West Virginia’s golf in the mountains, "almost heaven"
John Denver got it right when he sung, “Almost Heaven, West Virginia….” As an avid golfer he might have added, “Take me home, Country Roads, take me home, to the courses, I belong…”
If anything sets the tone for a golf trip in southeastern and central West Virginia it is the spectacular Alleghany Mountains, hills, forests and raging rivers that stretch over the landscape.
Although West Virginia’s golf courses are not marketed as a “trail” making your own golf itinerary is easy. Our driving time was no more than two hours between resorts and getting there was part of the fun. This is some beautiful countryside while the resorts offer everything you need for an outstanding golf experience.
Certainly designers like Palmer, Nicklaus, Dye, Cobb and others have taken full advantage of the canvas they had to work with flowing their courses through valleys and up and over the mountains.
Starting in southern West Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley, our first stop was Glade Springs, home to three solid tracks, The Cobb, Stonehaven and Woodhaven. As the heavy-duty track of the three, Cobb is a big, broad-shouldered classic track named for George Cobb who created the par 3 at Augusta National and Quail Hollow in Charlotte. Built in 1972 the course features behemoth bump and run greens and elevated tees along with rolling terrain and ponds.
Glade Springs is a place where you can bring your family and non-golfers without the guilt as its recreational facilities are major with swimming pools, the Spa Orange and a leisure center housing 10 bowling alleys, tennis, racquet ball, movie theater and other fun stuff. Outdoors there is hiking, fishing, caving and biking as well as a full-blown Equestrian Center.
Driving east to White Sulphur Springs, we played the historic Old White TPC at the iconic Greenbrier where Sam Snead used to spar with notable guests and anyone who would take a bet. When you tee off from the elevated perch just like legends Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, President Eisenhower and other notables did before you, you know you’re in for a wonderful day of golf.
Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, you hit out to generous fairways and tricky, even diabolical greens like #3, a par 3 with a huge swale running through the center.
Another Greenbrier track, The Greenbrier, is the only resort course to have hosted The Ryder Cup (1979) and The Solheim Cup (1994). Originally constructed in 1924 by Seth Raynor, this lovely track was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus in 1978.
Driving north into the Appalachians, we headed up twisty roads cut through rock through tall pines to the top of Snowshoe Mountain Resort where we were blown away by nonstop views of mountains and valleys from our condo balconies and the fairways of The Raven Golf Course, a Gary Player-designed track (above).
Raven’s holes are routed up, down and over from fairway to rough to wilderness. Some elevation changes are as much as 200 ft. from green to tee.
The Raven has a spectacular collection of par 5s like #17 that rolls over wide brush-filled ravines while all around are incredible vistas of the West Virginia countryside. That night, we settled into one of the comfortable condos on the fringe of Snowshoe Village.
Our last stop Stonewall Resort Golf Course in Roanoke is situated in an 1,900 acre state park on the banks of Stonewall Jackson Lake. Arnold Palmer cut the course through wetlands, hills, water and forests, the terrain affording a number of elevated tees such as hole #13, a 450-yard par 4.
Ravines come into play from the git go like on the rather quirky hole #1 where you may decide to lay up to rather than risk landing in the wide hazard running in front of the green. By the time you reach #15, you are in for a treat. The green spreads out on top of the plateau like a huge pancake in command of the world.
“And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’; That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday.
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