The par 5 16th at Poplar Grove is all risk and a little reward. The tee shot must be long to a frighteningly narrow strip of fairway bounded by water right and sand left (and out of bounds by the cart path left). At just 455 from the white tees, the green is reachable in two...if you dare tempt the lake a second time.
Those of us of a certain age recall watching Sam Snead in the earliest televised golf tournaments and on such made-for-TV matches as Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. The man may have had the best tempo of any pro golfer ever and a swing he seemed to replicate flawlessly every time. That kind of swing stands up to the pressure of competitive golf, whether a pro tournament or a little side action.
Snead was known for the side action almost as much as he was for his professional prowess. Indeed one might hazard a guess that, Tiger notwithstanding, the Slammer's ratio of off the tour income to tournament winnings was the highest ever. The man had the reputation that he would do anything for a buck, including posing for a photo and providing a casual golf tip. And, of course, lending his name to whatever.
Over the last few days, I thought of Snead and his genius at ringing the register at every opportunity. The scorecard at Poplar Grove, site of the Old Dominion Athletics Conference golf championships, includes first mention credit for Snead as course designer, and secondary credit for Ed Carton, who previously worked with Tom Fazio. The course opened in 2004; Mr. Snead passed away from a stroke in May 2002. Now that is genius.
You can see the influence of Fazio in some of Carton's work at Poplar Grove, with funneled fairways, large fairway bunkers and dramatically elevated tees that make the 7,000 yard course play like 6,600 yards. Still, though, there are enough fairways that tilt toward trouble and a few dicey forced carries to severely undulating greens to justify a rating from the tips - dubbed the "Slammer" tees - of 75.0 and a slope of 141. Even the white tees, at 6,100 yards, carry a slope rating of 135.
If you are ever in the area of Amherst, VA, about 25 minutes north of Lynchburg, stop by Poplar Grove. Green fees are ridiculously low for this quality of golf, less than $50 with cart.
There is a real estate office just across the parking lot from the pro shop. New homes include a golf cart garage and a golf cart and start at $439,000 for 2,100 square feet. Please contact me if you would like more information.
The 14th hole at Poplar Grove is a reachable par 4 but those who don't play well in sand may opt for the safe route to a wide fairway on the left.