Review: Wintergreen Resort, VA

Tee to Ski, Excellent Year Round Resort.
When looking for a great resort, there are a number of categories that it needs to meet.  Is it family friendly?  Does it offer other activities besides golf?  Does it have a variety of lodging options?  Is it a beautiful setting?  Does it have multiple dining options?  When it comes to a checklist for a great resort, Wintergreen checks every box and probably some even not on the list.  It offers everything you could ever want from a resort.
Wintergreen offers some of the best 4-season activities you will find anywhere in the country.  With 45 holes of great golf, some of the best snowmaking machines in the country for excellent winter skiing and snowboarding, a year round spa and a plethora of lodging options, you are sure to enjoy your stay at Wintergreen.  The Blueridge Mountains are a beautiful back drop to this massive resort.   If there is an activity that you enjoy, it is probably offered at Wintergreen.  About the only thing missing on-site are watersports.  They do have a small lake on site for some paddleboarding and swimming, but you won’t be tearing around on a jet-ski at Wintergreen, but who needs that with so many other options. 

Along with all the activities there are also some great local treats to try, especially the local breweries and wineries.  As I was making the drive to the resort from Richmond, it seemed like there was a brewery or winery on every corner.  It has been a very popular business in recent years.  After sampling a number of the local brews, I can see why they are becoming very popular, they variety of flavors was excellent.

Wintergreen’s snow-making capabilities might be the best in the United States.  They have a computerized system with a huge reservoir of water that allows them to make snow at will, once the temperature drops.  From December to March they are going to be making the best snow in the east.  This system is so complex it can make the exact consistency of snow needed for each day.  Along with the incredible volume that can be made, they will always have ideal conditions on all their runs all winter long because of the systems precision.  Their lift ticket system is pretty unique too in that you don’t have to get a ticket first thing in the morning, but they sell tickets but chunks of hours so that you can ski on your schedule.  Even if your not skilled at skiing or snowboarding, they have an amazing tubing park for all ages.  Even cooler is their “Ski and Tee” package.  During the winter months the mountain is covered in snow, but in the valley, Stoney Creek Golf course is still open so you can literally do both in one day.  I can’t think of a much better winter day.

Wintergreen isn’t your typical resort when it comes to lodging.  Many resorts have huge hotels and maybe a number of condos.  Wintergreen is mostly condo and few dozen houses run by the resort, everything else is privately owned and operated.  There are thousands of private properties to choose from for rental or purchase.  Our group stayed at a beautiful 7 bedroom mountain home.  It would be a perfect option for a couple of families or a small corporate retreat.  It had great views and great amenities so that you could eat and relax at the house during your entire stay.

If you live on the East coast this is a vacation destination you should look into.  It offers great ski and tee options for all 4 seasons.  While it might not be a fly across the country amazing, it is definitely a great regional destination for the central east coast.  Wintergreen continues to invest in its infrastructure and amenities so you are guaranteed an excellent experience any time of year you vacation at Wintergreen.

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Review: Devils Knob Golf Course

A Scenic but Devilish 18 Holes
With a name like Devil’s Knob, you already have a clue about the dangers that await you on the course.  It is perched on the top of the mountain and is the highest course in Virginia.  It has great vistas on many of the holes and on the back of hole 14 has one of the most spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The fall colors are unbelievable.  I was there just before the big color explosion, but just the hints of fall color were really great and some more recent pictures I’ve seen of 100% color; it is breathtaking.  

While the scenery steals the show with this course, the name sake reminds you how tough this course can be.  If you miss the fairways, there is a good chance you will lose the ball.  The scenic trees are thick and unforgiving if you hit into them.   While the fairways are generous, wayward tee shots are eaten by the trees and not spit out.  There is thick undergrowth which will make it near impossible to find stray golf balls.  I did find a couple of my shots that just barely missed the fairway, but the punch-out shots were tricky navigating the trees.   While it is unforgiving if you spray the ball, there is still more than enough width on most holes that all skill levels still should be able to enjoy their round,  if they brought enough golf balls.

The conditions were near perfect.  The speed of the greens were very resort like, not too fast, not too slow, just a solid 8 on the stimp.  The smoothness was the real treat of the greens at Devil’s Knob.  Every green was like carpet and the roll was true on all 18 holes.  The front nine starts with a tree lined hole that is slightly down hill and you can expect another 8 holes of similar style.  The 3rd hole looks like a par 5 but it is just a huge par 4 with big elevation change.  It is one of the most dramatic holes on the property.  As you wind up and down and around the mountain side, the final three holes of the front 9 are spectacular.  The 7th hole is a tricky par 5.  It plays uphill and then has a last second dogleg right.  The 2nd shot is really keep to this hole, I don’t think it is reachable in 2 even by bombers because of the hazards and being uphill.  The 8th hole is a long par 3 over water to a well guarded green.  The closing hole for the front side is an uphill par 4 that is difficult to gauge distance off the tee and into the green as you play it all uphill.  As you wrap up this 9 you pass by the driving range and club house on your way to the back nine.

The back nine starts by the clubhouse and it is much more of the same terrain as the front nine.  The first few holes of the back nine get you warmed up for an incredible stretch of holes 13-16.   The 13th hole is a change of pace since it is an uphill hole that doglegs left.  The rock outcroppings on the left give it a great look and the green is set on the hillside, so don’t miss right.  The 14th hole is short downhill par 4.  But before you tee off make sure to walk the short path behind the tee box to the lookout point.  It is one of the most amazing views on the property with the miles and miles of Blue Ridge mountains.  The 15th hole is one unique par 3 that you tee off from a lower area kind of through chute toward the green.  It is about 185 from the back tees and played very true to distance.  The 16th hole ends this incredible stretch with a tough extreme downhill tee shot.  It is narrow and even perfectly straight tee shots can find trouble as the fairway moves gently from right to left.  A baby draw is the best shot off the tee as there is a big elevation change from tee to green.   The final hole wraps up right in front of the clubhouse and its new amazing covered patio.

Devil’s knob lives up to its name.  Don’t let the scenery distract you; good tee shots are required on just about every hole.  If you spray it right or left, just drop one and move on, it is pretty unlikely that you will find your stray ball.  One thing that was actually surprising is how many of the holes have houses just beyond the initial tree line, but yet never once did it seem or feel like there was  a single house on the course.  These 18 holes will test your accuracy, but if you hit it straight you can score pretty well.  I even found that I got around the course pretty fast the two days I played.  It is a beautiful mountain course with some bite.

Quick Hits
+Beautiful scenery
+Excellent conditions
+Great variety of holes
+Extra elevation distance


Review: Stoney Creek Golf Course

27 Excellent Holes at the Base of WinterGreen Resort
Stoney Creek is a Rees Jones designed course with 27 holes,  each with a slightly different appeal and its own unique twists and turns.  They have indigenous names to tell them apart and each 9 is a wonderful collection of holes in the Rockfish valley at the base of the Wintergreen Resort.  There is a drastic temperature and altitude difference between Stoney Creek and Devil’s Knob.  Stoney Creek is open year round and is part of the Ski and Tee Package during the winter months.  How great would it be to play 18 in the morning and hit the slopes in the afternoon! 

I started on the Tuckaho 9.  This is the newest 9 holes of the 27 and has the best fairway turf.  It is a new blend of Zoysia grasses.  It has a really tight growth pattern that holds the ball up nicely in the fairway and resists digging by iron shots.  It is very weed resistant so it looks great on all 9 holes with less maintenance.  Besides the excellent turf, Rees Jones laid out a great collection of 9 holes to add to the other previously designed 18 holes.  This 9 offers the most elevation change as well as the most scenic holes.  The first 3 holes have big elevation changes as you start up high on hole 1 and tee down to the fairway.  Hole 2 is an uphill short par 4 that has you teeing off into a large slope.  The 3rd hole is a big down hill par 5 that winds down into the wetland area of the course.  The finishing 2 holes of this 9 are excellent.  The picturesque par 3 hole 8 is a signature hole and the brawny par 5 9th holes makes for a great finishing hole with its views of the mountains and mini moguls running the length of the hole.

The second 9 that I played is the the oldest of the 27 holes.   It is called the Monocan.  It is a little tamer in terms of terrain and offers wider landing zones compared to the other 18 holes at Stoney Creek.   This is the 9 that should be easiest to score on of the three  There is plenty of width and the hazards aren’t as difficult.  There is a stretch of a couple really nice holes around the small lake that is part of the resort.  Holes 4 and 5 play around and over this beautiful water feature.  There is rustic side to this 9 holes.  While it isn’t as tight or have the elevation changes of the other 2 nines, it offers a great test for your game and really is a well designed 9.   One note is going from the Tuckaho 9 to the Monocan 9 is a little tricky because of the different fairway turfs.  The Tuckaho uses a new hybrid grass that is really tight, very tough to dig into and holds the ball up nice and high, whereas the Monocan 9 is an older Bermuda turf that reacts differently to the club.  If you play the Monocan and Shamokin together, which are the original 18 you will get all the same turf.
The final 9 holes, the Shamokin was closed for maintenance while I was there so I didn’t actually get to play it, but I did tour it and found a really scenic 9 holes.  It is fairly level terrain, but the “Stoney creek” runs through a number of these holes.  It is a collection of tree lined fairways and solid holes.   It also is entirely Bermuda grass also.  It really require you to be able to work the ball both directions to score well with the number of doglegs and tree lines, it can be hard to hit an approach shot or tee shot if you are on the wrong side of the fairway.  The variety of par 4s and solid par 3s make this a great 9 holes too.  While I’m not sure exactly how it plays, just driving around it, you can definitely see that it is much narrower than the other 2 nines.

There is a reason that Stoney Creek receives high rankings in the state of Virginia and in the country.  It is a great design, scenic setting, and well maintained 27 holes.   While it might not be bucket list or fly across the country worthy, but if you are anywhere in the area it is a must play.  You will enjoy the variety at this course, and paired with Devil’s Knob you really get a wide variety of golf.

Quick Hits
+27 Scenic holes
+Great variety
+Stellar conditions
+Challenging, yet playable for all levels

–Different grasses(hopefully they will all be Zoysia one day)