by : John Rosenstock, Sticks Contributor
Deep in the woods of Powhatan County, Virginia, roughly 30 miles outside of the capital city of Richmond, lies The Foundry Golf Club.
It is a hidden gem of sorts. Not that many people, especially outside of central Virginia have heard of it- much less played it. Hell, even the established golfing community in Richmond’s west end is surprisingly unfamiliar with this place. And you can’t really blame them, Country Club of Virginia boasts three renowned tracks, Hermitage CC is a 36-hole facility with an incredibly strong 1-2 punch, not to mention a crown jewel of Virginia, Kinloch Golf Club. Me? Well I grew up in the suburb of Midlothian, VA, which borders Powhatan. Unlike Henrico and Goochland county residents, folks in golf south of the James River are much more familiar with The Foundry. I even caddied there for one summer back in 2006 while home from college. I will never forget my first training loop with a gruff old lifer named “Smelly Bob.” Unfortunately, he lived up to the name, but that’s neither here nor there.
The Foundry was established just over thirty years ago in 1990, which is ironic because everything about the place makes you think it must be one of the first golf courses built in the commonwealth. The signage, the old world stone buildings, the Civil War replica cannon you pass on your way to the valet station where an assemblage of loopers kindly take your bag and let you know you’ll find it on the range after parking and checking in… you’d think the logo had a misprint and was meant to say Est. 1890.
The ambience you feel strolling along Fine Creek as you warm up and knock around a couple putts before your round is palpable. You can sense the comradery of the club as soon as you enter the cozy yet classy golf shop, and make your way through to the grill where you will promptly be asked for your drink order. I’m pretty sure it’s in the bylaws of the club handbook that the first cocktail of the day be a transfusion. The staff has them down pat, I can guarantee you that much. One thing I’ve noticed is more unique than you might think for those early AM tee times, you can order a hearty breakfast sandwich to go or to enjoy in the mahogany soaked grill room before an 8:00 start. Even at high-end clubs, sometimes the best you can do is something premade or a pack of crackers before the morning dew dries out.
On to the best part about this hidden oasis, the golf course itself. One thing I know about having a money match here with some fellow sticks is there are going to be plenty of birdies, probably an eagle or two, and we’re going to have ourselves a hell of a time. I’ll be honest, I hate getting beat up. Not by a person, although that doesn’t sound so great either, but I mean by a golf course. Sure a tough test is fun every now and then, I enjoyed Kiawah’s Ocean Course and Winged Foot’s famed West Course immensely despite getting ripped to shreds from the back tees. But for more frequent stops in my annual rotation, The Foundry is just right for me. 6,900 from the tips, plenty of birdie holes but if you’re sloppy on your approaches and miss on the incorrect side, it’ll put you in your place quickly. The greens are almost always running at a smooth 11 or 12 on the stimp. And the crisp fairways are aggressively over seeded each winter to provide a sight for sore eyes from the brown out of many other Bermuda courses in the area.
I love a gentle handshake coming out of the gate, and #1 here is a gem. You can play a soft fade with a hybrid or 3 wood, or rip a low iron stinger down the middle and let the ground do the work if that’s more your style. This gentle dog leg right tips out around 400 yards, and you’ll need just a wedge or 9 iron to a relatively steep back to front opening green. Walking up the first you’ll pass the club’s stately 4 bedroom cottage to your left, as the soft currents of Fine Creek brush up on the rocks to your right. Out of all the courses I play on a semi-regular basis, it is undoubtedly my favorite opener, and appropriately signals that you have a great walk ahead of you. Number 2 is a sharp dog leg left par 5, reachable in two if you shape one right to left or simply bomb it over the corner, this hole can really set the tone for your day. Holes 3-6 is a stretch of no nonsense par 4’s, I’ll happily take pars all the way through. 7 is a picturesque downhill par 3 with water on 3 sides, and then it’s time to really have some fun. 8 – 11 is where your match’s momentum can be reinforced or drastically shifted. You’ve got a reachable but very risky par 5, followed by a downhill 7 or 8 iron length par 3 where 2’s are not uncommon to close out the front.Then you’ll climb a steep hill to the 10th, which is perhaps the easiest hole on the course. Eagle is very much in play on this downhill par 5, but you must come back to reality quickly as the 11th might be the toughest hole on property. A long par 3 without a great place to miss, avoiding bogey means you’ll likely need to find the putting surface with a mid to long iron. 12 – 15 is another nice stretch of par 4’s where pars are more than acceptable, but of course there are opportunities to steal a birdie or two. As for the closing stretch, an eagle – birdie – birdie finish is not that far-fetched on this par 5 – par 3 – par 4 finale. However par – par – bogey is just as much in play, so a match truly isn’t over till it’s over at The Foundry. As much as I love the opening 1st, the closing 18th might be even better. You’re hitting into the upslope of a wide fairway bending right to left with a pond short left that you can either steer around or pipe straight over if you’ve got the length for it. As you wind up the fairway, the magnificent clubhouse, Fine Creek, and the 18th green slowly reveal themselves one by one. It’s a wonderful finish to a great walk in the woods. And if that wasn’t enough, the post round patio hang for a cold one with friends is absolutely awesome. If you’re fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a day with friends in Powhatan at The Foundry, I strongly advise you accept and enjoy.