Blue Ridge Shadows — Casting a Giant Shadow
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With the full opening this spring of Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club, players all across the mid-Atlantic will get the opportunity to play one of the most exciting courses to debut in our area in quite awhile. Located just north of Front Royal in the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Shadows is a wonderful mix of holes that incorporate the land without disturbing what nature and the “real” head starter had produced. Designer Tom Clark of Ault, Clark and Associates has carved 18 unique and distinct holes into this Shenandoah Valley landscape to create a breathtaking tour-de-force from first shot to final putt. The USGA has rated the course a hefty 75.5 from the black tees, but the five generous sets of tees range from 5,006 to a 7,315 yards. This will allow players of all levels to compete on this layout that will test all your skills with it’s bevy of obstacles. “Shadows,” which locals have adopted as its moniker, had a “soft” opening in the fall. Unseasonable autumn weather provided thousands of area golfers the chance to preview the course…and preview they did, with fall foliage bursting like a kaleidoscope! The photographs that accompany this story, as well as others of Blue Ridge Shadows throughout this magazine are lasting and vivid impressions to just how beautiful this course is.
The front and back nines at Blue Ridge Shadows play significantly different. I like to refer to them as the upper and lower nine due to their terrain. The front is more wooded with sloping fairways, while the inward nine brings lakes and a stream called “Crooked Run” into play. The par 4 first hole is about as picturesque as any. It plays from an elevated tee with the mountain backdrop of the Skyline Drive seeming to parallel the landscape of the hole. A split-level fairway separated by mounds and some nasty bunkers provides options from the tee. The green sits in a peaceful setting some forty feet below the fairway with a pond tucked in on the left. All in all, it’s a terrific starting hole. The par 4 second is short in stature, but plays uphill all the way with some decorative bunkering bordering the fairway and green. The third is the longest par 3 at Blue Ridge Shadows at nearly 250 yards from the black tees, but plays shorter. It’s all downhill to a receptive bunker-less green. The stretch of holes four through eight are being touted as early fan favorites. Carved through a belfry of native hardwoods, thissection displays how Clark left the land virtually unbothered to construct these holes. The fourth, a par 5, is earmarked by a daunting uphill tee shot where a lethargic drive that goes right will spell doom. Thepar 3 fifth, surrounded by towering trees, plays to a kidney shaped green with bunkers to the right. Getting up and down from there will be a chore in itself. The sixth is another par 5, with super-sized fairway bunkers defending the right side. The somewhat flat green has three grass bunkers protecting it on the left. As you make your way back towards the clubhouse, the front nine wraps up with three consecutive par 4’s that all play from elevated tees and get progressively more difficult.
The back nine at Blue Ridge Shadows kicks off with one of the most dramatic tee shots you may ever play. Playing from a high bluff on which the clubhouse calls home, this par 4’s fairway sets nearly 100 feet below and is protected by a stream on the left and a large lake to the right. Each of the first four holes on this nine play along a low lying swath of land with the previously mentioned Crooked Run Creek in play on each hole. The eleventh is a three-shot par 5 that is best remembered by a 45 yard long, narrow green that could find a home at Kings Dominion. The next two holes are both colorful, short par 4’s. A stone bulk-headed pond protects twelve, while thirteen’s distraction is a 60 foot waterfall cascading behind the green. A unique quirk at Shadows is that you go by the clubhouse once again before playing number fourteen, pictured on the cover. You may want to order up a shot of courage, since your tee shot on this par 3 plays over a deep ravine that will collect any miss hits. Another elevated tee shot greets you at the par 4 fifteenth. The fairway is a tight one to hit with wetlands up the right side. You play to a double-green that’s over 100 yards in length and is shared with the seventeenth, another par 4. Sandwiched between these two is the par 3 sixteenth, with water coming into play on the right and over the green. I’ve always admired double greens, and you’ll get an eyeful of the one at Blue Ridge Shadows from the seventeenth fairway. The par 5 closing hole I’ve dubbed “Double Jeopardy,” whose robust resume includes a double dogleg, wetlands, the creek, fairway bunkers and a greenside lake. Risk is involved on both the tee shot and approach if you are attempting to get home in two, where a smart play is three safe shots and the prospect of finishing with a birdie.
There’s not a bad seat or view on the spacious wrap around deck that surrounds the beautiful clubhouse which includes a pro shop and full service bar and grill. It’s the ideal setting for after round activity. The golf course is just the centerpiece of the biggest project the valley has seen in quite some time. The Blue Ridge Shadows Community will include a Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites with a full service spa, conference center, Houlihan’s Restaurant & Bar, as well as a housing development by DR Horton. Blue Ridge Shadows is one golf facility that will leave a giant impression on you.