Imagine waking up and stepping outside your room to the mist gently rising from the immaculately manicured 10th or 18th fairway while the sun slowly peaks over the Blue Ridge Mountains. A sight to behold!
I’ve been fortunate enough in my lifetime to not only play some of the most outstanding and recognizable golf courses in the world, but also many of the finest new courses. Recently I had the privilege of playing the 2008 Golf Digest #1 ranked “America’s Best New Public Course over $75”. What a treat indeed! Possibly my favorite mountain course ever!
Primland Resort is located in a remote area of southwestern Virginia where peace, beauty and solitude abound. As we drove the meandering 2900 foot climb up Mountain Top Road to our cottage, I could literally felt the pressures of the daily grind receding. There is definitely something therapeutic about getting ‘away from it all’. Surrounded by unspoiled wilderness with an abundance of wildlife, it was evident why these 14,000 acres of wooded countryside would appeal to golfers, hikers, hunters, fisherman and ATVers alike.
Then the business side of me kicked in and I asked my playing partner Marc, “Why would anyone build a golf course on the top of a mountain in a remote area in Virginia that is a 2 ½ drive to Charlotte NC and 1 ½ hours from Greensboro? And, on top of that hire architect Donald Steel, more renowned for his links-style courses on the other side of the pond to design it?
My questions were soon answered once we reached the pinnacle. This is “mountain golf” at its’ finest. The majestic beauty, mature landscape and natural elevation changes offer an experience that is truly breath taking. “It may be a hard place to get to, but it’s a tough place to leave” says Mr. Steel.
“We foresee the work at Primland as the catalyst for economic growth in the region” says Vice President Steve Helms. Primland offers “a place far enough away from the big cities to retain its rustic feel and yet, at the same time, close enough to attract people looking for the great family escape.”
The starting hole sets the stage for a memorable round – a shorter downhill par 5 with an amazing backdrop that tempts you to go for the green in two. But remember this, Steel rewards you for staying on the fairway and your second shot is paramount here. Even though there are no lakes or deep faced pot bunkers to contend with, Steel has incorporated large well protected greens, that are tempting to go for, but if you are not on the proper side, two putts will require that you take your time reading them.
The conditioning of the course is second to none and the huge greens are fast and true. On the day we played they were 11.5 on the stimp meter and that was before mowing so be forewarned!
Every hole here would be a ‘signature hole’ at many other golf courses. Steel has done an amazing job of allowing the natural terrain to dictate the layout. The course starts off par 5, par 3, par 5, par 3 and then traverses through a forested plateau, around cliff-sides and across cavernous valleys. Steel attested to the fact that “This is my first course that I had to make easier versus harder”.
Not only is Primland challenging and secluded it is also not crowded as tee times are spaced 30 minutes apart so you’ll have plenty of time to absorb the magnificent scenery or find your wayward golf balls. Don’t forget your camera!
To our delight, our host Sandy Gardiner arranged for us to have dinner with the infamous Mr. Steel to learn more about his vision. “There is a remoteness about Primland, a sense of escape that is special. Golf courses have been built in every landscape imaginable but only rarely on mountain peaks” said Steele who admitted this is his first mountain design. “Primland sits on top of the world, enjoying scenic views that stretch the vocabulary” and I couldn’t agree more!
The accommodations at Primland are equally outstanding. There are twelve outlying cabins and a new 72,000 square foot rustic-lodge featuring twenty six suites on the second and third floors. The lodge is crafted with Tennessee edge stone, cedar shake siding and finished with reclaimed oak floors from old tobacco barns that blend beautifully with the surrounding countryside. There are nine different floor plans and all the amenities including an indoor pool, fitness centre, spa with seven European treatment rooms, a fifteen seat theatre, ballroom, a restaurant that seats eighty and “unparalleled outdoor adventures such as hunting, fishing, hiking and horseback riding” says Steve Helms.
I stayed in the ‘Woodpecker’ one of the uniquely designed guest cottages that overlooked the 10th fairway. Reminiscent of the architectural style of historic structures in the Virginia Mountains, this well-appointed one-bedroom two-storey unit is spacious and featured a full kitchen, stone fireplace, wide screen satellite TV, high speed internet, enormous bathrooms and a view to “die for”.
Mr. Steel claims that “it is difficult to compare a links-style design to a parkland or mountain course versus an ocean course. The architect still has to design a layout that is indigenous to the terrain”. From my experience, I could not agree more. I like all styles of courses that fit into their natural environment but I must confess that the peace and tranquility of being secluded in the mountains is like no other. It takes true visionaries like owners, the Primat Family from Geneva Switzerland and Donald Steel to create such a marvel.
This is a “not-to-be-missed” experience. For more information on Primland go to their website www.primland.com or for reservations contact them at 1-866-960-7746.
By Dave Finn (dave @ golfinn.com)