As you take in the rolling hills of southern Albemarle from Birdwood's 10th tee vista, you can see quite clearly the obvious virtues of the University's golf course. It is a premium venue - serene and utterly natural.
But what cannot be seen from any tee is one of Birdwood's primary allures - the fact that the course is both collegiate and public.
Having gone public just two years ago, Birdwood offers a choice outing for local residents and University students in an area where most quality golf courses can be found only at private country clubs.
"There are some incredible private facilities in Charlottesville," head pro and University graduate Martin Winters says. "But there's not much public golf, and we wanted to fill that void."
As one of the top-10 collegiate courses in the nation, Birdwood's picturesque landscape and excellent design make it one of the finest courses in the area and a real prize for students and local residents.
"I'm certainly biased, but I think Birdwood is on the same playing field as Farmington," Winters said, comparing his course to one of the finer clubs in the state. "We stack up with the private courses in this area like Glenmore and Keswick."
Planned by architect Lindsay Ervin, Birdwood's fairways and greens seem naturally etched into the land's rolling hills. With mountains visible in nearly all directions, remarkably few buildings or roads encroach upon the course, allowing for a number of undisturbed holes.
The front nine offers a handful of fairly long holes. No. 8 is a 205-yard par-3 and No. 2 is a 510-yard par-5, which has a pond running along the entire left side of its fairway. Many will find the most difficult hole, and certainly the most challenging par-3, to be the 179-yard fourth, where a sizable piece of water lies before a steep green.
The secluded back nine supplies the most impressive scenery as well as the most challenging holes of the course. After the pristine island green on the par-3 14th, which is the most memorable hole at Birdwood, the final four holes call for a string of extremely long and careful drives. No. 16 and No. 18 are a pair of tough par-4s each over 400 yards, and between them lies the longest hole of the course, the 567-yard 17th.
Compared against other courses in the area, most visitors will find Birdwood, with its four sets of tees to choose from, to be a strong test of relatively moderate difficulty. Despite some nasty water and thick rough, you should find a lot of generously wide fairways and only a few mean patches of woods.
"It's a very challenging course for our players," Virginia golf coach Mike Moraghan said. "It's long. There's a variety of shots you can take. You're presented with a number of different things to deal with."
As seen in the recent advancements in equipment and the addition of a second putting green, Birdwood's management has had the means to improve the course in recent years. Having merged with the Boar's Head Inn recently, the course's dual status as both a public course and a resort course has created two new avenues of financial growth.
"As a resort course, we now have a lot of capital money that's never been there before, and great things are starting to happen," Winters said. "And as a public course, there is new money coming in through public fees. So we keep the course quality incredible and we can keep a great deal for students."
A University student can play a full 18 holes for $17 dollars during the week and $30 on the weekend. After 5 p.m. any day, the cost is only $12.
"We still exist solely for the University students and faculty members," Winters said. "They are our lifeblood."