Rock Harbor Golf Course

Rock Harbor Located just outside of Winchester off of I-81 is one of the Shenandoah Valley’s true gems-Rock Harbor Golf Course. A participant of the VSGA program, for the cost of a cart ($26) we played “The Rock” course which is the original part of the golf course which now has 27 holes fully operational and a few others that can be played as part of the “Boulder Course” which should be completed by next summer giving the course a 36 hole tract. The first time I played the course, which was several years ago, I was amazed at the amount of work must have been involved in moving the huge boulders, creating the lakes, spectacular tee-boxes and enormous greens. The additional holes that have been added are stunning! The 200 yd. 17th hole par 3, that must have a 200’ elevation drop to a heart-shaped green, is breath-taking with expansive views of the valley. Each hole is unique with many challenges including elevation changes, risk-reward options, water-hazards, well- placed bunkers, a formidable rough, undulating massive greens, cinder-waste areas and random boulders, but clearly a fair course that is well-maintained and visually appealing. I always look forward to returning to Rock Harbor, not just for the golf, but the Rock Harbor Grill is one of my absolute favorite 19th holes of any of the 100+ courses I’ve played in Virginia. Susie, one of the managers in the grill,  welcomed us in the morning and three of us chose a country ham, egg and cheese sandwich on rye-which was definitely the best breakfast sandwich I’ve had all year. The ham was cooked to perfection, not too salty and complimented with a slice of cheddar cheese it was a great way to start the day. As I explained to Susie,  in my world golf is just an excuse to eat, and we would be back at the end of our round, she concurred with the suggestion from Ava’s mom that the crab-cake sandwich would be a great choice for lunch. My round was a “If I could only make a putt” round, that featured 12 bogies, over half of which involved a missed putt that burned the edge of the cup. Oh well, it is a game of inches! Thankfully, I had the vision of crab-cake sandwiches to sustain me as I plodded my way around the course. My foursome finished well ahead of the other foursome that was part of our group, so we headed into the Grill. As advised, I ordered the crab-cake sandwich. Served on a soft Kaiser roll, with a tarter-sauce blend that added just the right amount of flavor to a sandwich that was mostly crab meat with little filler, and that any Chesapeake Bay seafood eatery would be proud to call their signature sandwich; it was worth the potential for a gout flare-up I sometimes get from seafood. While teeing off on 16, one of the course marshalls recommended the “Rock Club”, essentially a club sandwich, but with chicken salad to compliment the ham and bacon. All four who ordered the sandwich were impressed by the great chicken salad twist to the old classic and the size of the sandwich. I left more impressed than ever with this great eatery, which has won numerous local restaurant awards, and the friendly staff that makes even us hackers feel most welcome. I’ll be back soon and so should you, as Rock Harbor gets my first 5 star rating this season for both the course and the food! Wow and Yum!

Food:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Course:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Staff:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Southern Pines Golf Club

Southern Pines Golf Club – March 11, 2014.

southern pines golf clubThe Donald Ross designed Southern Pines Golf Club was the site of the third day of our outing in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. Although the entrance to the facility is unimpressive, the course itself  was in relatively good shape for early in the season, but recent aeration made the greens a bit tricky. The generous fairways would normally be receptive to my tee shots; however, that is assuming I could swing a club the same way twice in a row. After a double, triple, double start, my mental state apparently was a bit fragile, and I stumbled in with a pathetic 96, hopefully one that won’t count in my handicap calculations. With nothing remotely close to a birdie on my card, I felt it was time for a burger, and Mulligans on the 18th, the full-facility restaurant at Southern Pines did not disappoint.

I must add that prior to our tee time, we had the humbling experience of watching a group of young golfers (pre-teen to teenage boys and girls) from a Canadian Country Club, contort their bodies and crush shot after shot down the 1st fairway, from the tips. My only thought was, “Thank goodness they’re not behind us”, watching our beer bellied, fat asses hook, pull, slice, and drop-kick, our shots down several different fairways off the 1st tee. Oh to be young again!!

One neat feature of Southern Pines is that there is a concession stand at the intersection of several holes on the back 9. Poor play makes me hungry, so I stopped after Number 11 for a Chicken Salad sandwich. Knowing I was going to have lunch after the round, I opted for a ½ sandwich, which was excellent. Served on fresh multi-grain bread with large chucks of chicken and a perfect amount of mayonnaise- it was just the right portion to take the edge off the hunger, and adjust my mind to absorb three more consecutive pitiful holes, before finally making a few shots.

Mulligan’s on the 18th was the relief I needed to forget about the round; a delightfully friendly staff, appropriate seating in the restaurant, deck area overlooking the 18th green, and a full-service bar. Oddly the place is decorated with lots of Ohio State pennants, flags and signs. I learned that the largest contingent of Ohio State fans in the state enjoy Mulligan’s hosting of all the Ohio State games during football season. Mulligans is open every day, even when the course is closed as it is that popular with the area residents.

I enjoyed the “Mooney Burger”, a ¼ lb burger cooked perfectly served with Swiss cheese, coleslaw and chili, served with homemade, thick cut potato chips. I’ll be surprised if I have a better burger the rest of the golf season. Mt GDP’s (golf dining partners) had a triple-decker sandwich, a fried chicken sandwich, and a barbeque. All three were impressed with the quality and quantity of their choices and all were priced around $8.00. It was obvious why so many non-golfers were in the restaurant on a Tuesday afternoon, as the food was great, the atmosphere delightful and the staff incredibly hospitable, friendly and efficient. I’ll definitely keep Mulligan’s on the 18th on my short list of best golf-course cuisine, and give my highest recommendation to make it a must on your next trip to Pinehurst.

Food:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Course:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Staff:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Legacy Links Golf Club

legacy golf linksLegacy Links Golf Club – March 10, 2014.

The Legacy Golf Links, a Jack Nicholas 4.5 Star Golf Digest PGA course is a track that is well-deserving of the many accolades it receives from those who play in the Pinehurst area. For the second consecutive day we were fortunate to have spectacular weather conditions; low 70’s , clear skies and bright sunshine. It was much too nice a day to spoil it with a round of 90, filled with more 3 putts than I care to remember. No one in our group seemed capable of mastering the extremely fast greens. I understand the greens were recently re-done with a hybrid grass, which left me begging for a “gimmie” for anything inside of 1 foot, since even those had a chance to slide four feet past the hole. Unfortunately every putt had to be holed out. Who makes these crazy rules anyway?

The course was gorgeous, with many holes overlooking water, although little came into play, short of hitting a shot way off the mark. After carding a 42 on the front nine- including two legitimate birdie attempts on the first two holes (only made the second) I was guardedly optimistic about finishing with a strong round, but a triple, double, double start on the back 9 brought out the best of my creative, colorful self-deprecating diatribes. I still had the chance to break 90 with a par on 18, but a horrific chip shot got in the way; not too uncommon an occurrence for me.

We decided, given the weather and the unfulfilled promise of the 1st round, we’d play a 2nd 18-BIG MISTAKE!!! We did; however, have the chance to grab a bite to eat at the clubhouse grill. I chose the beef brisket sandwich which came with coleslaw and French fries. Recommended by the waitress, she was spot on. The tender-perfectly cooked brisket, seasoned with barbeque sauce on a fresh bun was delicious. Dave (a GDP) chose the chicken salad, which he said had just the right amount of mayo, large chucks of chicken and fresh lettuce and tomatoes. Tom had the triple decker sandwich on toast, which he also said was tasty, but too much mayonnaise for his liking. Rea, the pro from Lake of the Woods Golf Course in Locust Grove, Va., shared that the Barbeque (Carolina style, of course) was excellent as well. All agreed that although they love shoe-string fries- these were a bit too greasy. All of the menu items were reasonably priced, well-portioned and prepared and served quickly, always critical for those hurrying at the turn.


After finishing the second round, my thoughts were that we should have stayed and ate, and although the course was still picturesque and the putts still difficult, a 2nd birdie reminded me that I still need to order a burger- soon! This course will be a definite on our return trips for this annual outing.

Food:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Course:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Staff:4 Stars (4 / 5)

Hyland Hills Golf Club

Hyland Hills Golf Club – March 9, 2014.

My golf season is officially underway, and welcome to the first 2014 post to Birdies and Burgers, although my first round of the season had no birdies and not even a burger! However, after a 5 ½ Hour trip to the Pinehurst area, we (myself and 23 other golfers mostly from the Lake of the Woods area of Virginia) enjoyed the beautiful weather and friendly and gracious folks from the Hyland Hills Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

After the rough winter the course itself was in pretty good shape considering the challenges of the cold and snow. As always “Ozzie” the faithful Border collie and the house cat are the center of attention in the clubhouse. The course itself was crowded, but the pace of play reasonable. A 6 iron from 176 yards on number 18 got me close enough to salvage a par for an 89 on the course, but the round was filled with missed opportunities and a few downright awful shots. But anything under 90 for an opening round of the season, especially with a must make par on 18, was a good way to start the season.

Given the late tee time and a scheduled early dinner, I chose to grab a ham and cheese hoagie at the turn. The menu in the snack bar was limited to a couple of sandwich choices, snacks and ¼ lb hot dogs, one of my playing partners chose.  The hoagie had plenty of shaved Honey-Baked ham on a fresh bun, which was served warmed at my request. My GDP (golf-dining partner- not some economic indicator) said the hot dog, san the chili, was cooked perfectly and tasty. The beer was a reasonable $3.00, and the food prices in the $4-5 range, and most importantly served by a staff that clearly understands the importance of a client-centric environment.

Everyone at Hyland Hills is incredibly friendly and engaged our entire group in conversation; again with Ozzie being the focal point of the interactions. He loves to ride around the course with Bridgett in a golf cart and entertain the golfers in the clubhouse with his quick reflexes as he stalks his rubber chicken or ball.

This trip to Pinehurst has been an annual event for many in the group, but just my second trip, and we will play the course again on Wednesday before we leave to return to Northern Virginia. I look forward to trying to best the 89 and visiting again Hyland Hills.

Food:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Course:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Staff:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Welcome to Birdies and Burgers

Golf ClubA number of years ago, I set a goal of playing 100 golf courses in Virginia. Two summers ago I accomplished that goal, playing one of the nicer semi-private courses “Spring Creek”, just outside of Charlottesville, as my 100th Virginia golf course. Having worked for forty years in education, serving as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal primarily in Fairfax County, I had many opportunities to be in Charlottesville for the various Virginia High School League activities and meetings. Additionally, I spent some time in Charlottesville working on my doctorate in education, so playing the 100th course in Charlottesville was especially appropriate, since my new life goal is replacing the energies focused on my work in education with two of my favorite things; golf and food.

Admittedly, I eat food much better than I play the game of golf, as like most duffers I can really spoil that “good walk”. Nonetheless, the camaraderie, the trash-talk, jokes, competition and self-deprecation help soothe my soul. I also must admit that at some point in the round, the timing generally contingent on my level of play, my thoughts turn to what I am going to eat at the end of the round. After finishing my round at Spring Creek, played in a significant downpour, we headed to the pro-shop, which was still a temporary clubhouse at the time. Somewhat surprisingly, the menu offered some interesting choices, with clever naming conventions and the quality of food belied the rather humble nature of the pro shop.

I determined that I am not unique in my love of the game or golf and food, and it might be fun to provide my critique of both, for those like me who love the 19th hole as much as the first 18. So despite the chill of February and the one foot of snow outside, my thoughts turn to the spring thaw so I can “grip it and rip it”, and chow down on the eats offered at the various pro shop I’ll visit this coming golf season.

I’ll be heading to the Pinehurst area of North Carolina in three weeks for four rounds of golf, and at least that many meals.  The following month I’ll be in sunny Florida in the St. Augustine area, playing at least five courses, some with a five course meal to follow.  After those two trips, my focus will return to Virginia Golf Courses and once off the fairways, I’ll turn my attention to the fare served up in the clubhouse. So stay tuned as you “Strap on the feedbag with Chuck” where I’ll give my thoughts on the golf course and more importantly the main course.

Until then, Hit ‘Em Straight! And if not straight; at least long!

- Charlie Ostlund