Golf enthusiasts, it's time to start thinking up excuses to play a quick game: The Laurel Hill Golf Club opens to the public on Sunday, Oct. 16.
Nestled on approximately 260 of the former Lorton prison site's 3,000 acres, the golf course was established as part of the public-private partnership which also helped to build the South County Secondary School, said Judy Pedersen, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Park Authority, which will manage the site.
"The course was developed to lay lightly on the land, we're using native, drought-resistant plants to disturb the land as little as possible," she said. The golf course, designed by well-known course architect Bill Love, will also feature views of some of the remaining prison buildings, which Pedersen said are considered "an important part of the site's history. Overall, it creates an exciting course that preserves the site's history as well."
The establishment of the course was part of the original comprehensive plan for the site, developed in the 1998 transfer of the land to the county from the federal government, said Tim Sargeant, a member of the task force that worked with the county to envision the redevelopment of the Lorton prison site.
"We wanted to make sure the whole site contributed to making this area a world-class attribute to the county," said Sargeant, currently the chair of the Laurel Hill Project Advisory Committee. When initial plans for the site were drawn up, the task force members envisioned what the lifestyle for new residents might be like, and found that "this golf course will contribute to that lifestyle," said Sargeant. "This is a sign of tremendous progress and the beginning Laurel Hill's rebirth."
In addition to the South County Secondary School and the golf course, a senior living complex will be developed on the former prison site as part of the first stage of redevelopment in the area, he said.
WHILE MANY AREAS in the county have several golf courses for players to choose from, the southern portion of Fairfax County is lacking in options, Sargeant said. "There are some pretty avid golfers here, and we envisioned this place as a recreational site that would be well received and well used in this area," he said.
By including the golf course in the initial plans for the site, Sargeant said the county demonstrated "the importance of land use planning. It's also worth knowing the county's ability and willingness to get citizens involved from the beginning and keep them involved during the whole process" of developing the area, he said.
Representatives from several golfing magazines have had a chance to play a preview set on the course, said Tim Scott, project manager for the development of the golf course. "They've all said that, for a municipal course, this is far and away the best course in the mid-Atlantic region," he said. "The land lends itself well to golf. It's a big, broad area spread out and designed to go around the streams and hills here."
The 18-hole course features five sets of tees for a range of 5,000 to 7,000 yards in total length, providing challenges for novice golfers to seasoned players, Scott said. "We're working with the [Fairfax County] School Board and the South County [Secondary School's] golf team to use this as their practice facility and home course. The George Washington University golf team played here a few weeks ago and were very excited about it," Scott said.
"This is a different kind of course than what we've done before," said Todd Johnson, manager of the golf course. "This is the first one to have five sets of tees, it's the first to be 7,000 yards long, which is really important for strong golfers," he said.
The club will also feature a full-time golf pro, Gene Oricco, who will be on hand to provide training and tips for golfers hoping to improve their game.
Tee times are already filling up on www.teetimes.com, which began taking reservations for the course on Saturday, Oct. 1. Reservations can be made up to 14 days in advance on the Web site, Johnson said. "The first day was filled up within half an hour of being available," he said. "We're lucky that we have other golf courses in the area that are doing our marketing for us. Word of mouth has been terrific so far."
If location is important for real estate purchases in the area, the golf course is a homeowner's dream. "The course is two miles from the Fairfax County Parkway and very close to Routes 1 and 123," said Johnson. "We're incredibly easy to get to."
Supervisor Gerald "Gerry" Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) described the opening of the golf course as just the beginning for the Lorton area.
"Having a champion golf course available to the public doesn't happen too often," Hyland said. "The synergy of having the Lorton Arts Foundation, Laurel Hill's redevelopment, the Cold War museum and now the golf course, all within a mile of each other creates an incredible center of activity that you don't find anywhere in the country," he said.
"It's wonderful. It's like a star dropped out of the heavens and landed in Lorton," Hyland said.