One-of-a-kind course has unconventional, memorable holes

Rock Harbor Golf Course

Location » Winchester, Va.
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Rates » Mon-Thurs, $46; Fri., $52; Sat.-Sun, $63
Rock Course
Boulder Course (Temporary) 72/7547/75.7/151
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Description » A one-of-a-kind course full of memorable, unconventional holes. Lots of man-made land forms, water hazards, expansive waste bunkers and rock formations combine with natural beauty of the Shenandoah Valley to create an unforgettable experience. The course first opened in 2003 but remains a work in progress. It includes the 18-hole Rock Course and a 11-hole Boulder Course, on which seven holes are repeated to make 18, while the final seven are under construction.

Reasons to play » Miles from the ordinary. Purists will shudder at some of the quirky holes. But the price, conditions, uniqueness and the dramatic views of the surrounding mountains and countryside make this course a worthwhile pursuit.

Course ratingConditions » 4Layout » 4Facilities » 3Value » 4— rating out of a possible five

Something for everyone » With six sets of tees, Rock Harbor caters to a wide range of players. Few courses have such an extreme variance between the front (3,692 yards) and back tees (7,299 yards) as the Rock Course. Some holes have tees the shape of aircraft runways, exceeding 100 yards.

GPS please » Rock Harbor is an adventure -- and a mystery. With its circuitous routing scheme, ample elevation change and no GPS, figuring out where you're going isn't easy. There is no schematic on the scorecard, distance markers are hard to find, and there is no color-coding of flagsticks to indicate the depth of pins. With uphill approaches to eight of the first 11 holes on the Rock Course, scouting missions are a must.

The Beast » No. 2 (Boulder), Par 5, 608 Yards
Is there a longer par 5 in the Washington area than "The Beast," a strenuous three-shot monster with water fronting the green? This is one of several lengthy holes on the Boulder Course including No. 7, a 504-yard par 4, and back-to-back par 5s that measure 636 and 566 yards.

The good, bad and the ugly » No. 8 (Rock), Par 5, 554 Yards
The "other side of the tracks," applies on this tough hole, bordered on the left by a railway. From the elevated tee, this is a visually arresting hole, even with a trailer park and a junkyard beyond the railroad tracks. The second shot, like many at Rock Harbor, is uphill to a blind green.

Best hole » No. 16 (Rock), Par 4, 329 Yards
From the highest point of the property, on the tee box at No. 16, players can feel the wind and take in the Allegany and Blue Ridge mountains. In the distance to the northeast are apple orchards. The downhill hole is a beauty as well, playing around a vegetation-filled ravine. Much shorter than on the card, it can be reached with a well-struck drive and is worth the gamble.

Heartbreak ridge » No. 17 (Rock), Par 3, 238 Yards
There may be no golf shot in the Washington area with a greater elevation drop than No. 17, which plays to a generous heart-shaped green, 150-feet below the tee. With the prevailing wind at your back, this hole will play as many as five clubs less.

Designer » Rock Harbor came to be when quarry owner Denny Perry decided to build a golf course when land became available adjacent to his property. Boulders from the quarry are a continuing theme at Rock Harbor, most for decorative purposes, but some in play. An example is No. 15, a thrilling par 5 on the Rock Course, in which players can gamble, trying to reach the green in two, hitting over a Stonehenge-like rock garden.