– by Dave Finn
West Virginia – Even though some of you may not be old enough to remember the #2 hit on the U.S. Billboard from 1971, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, this John Denver song kept resonating in my head throughout my last visit to West Virginia.
Country roads, take me home…To the place I belong…
West Virginia, mountain momma…Take me home, country roads
His song certainly reflects the attitude of the 1.85 million residents who call this state home. In fact, on March 7th of this year, the West Virginia Legislature approved a resolution to make it the official state song. I was truly amazed by the number of people that I met who had left to learn their trade elsewhere but have come back home with outstanding credentials. All of them seem to be well grounded, humble, with a passion and pride for their home state. True Mountaineer fans and I can see why. The natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, the small town atmosphere and friendly people with a more laid-back lifestyle, make it very conducive to family life and visitors alike.
West Virginia is also an outdoor adventure oasis. There is world renowned white-water rafting, bungee jumping, zip lining, fishing, hunting and some of the best mountain golf you will find anywhere.
Our state tour began with less than a six hour drive southeast from Toronto. Just off I-70 near Wheeling, is the historic Oglebay Resort & Conference Center with more than 100 years of tradition. Their property encompasses 1,640 acres of year-round family recreation. With a 271-room main Wilson Lodge, 54 deluxe cottages plus four golf courses, there is plenty to choose from. For us golfers, there’s the 4 star Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed Speidel Course, the 4 ½ star Arnold Palmer Klieves Course, the 18-hole executive Crispin Course and the 18-hole par 3 course.
The Speidel Jones course has been around since the ‘70’s. It is a classic design that boasts hosting the West Virginia LPGA Golf Classic for 11 years. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to play this layout but instead opted to challenge the Klieves Palmer Course. Opened in 2000, this par-71 layout in unique in that it has six par-3 holes, seven par-4 holes and five par-5 holes. It has wide fairways with lots of elevation changes and well groomed bunkers. The greens are big and most have crests so you need to be on the proper portion of the green on your approach shots. It ranges in distance from 4,200 yards from the forward tees to 6,800 yards from the championship tees so it will challenge golfers of all skill levels. Golf packages start at $121USD which includes two rounds and a buffet breakfast. For more pricing information click here.
From Wheeling we drove about 2 hours and 20 minutes south to the centre of the state. Just off I-79 near Roanoke is the Stonewall Resort. This 1900 acre resort overlooks Stonewall Jackson Lake and has attained a Four Diamond Award from AAA because of its’ rustic charm with modern amenities. Accommodations include a 185 room Adirondack style lodge and ten fully equipped lakeside cottages.
Their Arnold Palmer Signature Course has a 4 ½ star rating and is consistently ranked in the top 100 public golf courses in America. The rolling terrain and the tight tree-lined fairways really give you the true feel of West Virginia – secluded, relaxed with plenty of wildlife including deer, wild turkey and bobcats.
Golf Packages for two, start at $240USD and include one round of golf each and a breakfast buffet. The course opens at the end of March until the US Thanksgiving weekend. For more pricing click here!
From here we drove to the southeastern part of the state near White Sulphur Springs. We stayed at the The Greenbrier, a National Historic Landmark that has hosted distinguished guests from around the world since 1858.
The Greenbrier has been recently restored and is now one of the most palatial resorts in America. There are 710 options available ranging from single traditional rooms, to four-bedroom estate houses and seven-bedroom suites. They have 1800 acres to explore, a brand new casino as well as a world-class spa and fitness centre. But make sure you take the guided tour around The Bunker beneath the West Wing. It was a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress during the Cold War Era. Great stories and chalked full of interesting artifacts.
They have five courses on property but only three are available for public play – The Greenbrier, The Old White TPC and the Meadows.
We played The Old White TPC course, home of the annual PGA TOUR’s The Greenbrier Classic. She is a stately links-style layout that celebrated her 100th birthday in 2014. After a four-year restoration that was completed in May 2006, it now ranks #34 in the Best Public Golf Courses in America by Golf Digest.
The Old White TPC is relatively flat as it is built in a valley about 2000 feet above sea level. It is not as photogenic as some of the other courses we played in the state but is certainly the only one that is walkable. There is no par fives on the front nine of this par-70. The greens are very irregular in shape with big swales and humps so putting will be an issue. And the bunkers are all surrounded by tall and very punishing fescue grass. Unlimited golf packages start from $225USD. For more details, click here.
Less than an hour away is The Resort at Glade Springs. There are 200 stay options here including 48 guest rooms and suites at The Inn as well as 1 – 6 bedroom Vacation Rentals. They also have three championship courses. Stonehaven is one of the top courses in the state. Woodhaven is the newest family member offering majestic mountain scenery and views of the Glade Creek Gorge. Then there’s the original Cobb Course that was built in 1972 and designed by renowned architect George Cobb.
We had the pleasure of playing the Stonehaven Course. It is my personal favourite on this trip probably because it is the most photogenic with elevation changes of up to 80 feet per hole. It also had the best greens that we played. What makes this course so different is the black crushed limestone in the waist bunkers that gives them a grey hue. There are a number of signatures here but what I remember the most is their 2nd hole, a great downhill par three and the 6th, a long par-3 across a valley with rocky outcrops. The best photo opportunity however was as we approached the 16th tee . From this elevated vantage point you can truly appreciate why the Appalachian’s of West Virginia offers some of the best mountain golf courses in the world. This course is not to be missed. Unlimited Golf Packages starts at $209USD with full breakfast and up to 54 holes of golf. Click here for package details.
Our return loop ended with a three hour drive north to Morgantown, home of the University of West Virginia Mountaineers. Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa sits on 500 acres about 10 miles east of I-79 on I-68 and only a six hour drive back to Toronto.
They have 187 renovated guest rooms and 52 two-bedroom condominiums to choose from and two championship golf courses.
The Mountainview Course is the younger sibling that opened in 1985 and offers great mountain views and tight fairways where shot placement is more important than distance. This time around we played the original Lakeview Course that was completed in 1954. Because of its’ maturity, this is a very tight course with lots of overhanging trees. The course offers huge elevation changes and most holes are either uphill or downhill. Their par 5 7th-hole is one of their signature holes with beautiful views of Cheat Lake. Their 18th hole maybe the toughest you’ll find anywhere. At 610 yards, this par-5 has a sliver of a fairway and all uphill, making this is a “bear” of a hole. In fact no one, including Jack Nicklaus, has ever reached this green in two. My only complaint was that the tee blocks were a little rough otherwise the course was in great shape. Package Rates start from $149.99USD for two rounds of golf, full breakfast and dinner. For more information on pricing, click here.
West Virginia is one of the prettiest states in America and has some of the most spectacular mountain golf you’ll find anywhere. It’s not that far to drive and their golf season extends well beyond ours. I promise that once you have been here you will want to come back. Take me home!
Almost heaven, West Virginia…Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees…Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
For more information visit on West Virginia visit www.wvtourism.com
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