway where level stances are rare. The uphill green features the deepest greenside bunkers on the course, putting a premium on the day’s last full shot.

Looking back at the eighteenth tee, Findlay’s orginal tee is high on the right from where the hole plays 385 yards. A new tee was added recently by architect Bill Love that stretched the hole an additional ~30 yards. These were important yards as it gives the course the sort of challenging finish that Findlay intended.

Where there is a bridge, there is topography. Such is most certainly the case at the Home Hole at Farmington which climbs uphill all the way to the green.

 

The Home green features a false front more blatantly wicked than the one at the eighth. Many a ball has reached the elevated green only to end up unceremoniously down the hill some ten to twenty yards.

 

As seen from the left, one gains a sense of both the back to front tilt of the putting surface as well as the greenside bunker depth.

Holing out, the golfer is near the east wing of Farmington Country Club, designed by Jefferson. Built in 1802, there is no mistaking his work as the octagon is a design element that he frequently employed. Sitting nearby on the north patio of the clubhouse is the perfect spot to have a refreshment after one’s round as the view of the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance is captivating.  Upon reflection the golfer appreciates that Findlay took him on quite a journey, laying out the holes in all sorts of manners around interesting landforms. The golfer is continually challenged to make the necessary adjustments to his stance to successfully find the greens whose slopes reflect their surrounds. Just as in Findlay’s day, successful play is about guile and cunning rather than brute force. In this manner, all age groups find enjoyment here. Indeed, Farmington has produced more fine women players than any other club in the state. Also, for those that shrewdly elect to retire to Charlottesville, Farmington is well nigh the perfect course on which to grow old. Look no further than Findlay who played the course up until his death at age 94. His body is interred at the nearby Monticello cemetery.

The east wing of the clubhouse that Thomas Jefferson designed is two hundred yards from the eighteenth green.

The east wing of the clubhouse that Thomas Jefferson designed is two hundred yards from the eighteenth green.

For many good reasons, Jefferson was enamored with Monticello. Located less than ten miles from Farmington, the two properties feature many of the same commanding views. Jefferson wrote the following over two hundred years ago:

“And our own dear Monticello, where has nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye? Mountains, forests, rocks, rivers. With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious Sun, when rising as if out of a distant water, just gliding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature!”

Those same elements that moved Jefferson many years ago remain grandly displayed at Farmington Country Club. Findlay’s handiwork highlights them in a manner that enchants today’s golfer just as they did our venerable third president.

The End