Golf Course Review: Farmington Club traces roots to Thomas Jefferson


    After playing many golf community courses younger than our teenagers, it is refreshing to step back in time and play a classic course like the Farmington Club in Charlottesville, VA whose history, in at least one way, traces back to the 18th Century.  Just four miles from Thomas Jefferson’s own home at Monticello, the third U.S. President designed in 1803 two-rooms in an octagon shape as an addition to his friend George Divers’ plantation house in the Farmington Estate.  Today, the octagon serves as a grand side entrance and room for Farmington’s welcoming clubhouse.
    The surrounding neighborhood is Charlottesville’s richest and includes tidy little brick homes with three bedrooms as well as estates behind large iron gates.  Even the small homes sit on multi-acre plots of land.  Unlike in many newer communities, the houses do not intrude on the golf course, yet during our round we encountered an annoying number of out-of-bounds stakes marking the “back 40” of the properties.  It was the only even slightly false note struck during the round, which we played with HomeOnTheCourse subscriber Bob Harris, former dean of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. 
    The Fred Findlay-designed golf course was built in 1927, during the golden age of American golf course architecture, and although it underwent a late 1980s redesign by Buddy Loving, the layout oozes with 1920s cachet. The three nines at Farmington are not long, and they put a premium on shot making on virtually every play.  The nines are played in three combinations; the South/North combo, at 6,600 yards from the back tees, is the original 18 and the standard.  The East nine (2,862 yards) was added in 1965 and is of a different character, considerably shorter and easier than the other nines, but with tighter landing areas and smaller greens. 
    The North/South routing (rating of 71.6 with a slope of 128) is a course of modest elevation changes, some gentle and some sharp doglegs, and tilted fairways that force you to think about placement from virtually every tee box.  We noted that some fairways tilted rather dramatically, calling for shaping of tee shots if you wanted a short approach, but penalizing you if you overcooked the draw or fade even a little.  Farmington puts a premium on the short game, and its short-practice facilities are about the best we have seen.  They include a large practice putting green, a green for long pitch shots (up to 70 yards) and a chipping green that includes a well-groomed sand trap with a range of angles and slopes from which to practice.  100_2035.JPG
    Farmington’s driving range is fairly standard fare, and shorter than most at just 250 yards.  Modified golf balls are provided; they fly normally up to about 140 yards, but beyond that their launch distance is ratcheted back (we don’t understand the physics of it, but the ball didn’t exactly fly off the clubface).  The limited balls are fine for warming up but not for getting the “feel” of four-iron shots.    
    Farmington’s 1,200 members are a comfortable mix of working families in their 30s and 40s and retirees.  The amenities appeal to all; Farmington offers more sporting amenities than most other clubs, with 18 tennis courts (three indoor) that are well used by its members, a large swimming pool, and a well-equipped fitness center the equal of those in most new communities.  Locker room facilities and the dining room are what you would expect, which is to say they befit the overall traditional private club atmosphere.   The club’s dining facilities enjoy a solid reputation; the food we had at lunch was excellent.
    Initiation fees for a family (or couple) is $29,000, with monthly dues currently $400 per month.  You will need one member to propose you and two to second the nomination.  Homes in the adjacent Farmington neighborhood average around $2 million and don’t dip much below $1.5 million.  A viable alternative is Ednam Forest nearby, an established community with an eclectic mix of homes in a heavily wooded area and prices about 25% less than in Farmington.
    How many golf clubs can boast a clubhouse designed by a U.S. President?  You will need to make a few friends to sponsor you for membership, but take some courses at UVA and one of your professors could very well be a member.  But while you are waiting to be approved, the excellent, University of Virginia owned and managed Birdwood course is across the street.  For Farmington membership information, contact Membership Coordinator Clare Rannigan at 434-245-0684, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There is a lot of history around, and even on, the course at Farmington.

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