GAINESVILLE, Va. -- "This is my masterpiece."
That is how Robert Trent Jones, Sr. described his gem — Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. And, at long last, after a ten-year absence, the PGA Tour is returning to this special spot for the Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods's tournament.
RTJ is the original home of The Presidents Cup. The course, 30 miles outside of our nation's capital, hosted the event in 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2005. The Quicken Loans will be the first regular PGA Tour event to be played at the "masterpiece," and players and fans should be thrilled.
I recently returned to RTJ and played a round with the Director of Golf, Cary Sciorra and one of his assistant professionals, Mike Mauk. I also visited with the rightfully proud course superintendent, Scott Furlong.
There have been a few tweaks made to the course since the last Presidents Cup here. Many fairway bunkers have been moved and/or extended to counter how much farther players are now hitting it. And, there is all new, beautiful white sand in all of the bunkers. It makes for a stunning panorama — the shining white against the surrounding lush green of the fairways and rough. By the way, that Bluegrass/Fescue rough is thick, long and very penal. The undulating greens are still perfect and very fast. During the Presidents Cups, there were rolling at 14 on the Stimpmeter.
Every single hole is gorgeous. Every par 4 has, at least, a subtle dogleg, giving players options as to just how aggressive they want to be. The par 5s are of the classic, reachable, risk/reward variety. Number 14 is one of my favorite par-5s in the world. A group of bunkers guard the left side on this slight dog-leg left. If you've got the gumption and the length to carry them, you're left with the chance to get home in two. Ahh, but then you're facing a shot with a long-iron or hybrid to a shallow green that is guarded by a pond that goes right up to green's front-edge. You could see threes or sevens here.
Two of the finest par-threes outside of Royal Dornoch are the bookends for a spectacular three-hole stretch. No. 9 plays between 190 and 200 yards from an elevated tee to a light-bulb shaped green surrounded by Lake Manassas. It is such a beautiful hole that both Cary and I have decided to have some of our ashes scattered here when we go to the big golf course in the sky.
The par-4 10th is a short dogleg left with bunkers at the fairway's corner, again giving players a chance to either take the risk and cut the dogleg, or lay up short of the trouble. The tee was moved up often during The Presidents Cup to make it a wonderful, drivable par 4; and the PGA Tour plans to play it that way at least once during the tournament.
Then comes another breathtaking par 3. No. 11 can play anywhere from 190-215 yards, across water, to a wide, shallow green that is perched precariously above Lake Manassas. Any tee ball that comes up just a little bit short will, most likely, run down a very steep, shaved hill, right into the lake.
Robert Trent Jones Golf Club is one of America's greatest courses, given to us by one of the nation's greatest architects. Tour players will love it, the course will look fabulous on TV and golf fans are in for a special show.