Kiln Creek was a great place to play the last (warm) round of the year

Nuther-Duffer & Co. spent Saturday hacking around Kiln Creek Golf Course in Newport News.

No one shot their age, and no one shot the high temperature for the day — and all of those numbers were somewhere around 70.

Setting the scores aside — as Nuther-Duffer & Co. generally do — it was a beautiful day, spent on a beautiful and challenging course.

Nuther-Duffer had some concerns about Kiln Creek a while back. It had been one of his favorite courses for quite some time, but then a dispute set in between the developer/owner of the course and the homeowners association that serves the surrounding community. The dispute ended when the homeowners association bought the golf course and took over management.

The concern? That the care of the course had fallen during the dispute, and that the homeowners association would focus more on frugality than on repairing and maintaining a quality golf course.

There’s good news to report: The course is in better shape than it’s been in for years — the HOA isn’t just maintaining, it’s improving.

On Saturday — after a fairly wet week with typical December temperatures right up to Saturday morning — the fairways were immaculate and the greens fast (really fast) and smooth. The bunkers (and Nuther-Duffer tested several) were uniformly fluffy and well tended.

The first hole at Kiln Creek is basically a welcome mat — wide, straight and open. Enjoy it. Things change in a hurry.

Kiln Creek fairways tend to run along the crests of hills — like long, thin mesas. Be forewarned: Hit the ball to the left or to the right and, on many holes, it’s either gone or in someone’s yard.

Most devious hole? Perhaps the third — a short par four. It’s devious because about 180 yards out from the tee box (yes, that would be the white tees), there is a wide, steep, stone-filled ravine on the left side of the fairway. It’s invisible from the tee box. You may hit a nice draw to avoid the bunkers along the right side of the fairway, only to end up with a lost ball.

Prettiest hole? Let’s go with the No. 1 handicap eighth. It’s a long, gentle dogleg with bunkers on the left and water on the right that runs the length of the hole — right up to the huge bunker that guards the right side of the green. It’s beautiful. And should you par it, you’ll feel good about your day no matter how many disasters you have on other holes.

One more warning: As much as Nuther-Duffer likes Kiln Creek, it can be a horrible experience if it’s cart path only. The paths tend to run along the bottoms of the hills the fairways lie on, so you are constantly guessing if you’ve driven the right distance to get to your ball. And if you happen to hit a ball off the fairway on the side opposite the cart path, you’re often looking at a steep climb up a hill, a walk across the fairway, a steep descent of the other side of the hill, then a search for your ball. If you’re lucky enough to find it, you often have a blind shot to get back to the fairway.

And then you have the walk back to your cart.

Nuther-Duffer has played Kiln Creek on a cart path-only day just once. And hopes to keep it that way. Took his legs two days to recover.

But for a warm, sunny December day, it’s hard to beat. Even on one of those days (they happen) when you come close to shooting your age on the front nine. And the back nine. Fortunately, Nuther-Duffer still has a ways to go before he becomes a septuagenarian.

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