DESTINATION: ROANOKE, VA
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
If you are a frequent traveler up and down the east coast, chances are you've been on I-81 a few times. Chances are also good you've driven right by Roanoke and not known that you're missing a cool-ass town, not to mention some great golf!
About The Region: This month’s travel blog takes us right to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the greater Roanoke area. Roanoke – a city home to about 100,000 residents - sits in a bucolic valley setting amongst three to four thousand foot peaks in all directions, providing some of the most majestic terrain for golf in the mid-Atlantic region.
The city itself offers a vibrant downtown core, splashed with restaurants and nightlife. The ever popular Blue Ridge Parkway runs virtually right through town. Sight-seers can get a great view of the entire valley from atop Mill Mountain, home to the famous star that provides Roanoke its moniker, “The Star City”.
About The Golf: To find the brightest star in the region's golf landscape, one needs to look just off the Parkway south of town to find the area’s newest course, Ballyhack. This Lester George design - built as a national private club to serve as a quiet mountain getaway - offers dramatic long views from its many elevated tees and wide open fairways. Don’t stray too far off course however, its 7294 yards has plenty of teeth, as the 155 Slope/76.6 Rating testifies.
Fear not the private label, however. Ballyhack does offer a great stay & play package with lodging provided on site in 4-person golf cabins with private bedrooms & baths for each player. When looking for a 5-star experience, you will find it here!
Those looking to add on rounds or build their own packages can look at these great options found along the I-81 corridor just north of town:
Hanging Rock (6828 yards/125 slope/72.3 rating, $48 peak rate) is a Russell Breedon layout that provides true mountain golf. Fire your way up and down the gentle slopes and enjoy the views! The 6th hole features two greens, one on a perch, the other on a lake that affords players the luxury to choose which green best fits their game.
Ashley Plantation is another Breedon gem tucked away in an upscale development north of town. The original 18 plays as a championship course (6967/134/73.2, $45) featuring a 721 yard PAR SIX on the card and dramatic elevation change. You can see the dramatic 'off the cliff' par three, complete with view and massive bunker that follows that a couple holes later.
Right next door, you’ll find Botetourt Country Club (pronounced BOT-a-tot). A favorite course of locals, you’ll find great conditions and greater playability (6133/116/68.7, $40) than its brawny neighbor. You may leave town with your fondest memory being how you hit your tee shots into the Blue Ridge backdrop!
For the longer trip or thrill-seeker, you can take about an hour drive from downtown and be at one of these show stoppers…
Pete Dye River Course at Virginia Tech (7685/147/77.5, $80), Radford, VA Poplar Grove (Sam Snead/Ed Carton, 7059/141/75.0, $65) Amherst, VA
Olde Mill Resort (Ellis Maples, 6833/144/75.3, $60 Sat/$45 Sun-Fri), Laurel Fork, VA
The River Course at VT (18th hole pictured) is a beast. Pete Dye painted 2.5 miles of New River shoreline with his devious brush. The new clubhouse is worth the trip alone, so enjoy a craft brew from Bull & Bones Grill on the cliff side deck overlooking the back nine.
Poplar Grove is a modern beauty with classic overtones that delight the eye. That combination is no doubt owed to its two designers, the incomparable Sam Snead (his last design) and Ed Carton (formerly worked with Tom Fazio’s design team).
Olde Mill probably has the most intimidating tee shot in Southwest Virginia. Crusader Tip: buy an extra sleeve of balls at the turn. Your 10th tee shot (pictured) is hit from just off the hilltop clubhouse, down to a peninsula fairway engulfed by the course’s man-made lake. They also have golf villas on site if you want to move the entire operation after a day in the city.
A separate trip could really be combined with Olde Mill. These two great courses down there would make a great weekend golf buffet!
Great Oaks (Floyd, VA) is so criminally underrated it should be illegal. The layout is a blast to play and the conditions are phenomenal. The price makes it the steal of the century at around $35-$40. People in Roanoke drive the hour to be members here because it is just that good.
The Highland Course at Primland (Meadows-of-Dan, VA) is another top 200 bucket-lister, but bring a phat wallet for the $200+ rounds. It's on the list to tackle this year, we'll be sure to review it as soon as we can to see if the satisfaction matches the investment.
For My Money: Hotel Roanoke is right in the heart of downtown. A true throwback and you can walk to everything like...
Food/Nightlife: Corned Beef & Company Frankie Rowland’s Steakhouse Alexander’s Blue 5 Cornerstone
More highlights from the Roanoke area golf scene (Ballyhack, VT River Course, Draper Valley, Ashley Plantation, Great Oaks)