Mattaponi Springs in Virginia Has Bright Future

It is often said that you can’t please everyone, but for the past year and a half, Mattaponi Springs Golf Club has been busy proving otherwise. Located on a sprawling 330-acre property in rural Ruther Glen, Va., the 18-hole course is anything but ordinary.

The flexibility of the course design is certainly no accident. Club owner and builder, Jim Oliff, wanted his course to cater to different types of golfers: from duffers out for a leisurely round to players looking for a more serious challenge. To help achieve his goal, Oliff enlisted the help of designer Bob Lohmann, who, for the next six years, would help guide Oliff in the development of his dream course.

If you visit Mattaponi Springs today, just a year and a half after its opening, you will see that the duo found several ways to build an accommodating course. The multiple tees, the wide fairways and even the bunker positions were all designed to allow a wide variety of golfers to set up their games in a fun and challenging way. Senior and women golfers often enjoy playing from the front tees, while more skilled players are drawn to the topographical challenges offered by the tips.

“Bob obviously knew exactly what he was doing when he designed Mattaponi,” said Jeff McMackin, course superintendent. Although it requires an enormous amount of upkeep to maintain the optimum level of play, “it’s a very intelligent design, a fun and challenging layout, and the attention to detail is amazing.”

But the skill level of golfers wasn’t the only variable that was taken into account when Mattaponi Springs was designed. Lohmann maintains that one of the biggest challenges he faced was making decisions during the construction process to accommodate changes in golf technology, particularly regarding the distance and flight of the golf ball. To account for the growing popularity of solid-core balls and constantly improving driver technology, Mattaponi’s layout was adjusted to provide wider fairways and longer holes.

The extra time put into perfecting the course has paid off. In addition to winning one of Golf Digest’s 2005 awards for best new public courses, Mattaponi Springs has hosted several tours and championships this season, including the Washington Golf Styles Tour, the Bank of America Invitational, and several corporate and charity golf outings. In addition, more than a dozen tournaments are scheduled, including the Executive Women’s Golf Association Tournament in July and the Mattaponi Springs NCAA Shootout in September.

“The course has bite, and shows a lot of challenge for tournament players,” Lohmann explains, but “anyone can play Mattaponi and have a lot of fun.” And perhaps some of that enjoyment can be attributed to the almost serene atmosphere the course offers its visitors. “Mattaponi Springs has what a lot of what golfers are looking for these days – a pure golf experience,” said the club’s head professional, Justin Bright. “There are no outside interferences or distractions, such as homes, or roadways – only the course, and it’s a beauty.”

Though it was the course’s reputation that first brought him to Mattaponi Springs last April, it was the character of the course that made Bright stay. “Once I saw Mattaponi, it made the decision very easy,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of courses up and down the East Coast, but this is for sure one of the best, day in and day out.”

Bright is not the only one who shares that view. Every day, golfers from near and far visit Mattaponi Springs. Even Lohmann couldn’t help but smile when he visited Mattaponi to walk the course this spring. When asked if Mattaponi will sustain itself over the test of time, Lohmann replied, “The proof is in the pudding.”