Virginia golf course looking for buyer


On a late summer afternoon, the sun over the Blue Ridge Mountains casts some long shadows across the Blue Ridge Shadows golf course in Front Royal, VA.


        Unplanned rounds of golf on unknown golf courses sometimes turn out to be the most interesting.  It’s one thing to visit and play a new golf course based on the reviews of others, but there is something especially exhilarating about stumbling across a good one on your own and being able to tell others about it.

        In September, I checked into a Holiday Inn in Front Royal, VA, on my way to visit a few golf communities in Virginia.  I noticed there was a golf course next door to the hotel.  After checking into my room on the 6th floor and looking out the window to a well-contoured green below that was surrounded by water and sand, I grabbed my camera and decided to give it a go before the sun went down.

        I had never heard of Blue Ridge Shadows, an upscale public facility whose course was designed by the respectedThe Holiday Inn next door to Blue Ridge Shadows is clearn, well-run and bargain priced. Tom Clark -– he’s the Clark in the Ault-Clark golf design shop.  Blue Ridge Shadows won’t win many awards for subtlety, at least not the first time you play it.  It features blind tee shots to banked fairways, some unseen trouble just off the fairways (woods, severe drop offs, rocks) and a few greenside water hazards that can bring out the worst in whoever is responsible for pin-position placements.  Nevertheless, a few holes were memorable, if maddening.  I won’t forget the opening hole, for example, a short par four that requires a drive over a hill, with a large pond off the fairway to the left.  I struck what I thought was a perfect drive over the middle of the hill but came to find my ball at rest at the leftmost edge of the fairway, just six yards from the water.  Since the pond extended to the very front left edge of the green, with the pin on the bottom level of the green just over the water, the proper play was to the right front edge of the green.  If I had not hit the shot I wanted to, I might not remember the hole quite as fondly as I do.  I wound up missing a 10-foot birdie putt, but was ecstatic with par.

        Blue Ridge Shadows opened for play in 2007, and anyone with just a passing understanding of recent economic history knows what happened the following year.  Just five months after it opened, the golf club filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, something of a preemptive move since its assets were a few million more than its liabilities.  It emerged from those proceedings but it was with no surprise that I came to find out this week that the club is up for sale, listed at just under $5 million (that includes the 4,500 square foot clubhouse, which sits on the highest peak on the golf course).  It is a fine layout in a nice location -– a couple of miles north of I-66 and just six miles from I-81, a major north/south route -– and you have to believe that some arrangement can be made between the hotel, which was clean, efficient and a bargain at under $90 for the night, and the golf course to generate some nice golf packages (the young lady at the hotel told me there was no such arrangement).

        The $5 million asking price for Blue Ridge Shadows in the current market seems a little steep.  By comparison, the outstanding Federal Club course outside Richmond sold a year ago for just over $2 million.  Golf Property Analysts has the Blue Ridge Shadows listing and indicates the golf course is on a 200-acre plot of land, a nice sized property that might eventually accommodate additional real estate (I saw a few nice homes around the edges of the course).  Here’s hoping that some investor is attracted to Blue Ridge Shadows.  The golf course is the best in the immediate area and a nice distraction for players traveling west on I-66 from Washington, D.C. and south on I-81 from the population centers in the northeast.



Sight unseen:  From the teebox at Blue Ridge Shadows' first hole (top), the play appears to be straight down the middle on the dogleg left hole.  But once the ball disappears over the hill, it bounces hard left, near the water that guards the front edge of the green.

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