Williamsburg, Va., is one of those underrated places that, once you experience it, will convince you to return again and again.
If you live on the East Coast of the United States, you've no doubt seen the commercials promoting Colonial Williamsburg, with quite a large swath of acreage in the town center devoted to a living replica of what life was like in the Old Dominion around the birth of the American revolution. Combined with the settlement at Jamestown and the battlefield at Yorktown, the area represents a pivotal place at multiple points in American history. It's a place I geek out.
What you might not know is that the Williamsburg area is also a tremendous place to play some golf.
Kingsmill Resort may be sound familiar to pro golf fans. It has played host to the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour in the not-too-distant past, with the Pete Dye-designed River Course challenging some of the best players in the world. With the course offering views of the massive James River for the closing stretch, it's a head-turner.
However, Kingsmill has so much more to offer, and it makes for an ideal destination for a buddy trip, a golf weekend with your family or an escape from the everyday.
I first experienced Kingsmill in November 2020, when virtual school was still a thing for lots of people. My family and I were looking for a bit of an escape, so we made the three-hour drive from the D.C. area and stayed in one of the many condos at the resort, which also features a permanent residential community. We watched Dustin Johnson win the fall Masters there. While we didn't get to experience Kingsmill and Williamsburg at its fullest, we fell in love with the area. I got to play golf on both the River Course and the Arnold Palmer-designed Plantation Course, and we dined at the resort marina, which had an excellent set of offerings with indoor and outdoor tables boasting tremendous river views.
Williamsburg itself may be known for its antiquity, but it's a thriving place in the 21st century. There's a lively brewery scene, and there's a good mix of finer-dining options along with a slew of diners catering to those of us who love a big breakfast on occasion. The downtown art museum is a great place to learn about Americana art through the centuries, and there's plenty to do for kids and adults alike.
But when we came back in June, the world -- and our world -- was different. COVID isn't an oft-repeated word these days. People are traveling. Golf is doing really well.
We also didn't come to Kingsmill alone. We had been in the Outer Banks on holiday with another family, and we wanted to make our way through the historic sites as a quick stop before going home.
Turns out, Kingsmill had the perfect place for our group of eight to stay.
Kingsmill has a half-dozen river cottages that are ideal for a party of this size, no matter the makeup. The cottages each have four bedrooms, and they can be split into (and rented into) as many as three separate parts -- two hotel-style rooms on the wings for parties or two or four, and then the central house portion, which has two bedrooms for four people on the top floor, with a full kitchen, living room and dining area. All of the bedrooms but one lead out to balconies and patios with unobstructed views of the James River.
The cottage was well-appointed, with high-quality finishes. The kitchen had everything we needed to cook in (though we ordered out), including a huge refrigerator and lots of storage space. The gas fireplace in the living room would have been lovely for a spring or fall trip. The bathrooms featured modern, glass-enclosed showers and higher vanities.
Guests for each cottage also get a golf cart to use to traverse the property. That came in handy our second day there when my buddy and I loaded up our clubs and golf stuff onto the cart and made the short drive around to the first tee of the Plantation Course.
Our first stop at Kingsmill, though, didn't require the cart at all -- just a couple hundred feet of walking. Right across from the cottages is the River Pool, which sits on a former nine-hole course. It's a suitable successor to the short track, as it boasts a nice-sized pool, a water slide for the kids, a hot tub, a full bar and one of the longest, fastest lazy rivers you'll ever experience. We had as much fun there for two afternoons as our kids.
Whether you're coming as a muti-family group, a smaller foursome or a larger buddy trip, Kingsmill has the right accommodations and amenities. There are river-fronting condos, ones set on the courses or more aback from the action. There are multiple pools, and the marina is a great place to dine or spend an afternoon. For racquet sports enthusiasts, Kingsmill has you covered, too.
But, I'm a golfer, and that's how I tend to evaluate a lot of places I wind up staying. The two courses at Kingsmill are complementary. The River Course offers a significant step up in challenge from the Plantation Course because it can be played much longer, and frankly it was built for a championship-level event. The Plantation is intentionally short, meant to give players more scoring opportunities and be a little friendlier. That's not to say that the Plantation is a pushover, as it requires players to place their ball well off the tee, hit some smaller targets and take on water at multiple points in the round.
Both courses wind through residential parts of Kingsmill, but the expeience is tranquil. I shot my lowest-ever score, a 64 on the Plantation, which wasn't diminished at all with my knowledge that it's a little bit on the easier side. If you want a little confidence-builder of a round before taking on the River Course, the Plantation is a perfect, more relaxing -- yet still challenging enough -- 18.
The River Course isn't easy, but there are opportunities to score. There are some blind shots, but there isn't quite the typical Dye visual deception. Dye wasn't trying to shock and awe the player with his design. Rather, he just kept asking varying and interesting questions in a beautiful setting.
It's also worth noting that Kingsmill offered more than reasonable prices on beer and liquor both on-course and on-property. Lots of golf resorts these days are charging guests at massive margins for drinks, and that was not the case here.
Kingsmill is fantastic, but if you're looking to add more golf onto a Williamsburg itinerary, the Golden Horseshoe has two renown courses, while the revived Mike Strantz designs at Royal New Kent and Stonehouse are a short drive.
My family and I have really taken to Williamsburg, and we'll be back in the fall, which is arguably the best time of year to be in town. William and Mary is full of life, and the weather is delightful. With a blend of new and very old, and a variety of things to do for outdoor and indoor enthusiasts alike, the area is a great place to stay -- and there's no better place to serve as home based for it all than Kingsmill.