In Lin Clark’s fifth installment of Tee Travels, she’s off to the East Coast to play golf in West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. She’ll tee off in all 50 states, eventually!
The state slogan is “wild and wonderful.” I certainly found that to be true on The Palmer Course at the Stonewall Resort in Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park. The golf course is set high above the lake in the mountains of Roanoke, West Virginia. Because the course is inside a state park, it is blissfully without residential developments.
This course was designed by Arnold Palmer, and while it was in development there was a large, dead Kalpa tree on the proposed 17th hole. The asset manager for the development wanted the tree to stay; the local team of architects argued for the removal. The decision would go to Arnold. He said as long as it did not impede play, it should stay. He asked the asset manager if a drive from the tee would carry over the tree. He pulled out a 6-iron and the shot went right over the “ghost tree” and landed on the approach to the green. The tree stayed.
Todd and Brenda greeted me warmly in the pro shop and shared some tips, which always help a first-time player on any course. I would be going out alone, as this was a bit of a slow time for the resort.
The course is long; however, the six tee selections accommodate all levels, from The Palmer tee at 7,149 yards to the Red tee at 4,921. I knew my place.
The GPS in the cart helped navigate with detailed maps of the holes. The lush course was in good condition, with fast but fair greens. A bit of crabgrass on several of the greens was disappointing; however, maintenance was out on the course trying to get ahead of any large areas of the nasty stuff. The generous fairways helped my game because if I missed, the ball disappeared in the tall fescue grass in the rough and I searched in vain until I learned to just “donate” my ball to the cause. (My theory was that the numerous wild turkeys I saw thought the balls were eggs to sit on and try to hatch.)
Each hole was unique and separate, making me feel cushioned in the rolling mountains of West Virginia. Truly a beautiful course.
The Palmer Course
Roanoke, West Virginia
Tee Traveler rating: A-
An intimate setting with enough challenge for scratch golfers yet forgiving enough for newbies. Greens needed more attention and some of the tee boxes were a bit ragged. Although it was a long course, reaching an acceptable score was possible. The clubhouse is perched high above the first hole with panoramic views of the lake and valleys below.
CS rating: 4
Pro-shop very welcoming to a walk-on single woman. The layout did not bring you back to the clubhouse at the turn, which made port-a-potty the only option. 19th hole was great! Tried a new beer—35 Parks, a WV Pale Ale. Lovely. Thanks, Bo!
In looking for my next course to play in Western Maryland, just outside of Frederick, I pulled up the Club at P.B.Dye. The name caught my eye because one of my courses I play frequently in Colorado is a Pete and Perry Dye designed course. I like the course because I don’t get into a lot of trouble and rarely lose a ball. (I will be talking more about my “home” courses for the Colorado segment of Tee Travels.)
Anyway, I decided to try the PB Dye Golf Club. This course was designed by Pete’s son, P.B. (Paul Burke) Dye. Perry is his other son. The signature element of a Pete Dye course is railroad ties, and P.B. continues with that element. In fact, the ties are everywhere—so are the bunkers.
P. B. Dye said, “The P. B. Dye Golf Club was the first I completed after undergoing cancer surgery in 1996. So, it’s special to me regardless, name aside. After you kick cancer, it’s great to be hired again. It makes you feel like a winner, and having the course named for me just reinforces that.”
It seems to me, now, that after P.B. “kicked cancer” he was ready to kick golfer’s ****. This course is extremely difficult. I know I wasn’t playing at the top of my game, but, still! There’s water in play on four holes, 10 others require shots over small streams and valleys, and the greens are so undulating that I would call them moguls.
The course also has many blind spots, which would have been very frustrating if not for Ted, the golfer I was paired up with. Luckily, he had played the course a few times. The other two people golfing with us, Chris and Sarisa made the round enjoyable. Thanks, gang!
The other valuable tool, especially to a golfer not familiar with the course, was a cart GPS that shows not only distance but the hole layout with a touch screen. So you can pinpoint how far to layup from your cart position. This particular GPS also showed golfers’ carts on the hole, which was helpful on the many blind holes. If P.B. Dye was going to throw everything at the golfer on this course, at least the hybrid GPS can level a bit of the playing field.
The signature hole is No. 11, an island green, par-3. Flanking the green in the front and on the left side are numerous railroad ties, so that your ball can hit them and bounce into the water. Are we having fun yet?
I will end this section of my Tee Travels in Maryland on a positive note: The PB Dye Golf Club course is visually stunning!
The Club at P.B. Dye
Tee Traveler Rating: A (for a low handicap golfer) C (for an average golfer)
Wicked layout. You WILL lose a lot of balls. Greens in good condition, fast downhill while slow uphill—that was my take-away from all the greens. Tee boxes level, although some of the reds could have used trimming. Fairways nice—the ones I saw, anyway. I had more experience with the rough—if you hit outside a fairway, you will lose your ball. Too many blind holes.
CS Rating: 3
Starter very welcoming, inside pro-shop not so much. No flush toilets on the course; in fact, no toilet at all, unless I missed a port-a-potty tucked away.
The impetus for this leg of Tee Travels came from one of my home golfing buddies, Marian. The Pittsburgh area (Mt. Lebanon) was her home before Denver, and she wanted me to play her favorite course there. The deal was, she would come to play the course with me. She agreed and solicited two of her golfing buddies from when she lived there.
I am going to review her Pittsburgh home course of Cranberry Highlands; however, I want to mention the other course we played. One of her dear friends belongs to Nevillewood Country Club, which is only 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, and arranged for us to play the course. It is a signature Jack Nicklaus course and absolutely immaculate. If you do get an opportunity to play this course, please do so; what a treat! Thanks, Sandy!
On to Cranberry Highlands, which has been voted Best Municipal Golf Course in Pennsylvania by Golf Digest. As a links course it is open, but the beauty of the surrounding walls of trees keeps the course feeling cozy.
As we played, I noticed numerous birdhouses and even a stand of beehives. I discovered the course has been certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. The designation affirms that the golf course has maintained a high degree of environmental quality in a variety of areas including planning, wildlife, and habitat management, education, reduced chemical use, water quality management and more. Congrats, Cranberry Highlands!
The course was well-manicured and challenging. I feel every level of golfer could enjoy playing this course. No blind spots, which I particularly appreciated after my experience in Maryland.
Undeniably what added to the delight was playing with a dear friend and getting to know her golfing buddies. Thanks Marian, Sandy and Mary for such a great time!
As I travel for my quest to golf in 50 states and take you, the readers of Tee Travels with me, I not only want to introduce you to the courses I play, but also give an insight to playing single. At times I will be playing solo, other times paired up with strangers, and then there will be the occasional opportunity to play with people I know. This trip encompassed all three scenarios. Love that!
Cranberry Highlands Golf Course
Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
Tee Traveler Rating: A
If you are in the area, play this course. It is a gem. Greens very well maintained and run fast. Lovely water features.
CS Rating: 4+
Nick, the starter, is a delight. Not at all condescending of women golfers (something I have found in other courses). Although the course does have port-a-potties, they are tastefully surrounded by a nice wood fence, not just plunked down on the course.
RATING SYSTEM REMINDER
Tee Traveler ratings
A = Amazing – A definite stand out for various reasons
B = Beckoning – Draws you in for various reasons
C = Common – A “go-to course, nothing stands out”
D = Don’t bother!
CS (Congeniality Scale) for Single Woman Walk-On
1= Do Not Enter
2-3-4= Somewhere in between
5= Red Carpet