Schoolhouse Nine is in session

On the course first-thing opening day at Schoolhouse Nine are (from left) caddy Ben Kopjanski, Cliff Miller III, Chris McCartin, course designer Mike McCartin, owner Cliff Miller IV, Jerry McCartin, caddy Virginia Wyatt and Terry McCartin.Abby Hopper
On the course first-thing opening day at Schoolhouse Nine are (from left) caddy Ben Kopjanski, Cliff Miller III, Chris McCartin, course designer Mike McCartin, owner Cliff Miller IV, Jerry McCartin, caddy Virginia Wyatt and Terry McCartin.

The air was thick with not only humidity but also anticipation for the first day of play at Sperryville’s new and much-talked-about nine-hole, par-three Schoolhouse Nine Golf Course last Saturday.

Run by Cliff Miller IV (aka Cliff Jr.) and dappled with small fields of pretty wildflowers, the course is thankfully co-located with the Headmaster’s Pub — which was crowded Saturday with thirsty, beer-loving golfers and their fans (okay, maybe just friends and families), who happily retreated throughout hot day into the pub’s cool air conditioning.

See Sperryville golf enthusiast Diane Bruce’s related letter here.

Folks seemed more than content playing the Scotland-esque course’s undulating hills (okay, maybe mounds), and paid no-never-mind to the au natural bumpy fairways on which Cliff Jr. has “chosen to minimize irrigation and chemical inputs” to provide a “healthier playing environment.” During a between-rounds rest with father Cliff Miller III, he noted that “80 percent of the land” was left undisturbed to build the course.

Schoolhouse Nine threesome (from left) Erin Platt, Suzanne Schiffman and Lucille Miller pause for a photo.Abby Hopper
Schoolhouse Nine threesome (from left) Erin Platt, Suzanne Schiffman and Lucille Miller pause for a photo.

Indeed, this writer/player had a fairway shamrock (or maybe just a three-leaf clover) stuck to the head of her pitching wedge for several holes (although this still did not help her score). While Cliff Jr. promises to “continue to improve turfgrass conditions,” the fairly well-kept greens were quite challenging, as was the overall course, with yardage to pins ranging from 85 to 171.

The younger Miller said he discovered course designer Michael McCartin through an established course architect, who told him that while McCartin had only been building courses before the Sperryville job, he had built so many that he could surely design what was envisioned for the Schoolhouse Nine.

And apparently he designed it for the somewhat seasoned golfer, as club member Doug Schiffman of Sperryville — also this writer’s partner for a round — confided that the course record thus far was held by Cliff Jr., reflecting a day he parred every hole.

For those considering an alternative route — to avoid being pelted by golf balls on U.S. 211 or Water Street — it seems those fears can be quashed. Schiffman surmised it would take a “monster slice of epic and gargantuan proportions” to hit the road off the eighth tee. While there are a few challenging bunkers to avoid — such as the one known as McCartin’s Revenge — Schiffman has suggested that the proprietor add a few baby pools for water hazards. “I’m still considering it,” said Cliff Jr. rather unconvincingly.

Beth Bauer had urged Cliff Sr. years ago to build a course, she said, “but it took his son to do it!” And Rappahannock should feel shamrock lucky that he did.

Lifetime Club Memberships at Schoolhouse Nine are $5,000 (under 65) and $3,000 (over 65); 10-play cards are $100; $20 for 9 holes weekend, $15 weekdays, $10 for replay; clubs, tees and balls available; information (eventually) can be found at schoolhousenine.com or by calling 540-987-5008.

By Abby HopperAbby Hopper
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