RESTON, Va. — I haven’t played a lot of country club golf in my life. But one of the things that always stood out on the rare occasion that I did was the difference in the quality of fairways over a public run. At a good country club, you’ll never have a bad lie in the short grass. That’s rare at a muni course.
So that might be the thing that sticks out the most at Reston National Golf Course, one of the most heavily-used, yet precisely-maintained courses in our area. They’re in especially impressive shape considering that the course sees about 50,000 rounds each year, making it one of, if not the very most-played, courses in the state.
Why is it so popular? The location is convenient for those who live in Northern Virginia, sure, but the course itself is quietly tailored to avoid one of the biggest pitfalls in golf: slow pace of play. The greens are cut a little slower than they need to be, keeping a downhill 50-footer from turning into a four-putt. The tees are shifted depending on the predominant skill level that plays on a particular day of the week. Using the pace of play data available, thanks to the GPS from the carts, general manager Brian Simpson and his crew can tinker with their track as needed to optimize play.
They’ve also removed some unnecessary hazards from a course that, while certainly not “easy,” don’t have a ton of unplayable lies, where errant shots will hurt, but rarely go completely out of bounds. That’s what keeps so many regulars returning.
“The things we always hear from these guys is the playability,” says Simpson. “You get your butt kicked, you don’t want to come back the next day.”
The gold tees play akin to blue tees at most courses, measuring nearly 6,900 yards. We each played the black tees, which come in a hair under 6,500, but there are also silver tees, which share distances with the ladies’ tees on a number of holes and total just 5,890 yards.
The black vs. silver difference is felt particularly strong on the par 3s, changing the average length from 175 yards to under 140 yards.
It’s a pretty straightforward course, though there are a couple cool features. One is the availability of golf boards, motorized crosses between a surfboard and a Vespa, that allow for a more active experience (and, yes, also can help pace of play). The other is the “Home of the Hole-In-One,” a promotion that players can opt-into. If they do, and hole our #6, they win $10,000. So far, Simpson says 11 players have aced the hole … but none had opted into the program.
Even as the area has grown up around Reston National, there’s still wildlife. I spotted an egret and a red fox during my round. Conversely, there are views of the new construction across the street as you come up the 17th and 18th fairways. It’s a reminder that, despite its popularity, efforts to sell the property continue as the area keeps growing up.
Jake and I actually played the course on different days (because we’re adults, and life happens), so we didn’t get the chance to chat about our experience on the course as we usually do. That said, here’s what he had to say.
I really liked this course. I think it’s fair for the casual golfer but it’s a little tight. I played from the black tees because I can hit my driver 250 — but consistently straight, well, that’s another story. Don’t think about playing from the “tips” unless you are a well-seasoned golfer. If you are just starting or only play five or six times a year, I would recommend playing from the silver tees. The course recommends you play from there if you hit your driver 225 to 250. It may be a blow to the ego for some because they are near the red tees (many women and kids play from that spot) but trust me, you’ll enjoy your round more playing from those tees.
A lot of trees and houses border many of the holes, so if your driver starts to act up, put it in “timeout” or you’ll lose a few balls like I did. Make sure you choose the right club on #11. There are parked cars along the road, but they won’t come into play unless you hit it really long and to the right of the green. I shot a 9 on two of the holes but that was due to bad chipping and three-putting. I need to keep working on my short game. The greens were nice and consistent. Overall, Reston National is good for all skill levels. Just know your game and you’ll enjoy the round.
Dates and Rates
Open every day except Christmas
Mon-Thu: from $44-$68 until 5 p.m., $35 after 5 (cart included)
Fri: $46-$71 until 5 p.m., $37 after 5
Weekends & amp; Holidays: $55-$92 until 5 p.m., $40 after 5
Early bird back 9, $29 Mon-Fri, $35 weekends
Reston Card Holder loyalty program, save $10-$30 per round
Unlimited range and twilight golf membership: $649/year
Golf boards (extra $15)
Clubhouse with restaurant, room to entertain groups and events on a large deck space
Beverage cart every day except winter
Pace of Play
Our rounds: 3:20-3:30, early weekday morning
No jeans; modified collar and shorts OK
Take 267 East from Washington, exit 12 and make a left on Reston Parkway. Destination is on your left.