Playing Through: Reston National Golf Course

The driving range at Reston National Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The driving range at Reston National Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The putting green at Reston National. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The chipping area at Reston National. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
The golf boards, available for rent at Reston National. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #1: Par 4, 394 yards from gold tees, 368 from black tees, 352 from silver tees, 352 from red tees A downhill, shorter par 4 starts you off, as a U-shaped fairway feeds the ball to the middle. There’s trouble toward the houses left, and a tree on the right side that blocks your approach to the green if you fade too far off track. Front bunkers guard both sides of the green, so play your approach deeper into the putting surface on to avoid trouble. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #2: Par 5, 536/485/429/429 The first par 5 of the course, you’ll have to carry your drive 150 yards to a rolling fairway and a blind second shot. Regardless, it’s a three-shot hole unless you hit a perfect drive. A huge bunker crowds the approach, sloped green makes for interesting going if you pass the hole. (note: somehow we both managed to miss taking a photo of this hole, so you get a bonus shot from #1) (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #3: Par 3, 183/164/146/146 An uphill par 3, the elevation and pin placement, especially if it’s in the back, can make it play longer than it feels. But hey, that’s ok — better to take the extra club and make sure you get the ball to the back of the green to take the three bunkers out of play anyway. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis) (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #4: Par 4, 422/400/396/396 This is a longer par 4, but downhill, where a good drive helps make the distance manageable. There’s a heavy tree line to the left, and everything feeds to the bunkers and tree line right. The green can be deceptive — remember the hole slopes down all the way in, which will affect your putts as well. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #5: Par 5, 522/506/487/487 This downhill par 5 begs for a good drive in order to set up an approach over the creek. If you come up short or in the rough, you may have to lay up, leaving a long uphill third to the green, where tough bunkers will make you pay for coming up short. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #6: Par 3, 208/183/125/125 A long, but downhill par 3, there’s room to miss short. But the green is deeper than you think, so there’s also still room to be aggressive long. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #7: Par 4, 416/400/383/286 On this hard dogleg left par 4, don’t give into the temptation to cut the corner, which can lead to disaster. Instead, play it straight to stay clear of the water for a clean look at the green. It’s a narrow approach, but the green opens up once you get there. (WTOP/Noah Frank)  
Hole #8: Par 4, 396/365/313/313 A blind tee shot over a rise, this par 4 doglegs slightly right, where there’s trouble, but you can survive it. A heavy spine through the left side of the green can make putting interesting. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #9: Par 4, 408/394/378/312 This long par 4 finishes the front with a slight dogleg right, moving slowly uphill back to the clubhouse. There’s a wide fairway that allows you to miss a bit right and be ok, but trees and right-side bunker come into play. The fairway feeds away from the green side bunker, but a trickier-than-it-looks green awaits. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #10: Par 4/5, 462/440/420/420 Swing up to the other side of the driving range for this monstrous par 4, the toughest hole on the course. At least it’s downhill, but if the breeze is in your face, it’ll still feel every bit of the yardage on the card. The fairway also slopes right-to-left, narrowing your approach angle and making a really strong, well-placed drive necessary. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #11: Par 3, 172/160/145/145 A slightly uphill par 3, there’s trouble long (as Jake alluded to), but a deep, pitched green still gives you room to be aggressive off the tee. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #12: Par 4, 426/408/398/320 This slight, right-to-left par 4 has a fairway bunker on the left, downhill approach back up to the green. There’s an open approach and a big putting surface, but one of the sloppier greens on the course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Hole #13: Par 4, 443/417/395/326 Another long par 4, this moves downhill and slightly right-to-left again. A bunker up the left side covers the best approach line. Trouble with the tree line can also make for a tough approach. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #14: Par 4, 377/357/337/337 The narrower back nine continues with a skinny, straightaway par 4, the fairway sloping left-to-right. You’re dead if you’re in the trees right, but there’s some space to miss left. A smaller green is surrounded by three bunkers, insisting on an accurate approach. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #15: Par 5, 527/501/437/437 A slow, uphill, bending left-to-right par 5, it’s worth staying left to keep the tall trees from obstructing your approach. If the pin is in the back, the hole will play a full 15 yards longer. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #16: Par 3, 202/193/142/142 Another long, downhill par 3, if the pin is in the front, it brings both bunkers into play. Hit the green and you’ll find a very forgiving putting surface, giving you a great shot at birdie. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Signature Hole Hole #17: Par 4, 414/379/313/313 A par 4 that rises all the way to an elevated green, a good drive helps keep a tough approach manageable. A tricky slope off the left side can leave some interesting putts, under the watchful eye of the new construction above. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Hole #18: Par 4, 372/359/294/294 A dogleg left begs for a draw and punishes faders with a hidden fairway bunker right and slicers with an open shot to the road past the trees. Play the hole correct and you’ll leave yourself with a short, easy approach to the green. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
Jake’s score card. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)
Noah’s score card. (WTOP/Noah Frank)
(1/24)
The driving range at Reston National Golf Course. (WTOP/Mike Jakaitis)

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.

Jake’s Take

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

Dynamic pricing

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

Specials

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)

Food/Drink

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

Dress Code

No jeans; modified collar and shorts OK

Directions

Take 267 East from Washington, exit 12 and make a left on Reston Parkway. Destination is on your left.


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