By: Tim Baines
“Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue ridge mountain, Shenandoah river,
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, growing like a breeze
Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Mountain mamma, take me home.”
It was 1971, the song was Take Me Home, Country Roads. John Denver. It was more than just a song on the radio – it helped to put West Virginia on the map.
It was kind of a theme song where I went to school — at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University, where legendary football coach, Tuffy Knight, was from West Virginia. So I heard the song plenty, always thinking it would be a really nice place to visit – maybe take the golf clubs with me.
Years later, I found out I really do love West Virginia — the food, the people and the golf courses. Of course, I’m a bit biased. I suppose when you get a hole-in-one, you tend to love just about everything.
So, The Palmer Course at Oglebay’s Speidel Golf Club (thanks, Arnie) is, without a doubt, my very favourite course in the world, my ace coming with a seven-iron (to save face I need to say into a very, very stiff breeze, for the sake of optics, let’s say it was a tropical storm) from 140 yards out on the ninth hole. My good friend, the very-famous Traveling Golfer, was there to witness it and claims the shot may have hit the flagstick on a line and gone into the hole. I guess they can’t all be pretty.
I can say West Virginia not only has tremendous golf, world-class fishing, maybe more State Park acreage than any other state in the USA and very attractive Stay & Play rates.
And as the state slogan says, it really is “wild and wonderful.”
So if you’re looking for golf, why West Virginia. It is easy to get to from just about anywhere in the Eastern USA. It’s a pretty attractive alternative to Spring and Fall golf in Canada. And yeah, I know all about our sinking loonie. It sucks. But gas, beer, meals, etc., are cheaper, no 13% tax on everything, so you have to put that in perspective. Don’t forget the Loonie did not dive 30% in one fell swoop it is only 5% to 10% from where it has been for a while.
This adventure started in the state’s Northern Panhandle: Wheeling, home to Oglebay Resort, which in addition to the Palmer Course is home to a spectacular Robert Trent Jones designed course which for a number of years played host to West Virginia LPGA Classic. For a quicker short round there is also a shorter 5,600 yard Crispin Course.
Check out www.oglebay-resort.com for more details – to hear all about the beautiful resort and the magnificent on-property golf courses.
A couple of hours south we found ourselves at the Adirondack-style Stonewall Resort, with another Arnold Palmer Signature masterpiece.
I was told at the time: “We’re surrounded by nature, there’s no development here. When you leave on the first hole, you don’t come back until you’re done 18. People love us for that West Virginia hospitality. People here are naturally helpful and friendly. You can get the upscale experience and still be relaxed.”
In 2009, Stonewall was awarded the 89th position among America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses by Golf Digest. It’s also been listed among Must-Play Courses, Hidden Gems, America’s Best and Top 10 You Can Play. For more info, check out www.stonewallresort.com.
Then, we headed south, to Pipestem Resort State Park. Pipestem has one George Cornish-designed 18-hole championship course overlooking the Bluestone Canyon, plus a nine-hole par 3 course.
You can get sweet deals, like $169.99 for two nights’ accommodation at Mountain Creek Lodge and three rounds of golf. Pipestem has so much more to offer, there’s a nature centre, Long Branch Lake with hiking and mountain trails, horseback riding, tennis and basketball courts and a couple of pretty special lodges, along with camp sites. There’s also a tramway, rising above the Bluestone River, which is the only public access to Mountain Creek Lodge. And the fishing is special. For more info, check out .www.pipestemresort.com.
Note: At the bottom of the tramway is a dining experience not to miss only open from May to October – outstanding meals – the Traveling Golfer will tell you to try the fresh caught trout!
The Resort at Glade Springs was up next. Two words. Out!! Standing!!! The variety of courses was superb, Cobb, Stonehaven, Woodhaven (it’s been called “Stonehaven on steroids”). Stonehaven and Woodhaven offer up some of the most spectacular mountain vistas you may ever come across. Especially breathtaking with fall foliage.
The Cobb course, a Traveling Golfer favorite for its style reminiscing of the old Pinehurst #2. The greens are daunting and spectacular at the same time. “Just to hit the green, you’re not home. You can be sitting at the 100-yard mark and come up two clubs short … and you have a putt from 70-100 feet. A 150-foot putt? It could happen.”
There was plenty to do other than golf at the resort: Tennis, volleyball, a spa, laser tag, archery, basketball court and even a 10-lane bowling alley. For more info, check out www.gladesprings.com.
The trip came to a conclusion at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, a college town in the north central part of the state. Lakeview has breathtaking views of Cheat Lake and the rolling hills of West Virginia less than an hour south of the Pittsburgh area.
When we played the course, there was a sign outside the clubhouse: Pay What You Play. You take your scorecard to Legends Sports Bar and Grille and pay one cent a stroke for your first beer. And while you’re there sipping away your sorrows, chat about the 620-yard 18th hole. Nobody (yep, nobody) has ever reached in two.
The signature hole is the 564-yard 7th hole features a 180-foot vertical drop from tee to green, and offers beautiful views of Cheat Lake.
Legends that have walked the fairways include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead and Gary Player. For more info, go to www.lakeviewresort.com.
West Virginia is a smorgasbord of beautiful pristine layouts spread throughout the State. It’s more than just a pass-through, it’s become a destination on its own.
You get golf courses positioned among raging rivers, in the middle of rolling hills and located within peaceful valleys – Mother Nature has done her part to ensure that there’s plenty of beauty. It’s an awful big world, but golf is certainly a big part of that “wild and wonderful” state. Check out www.wvtourism.com for more info.