Lying in the southwest region of the state, cradled by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the Roanoke Valley is a region that deserves more attention than it gets. Admittedly it’s not the first place I would have picked for a golf trip but when the opportunity presented itself I was sufficiently intrigued to pack up the clubs and head south. Moreover, I was not disappointed.

Situated at the southern boundary of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the Roanoke Valley was a pleasant surprise. It’s not a region that intentionally hides its light under a bushel but as everybody knows there’s tremendous competition in the world of golf; and high-profile destinations tend to grab the lion’s share of the limelight. However, many golfers have already taken trips to the well-known venues and are eager to hear about untried locations where the courses are commendable, there’s plenty of diversity and the pot is sweetened with value-added entertainment. This, I discovered, is exactly what the Roanoke Valley has to offer.

The Links

One aspect about the golf courses in this part of Virginia is certain: they all enjoy the visual benefit of the stunningly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. This is a huge natural bonus that I first observed at the Ashley Plantation Country Club, a 27-hole facility with three distinctive nine-hole layouts. Nestled in a valley just north of the city of Roanoke, the course is part of a residential community with the mountains as a scenic backdrop. Established just over a decade ago, this club that can be played for under $40 a round features rolling fairways and numerous elevation changes. Ashley Plantation is one of six Roanoke Valley courses that have joined together with a group of hotels to offer visiting golfers stay/play packages starting at $183 for three rounds and two nights of accommodation.

Also just outside Roanoke, the award winning Hanging Rock Golf Club is an 18-hole championship track enjoying a mountain setting that is pure eye candy. Featuring a well-conceived layout, its narrow fairways call for accurate shot-making, otherwise the alternative can result in a whole lot of trouble. The par-4 5th is Hanging Rock’s signature hole featuring two separate greens. Here, players can choose either a straight, uphill shot to a large putting surface or take their chances over water to a much smaller target. This course provides a good, solid round of golf where green fees peak at a modest $40.

The scenic Olde Mill Golf Course–part of an 800-acre master-planned resort 90 minutes from Roanoke–is another good choice. Originally designed by Ellis and Dan Maples in the Donald Ross tradition, this track features an abundance of water including a 54-acre lake. Olde Mill is a seasoned course that opened in 1972 and its gently rolling fairways can lead players to wrongly assume there is limited challenge.

Arguably the crème de la crème of the region’s courses is at Primland, a sprawling, 1,200-acre resort that includes a luxury lodge, fairway cottages and, last but not least, its 18-hole Highlands course. This championship track has received nothing but repeated awards and accolades since it opened in 2006. It’s a lofty track that sits atop a forested mountain ridge 2,850 feet above sea level and its inventive layout is one that appeals to serious golfers.
However, it’s actually a course that is exceedingly playable for all skill levels providing wishful thinking is not confused with reality when choosing tee boxes.

While Highlands admittedly beat me up in a big way, it mattered not since the pure pleasure of playing such a spectacular course far outweighed my less than credible score. Drives are challenging but there are no long carries and although there is no water on the course, challenge comes into play with deep bunkers, tricky greens and a network of ravines lying in wait for errant shots. When British designer, Donald Steele, first visited the landscape he would ultimately turn into one of Virginia’s finest courses, he said it reminded him of the Highlands of Scotland. He certainly knew what he was talking about because he is the first architect since 1913 to work on the renewal of St. Andrews, Scotland, the birthplace of golf.

Grape Expectations

There is plenty of value-added entertainment beyond fairways and greens of Roanoke Valley.

Among the bonus attractions are wineries such as Chateau Morrisette, a facility that has logged three decades of wine making excellence. This is one of Virginia’s premier wineries where there are daily tours and tastings, plus an outstanding restaurant. Chateau Morrisette is one of several wineries along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, often called “America’s Favourite Drive.”

City Lights

While there are plenty of places to stay in the area, including the magnificent lodge at Primland, the city of Roanoke makes a good home base for a golf junket. When the town was first established in the mid-1800s, it was initially called The Big Lick, so named for large salt deposits that attracted a variety of wildlife. Much has changed since the city’s colonial era and today it’s a cosmopolitan center. A vibrant downtown features plenty of restaurants, museums, a public market and a new art gallery. Hotel Roanoke is a city landmark that welcomes golf groups and offers special tailor-made packages in association with three area courses. Built in 1882, this historic property is a fully restored, Tudor-style building on the National Register of Historic Places.

TRAVEL PLANNER

For more information about Virginia travel call 1-800-VISIT VA or go to www.virginia.org.

Getting there: Roanoke is a one-day drive destination from Montreal and Southern Ontario, or by air to the Roanoke Regional Airport.

Useful websites:
Roanoke Visitor Information: www.visitroanokeva.com
Roanoke Valley Golf: www.golfroanokevalley.com
Hotel Roanoke: www.hotelroanoke.com
Ashley Plantation: www.ashleyplantation.com
Primland: www.primland.com
Old Mill Clubs: www.oldemillclubs.com
Hanging Rock Golf: www.hangingrockgolf.com
Chateau Morrisette: www.chateaumorrisette.com

Related Posts