By: Golf Styles Washington, Winter 2011
Early in its existence, when Stoneleigh had just nine holes, one of the partners took a trip to New Zealand and was impressed at the widespread use of sheep that were allowed to roam and graze in lieu of mowing. On his return he convinced everyone to give it a try on what is now hole Nos. 2 through 5. It worked like a charm – for a while. Unfortunately, coyotes got two of the sheep, but Stoneleigh forged ahead. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the barn where the sheep lived and killed all but two of the others, thus ending the experiment. The other sheep were donated to a neighbor.
That’s not the only trauma to occur at Stoneleigh. Some of the Virginia club’s buildings date to the 1700s. Until 1915, when the U.S. Ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd took possession, the old stone manor house had been called Mt. Silvia. During the Civil War, Gen. William Sheridan set an adjoining stone barn on fire, but it was saved by the great presence of mind of Eliza James who simply climbed up and put it out. The barn survives to this day. General manager Bob Strohecker did not have the same good fortune on his first day at Stoneleigh in 2007 when fire demolished one of the main buildings. “It was a memorable first day, tending to a large golf outing while fire trucks brought the flames under control,” says Strohecker. That building was later replaced and is now the golf shop.