Not all golf courses can boast of a long and interesting history, but the Stoneleigh Golf & Country Club just off Rt. 7 in Round Hill can.
And its antecedents are an essential component in the club’s efforts to grow memberships in the Round Hill and Bluemont areas. At the same time, the club is expanding its facilities.
“We need to grow, that’s why we’re making improvements,” General Manager Rohan B. Somers said, noting a lot of young professionals are moving to the area. With the extension of Metro rail service to Ashburn by 2020, more will follow, he predicted.
The property has quite a history. The eastern section is part of an original 1742 land grant from Lord Fairfax, while the western end is distinguished by a 910-foot knob, formerly known as Round Top—for which nearby Round Hill was named.
Today’s golf course has several stone buildings, including the main house, Mount Silvia, built for Mason James, whose initials are etched on the chimney, along with the year 1852. The property was sold in 1913 to William E. Dodd, later to become the U.S. ambassador to Germany. It was Dodd who renamed the property Stoneleigh, for its rocky landscape. He operated an apple orchard and a dairy farm.
In 1987, the property was sold to Bruce Brownell and his partners, including Bob Lewis. Brownell and Lewis developed the golf community in the early 1990s. The 18-hole championship course, opened in 1993, was designed by Lisa Maki in the Scottish golfing tradition. The course was named “the prettiest golf course in Northern Virginia” by Golf Magazine.
Today, Lewis and his son, Cam, are spearheading a major growth push at the privately managed club that aims to make the facility more accessible to area families and youth. Improvements include renovations to a bank barn for future events use, the addition of four tennis courts and a short-game practice range, and an expansion of dining and pub facilities.
Somers heads a staff of between 40 and 50 people, including Membership Director Clinton Chapman, head golf pro Sean Duggan, and Peter Carter, assistant golf pro. Somers was golf course superintendent for nine years before taking over as general manager.
“There are a lot of younger families moving in, with kids. We need to gain more membership,” Somers said. And to do that, the club had to adapt, he said. “We didn’t fit their needs. They said they didn’t feel welcome. So, we’re trying to make us more family friendly.”
Part of that initiative is to expand the dining and pub and event facilities. Under the guidance of Lincoln architect Clint Good, the old farmhouse’s Tavern dining area is being renovated to provide more seating. The dining area has been opened up by removing a center staircase, to provide an intimate pub atmosphere, with high top tables and television, along with an expanded dining room that now features sweeping views through plate glass windows to the golf course. The work should be finished in the early fall.
The ongoing renovations to the pre-Civil War bank barn are a highlight of the improvements. The original character of the barn is being revealed, while modern features including heat/air conditioning and lighting have been blended in as to not detract from the historic nature of the barn. A black walnut bar top was made by Bruce Brownell’s son, Jason, from a fallen tree in Bob Lewis’ garden. Buffets will be served from a 150-year old former work bench. A loft area will allow additional seating. Doors and windows have been added, while keeping the simple character of the barn. So far, the reviews have been very positive, Somers said.
“It will offer a facility for events, cocktails, member mixers, business luncheons, couples golf dinners, and will be an extension of the Tavern,” he said.
The residential community covers 860 acres, of which the course takes up 260 acres in total. About 60 percent of the residents are members of the club. A golf membership covers golf, dining, the pool complex, and, soon, the tennis courts and short-game practice area. A social membership covers everything, except golf. A dining membership also may be in the offing.
Games for young members, including corn hole sets, and maybe a pool table in the clubhouse basement are on the horizon. “We’re working on a five-year plan,” Somers said, that includes a full package for weddings, other events and dining facilities as well as the golf, swimming and tennis.
Forging relationships with the wider Round Hill area is important, Chapman said, noting a partnership with the Brentwood Springs developer Wormald Homes. “They’re buying social memberships for each new resident—who can upgrade to a full membership.”
While some locals call the course “very difficult,” Somers preferred the word “challenging.”
Because of the topography, “the course play is different every time—a different lie and different shot,” he said. But it’s never boring.
Membership has grown steadily over the past five years. The club offers junior golf clinics and golf camps. Golf pro Duggan is keen to get kids playing golf.
“Kids drive the agenda; we need to engage youth—parents will follow, if they like either membership.”
“Basically, I want to teach juniors ages six to 10,” he said, noting they are the future. Stoneleigh is the home course for the “very competitive” Woodgrove golf team, he noted.
“[Stoneleigh] is spectacular. It’s really unique—and a lot of people don’t know about us,” Somers said.
That’s a situation the Lewises and the team hope will change very soon.