Location: White Sulphur Springs, WV
Architect: Tom Fazio
This year my buddy Jay, who has been on many of my Top 100 adventures with me, turned 40 and wanted to make a little celebratory trip. What started out as a guys golf trip to Scotland evolved into a golf/sightseeing trip to Ireland with the ladies, then changed to a week in Napa without golf, and finally landed on a weekend at The Greenbrier Resort with one round of golf. I suppose thatâ€™s the way it goes when trying to please a large group.
The Greenbrier has come under new ownership in the last few years and the resort has experienced a bit of a rebirth. Among other upgrades to the facilities, there is a new casino built underground that has received a significant amount of press. The new owner, Jim Justice, has also managed to land a PGA Tour event, The Greenbrier Classic, which is played at the resortâ€™s Old White TPC course and has brought the likes of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to rural West Virginia.
In addition to The Old White TPC, The Greenbrier is also home to two other courses, The Greenbrier Course and The Meadows Course which makes for no shortage of golf available at the resort. As our trip grew near we began the discussion of which one of the courses we would play for our sole round of golf. Just when I was getting all jazzed up to play The Old White TPC, one of the guys in our group informed us that he had a contact at The Snead Golf Course at The Greenbrier Sporting Club . . . a private club located just up the road from the main resort. I had really wanted to play Old White, but Iâ€™m never one to turn down an opportunity to play a private course as you never know if the chance will come around again.
On the day we were to play it was an early morning for us after a big evening of kicking off the 40th birthday celebration. Our tee time was 7:30am so we were out of the cottages and driving up the road just as the sun was beginning to peek over the mountains. Once we arrived at the club we checked in with the pro shop, and went to the range to hit balls until our tee time. At 7:30 on the nose we got a wave from the starter and we took our position on the 1st tee as the dew sweepers. The yardages below are from the 6,479 yard tees which play to a par of 71.
Hole 1 – 392 Yards – Par 4
The course starts out with a fairly straight forward par 4. The bunkers on the left and right are in play from the tee.
Here is a look at the approach into the 1st green.
Hole 2 – 370 Yards – Par 4
Next we have a mid length par 4 with a slight dogleg to the right. The bunkers on the right side of the fairway are well placed as the right side leaves a shorter approach shot into the green.
Below is a view of the approach shot into the 2nd green. The bunkering on the right side is deep and not the ideal place to miss.
Hole 3 – 206 Yards – Par 3
The first par 3 on the course is no pushover. I always find a shot over water to be a bit of knee knocker and this is no exception. While it takes 200+ yards to reach the green shots that come up a little short may be able to stay dry as there is a bit of fairway fronting the green.
Here is a view of the green from the right side.
Hole 4 – 508 Yards – Par 5
Here we have a par 5 dogleg right that may be reachable in two for longer hitters. Drives down the right side of the fairway will have a shorter look into the green. Avoiding the bunkers on the right is crucial to being able to take a rip at the green in two.
Below is a view of the shot into the green after the drive. The safe shot is to lay up down the left side of the fairway for those who are not going for it in two.
I have not played a ton of Fazio courses, but I found this green with its extreme two tiered design to be something different from what I have typically seen from him.
Here is another look at the green from the backside.
Hole 5 – 456 Yards – Par 4
This beast of a par 4 requires a good drive in order to reach the green in regulation. I suspect that most shorter players will attack this as if it were a par 5.
Below is a look at the lengthy approach shot into the green.
And here is a look at the green from the left side of the hole.
Hole 6 – 506 Yards – Par 5
The next three holes are tucked into a cozy little corner of the property and start out with a nice par 5. The photo below was taken from the tee box.
Note the hazard that crosses in front of the green in the photo below. This needs to be considered for players who are laying up and should also be a consideration for players who go for the green in two and are not quite as long as they think they are.
Here is a look at the green from about 100 yards out.
Hole 7 – 317 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a nice little short par 4 where players have the option to take an aggressive line and aim towards the flag or make a safer play out to the right. The more aggressive the line is the more the bunker and ravine area will come into play.
Here is a look at the undulating green.
Hole 8 – 170 Yards – Par 3
This mid length par 3 plays a bit downhill and the green is severely tilted from back to front. With a front hole location like in the photo below tee shots that go long will have a very fast putt back downhill towards the hole.
Hole 9 – 320 Yards – Par 4
We have another short par 4 to close out the front side of the course. A safe shot is just to pop a 200 yard club down the middle. Hitting driver can bring trouble in to play for longer hitters here.
Below is a look into the long and thin green.
Here is another view of the green that show the shape. Fazio used this general green shape in several places on the course.
Hole 10 – 415 Yards – Par 4
It doesnâ€™t look like there is much trouble off the tee on this hole, but as I found out the brownish mounds on the right side of the fairway are very long grass that can make a golf ball disappear pretty quickly. If you are lucky enough to find it the shot out of the thick stuff is very tough which Iearned the hard way.
Here we have a look into the 10th green from about 100 yards out in the fairway. Along the left side of the fairway there is a long grass hazard which managed to take custody of one of our playerâ€™s golf ball. Even with four people looking for a solid 5 minutes we never found it.
Hole 11 – 376 Yards – Par 4
Below is a look at the 11th hole taken from the tee. The hole doglegs slightly to the right flag can be seen just over the bunker.
The second shot here can be pretty tricky depending on the hole location and where in the fairway a player is hitting from. The further back the hole is and the further to the left a player is positioned the more the water will come into play.
Hole 12 – 200 Yards – Par 3
This par 3 is another lenghthy shot over water like the 3rd hole. Again, there is bail out area in front of the green so a mishit shot is not guaranteed a watery grave.
Hole 13 – 382 Yards – Par 4
A drive down the middle is the best plan of attack here. The bunkers on the right are not the ideal spot to make the approach shot from.
The photo below gives the first look at what is another wide and shallow green. This one has a very significant bowl in the middle.
Here is another view of the green. Iâ€™m glad the flag was located in the middle today rather than on one of the shelfs. I donâ€™t want to think about how tough of a putt it would be to putt from one shelf to the other.
And one last look at this interesting green.
Hole 14 – 424 Yards – Par 4
I loved the look of this hole from the tee box. Itâ€™s probably best to not be a hero here and to safely knock a ball out to the right without challenging the stream too much. Playing the course for the first time it was tough to know exactly what the best line was for a safe shot.
Below is a look at the green.
And here is a closer look at the green. Note the way the putting surface sort of disappears on the left side of the photo. This is a big dip in the green that will send a ball right off the green if it gets too close.
Hole 15 – 128 Yards – Par 3
I love a short par 3 and this one is particularly cool with the way the back of the green seems like it falls right off the mountain.
Hole 16 – 533 Yards – Par 5
It doesnâ€™t get much prettier than this. If we had been here a few weeks later when the leaves were changing it would have been even more spectacular. Tee it high and let it fly here!
After a good drive on this hole I was surprised to find myself in the go zone to reach the green in two. I think the drop from on top of the mountain gave a few bonus yards to my drive. Below is a look into the green from where my drive landed.
Hole 17 – 354 Yards – Par 4
Here we have a shortish par 4 that bends to the left and has bunkers just waiting for players who want to try and take the short line to the green.
Hole 18 – 422 Yards – Par 4
This longer par 4 than the last has a similar feel to it. The best plan here is to hit a nice drive down the left side of the fairway. which will leave the shortest route to the green on this dogleg left.
Below is a look into the green from about 150 yards out. The hole location is tucked in the back left which brings the bunkers on the left into play for the approach shot.
What a beautiful course in this mountain setting. Mountain golf has a reputation for quirky bounces and weird rolls, but in this case the course did not exhibit any of those characteristics. The routing is a little disjointed and would make for a very difficult walking round, but overall the holes are fun and the greens are definitely some of the more extreme I recall seeing from Tom Fazio. The Snead Course is a good time and Iâ€™m SO glad we played there instead of one of the onsite courses for this trip.
After our round we headed back over the to Greenbrier where we spent the afternoon watching college football in our cottages and getting ready for the big birthday celebration that night at The Greenbrier’s on site steakhouse, Prime 44 West. If you go there this Jerry West themed dining experience is not to be missed. The food is fantastic and they have what is probably the biggest steak I have ever seen . . . a 44 oz porterhouse that they call â€śNothing but Netâ€ť. One of our guys ordered it and ate the entire thing. If I hadnâ€™t seen it I wouldnâ€™t have believed it! One of these days I hope to get back to The Greenbrier and check out all of the on site resort courses.