The course – "I don't drive the ball that straight myself, so it's a course where you can spray it a little and not be punished too severely. We also started with the idea of multiple tee locations – that not only vary the distances of the holes, but also the angles you play into the landing areas."
– Rick Jacobson, architect for Bull Run Golf Club
The Bull Run Country Club 18-hole championship golf course, which opened in 1998, is set on a huge piece of open land in the foothills of Virginia's Bull Run Mountain. We are a quick drive from Washington, D.C., a few miles north of Haymarket, and a few miles south of Middleburg.
Our course was designed by Rick Jacobson, a Chicago-area architect who worked for Jack Nicklaus design company before starting his own firm. Jacobson worked on such Nicklaus projects as PGA West in LaQuinta, CA; English Turn, site of the New Orleans PGA Tour stop; and Desert Mountain GC in Scottsdale, AZ. He's also the designer of Bear Trap Dunes in Delaware and Hollow Creek in Frederick, MD.
His aim at Bull Run was to preserve the look of the land and create a player friendly course that also has loads of challenges for the more daring hitters. You will find wide fairways done in a concave/convex shape that steer the ball toward the center. There are large landing areas, sometimes defined by grass hollows, bunkers, or trees.
But there are also water hazards as well, starting from the first tee, a par-4 that measures 383 yards from the back tees and 279 from the forward tees. "This is a great starting hole," says Bull Run's head golf professional Mike Dziabo. "There are no bunkers around the green to give you trouble, but there is a pond. From the back tees the men have to carry about 100 yards over water; the women's tee is off to the side. If that water hazard were on any other hole, it wouldn’t cause any problems. But because it's the first tee, there can be some balls in the water."
There are forced carries over wetlands on some other holes as well. One pond was in existence when the course was built and two others were added by the architect to make things more interesting. No. 2 is a straightaway par-5 (538 yards from the back tees and 406 yards from the forward). "This green is potentially reachable in two shots, particularly from some of the forward tees," says Dziabo.
The character of the course changes on No. 4 where the holes go from being wide open into a tree-lined fairway situation. You also get better views of the course’s namesake, Bull Run Mountain, on No. 4, a par-4 hole that is 432 yards from the back tees and 310 from the forward. From the tee, your best bet is to aim about 30 yards right of the bunkers in the distance to the widest area of the fairway. Then the course begins to weave its way through the woodlands and a number of holes require forced carries of one kind or another.
As you get back to No. 8, you are out in the open spaces again. No. 9 is a very difficult dogleg right par-4 with a pond to the right of the fairway. "Longer hitters will try to go over the water from the tee by cutting the dogleg. But if you bite off too much, you can end up in the water. The safer shot is to make your drive to the left toward a pot bunker in the fairway. Use a fairway wood for your second shot. There are bunkers and water to the right of the green, but there’s a nice bailout area on the left," he says.
You pass the clubhouse to get to the back nine where you start out with a number of nicely wooded holes including No. 10, a par-4 that is 428 yards from the back tees and 311 from the forward. No. 11 is the toughest par-3 on the course (201 yards from the back tees and 123 from the forward). "You need to use a very long iron into the green which is well-protected by bunkers," says Dziabo.
You are back in the open areas with No. 13, a par-4 (414 yards from the back tees and 313 from the forward). This hole, one of the toughest at Bull Run, has a big pond on the left hand side. The fairway seems huge and wide, but if you miss it, you could end up in water. No. 14 is a par-5 (546 yards from the back tees and 419 from the forward) that requires a very tricky approach shot to the green, because the green slopes away from you starting from its middle. It is very difficult to hold this green if you are not careful with your shot. You will close out your round with a reachable par-5 (553 yards from the back tees and 489 from the forward) on No. 18 with a water hazard in the front of the green. Those with long drives can sometimes reach the green in two by using a long iron on their second shot. If you need to lay up in front of the water, you are in for a very tricky forced carry over a pond to the green.
"When you play Bull Run, you're going to find more than one hole that is picture perfect," says Mike Dziabo. "We're a course without one signature hole. There are lots of options for signature holes here." After your first round on our course, you will spend lots and lots of time going over the holes in your mind and yearning to come back and try them again.