West Virginia Department of Commerce “The Big Five”: Golf courses that pay tribute to design and location

Recent Pages: The Big Five

“The Big Five”: Golf courses that pay tribute to design and location

West Virginia Travel Journal

Pipestem, Cacapon, Twin Falls, Canaan, Stonewall. These “Big Five” of the West Virginia State Parks golf scene have served countless local players and tourist destination golfers over the years. Their continuing appeal is a tribute to

Stonewall Resort Golf CourseStonewall Resort Golf Course

their designers. Geoffrey Cornish laid out Pipestem, Canaan, and the front nine at Twin Falls, while Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Arnold Palmer respectively did the honors at Cacapon and Stonewall. Twin Falls’ back nine shows the mastery of George Cobb. Among many other well-known courses nationally, it is interesting that Cobb also designed the original course at the private Glade Springs Resort near Beckley as well as the famous Par 3 course at Augusta, Georgia. Geoffrey Cornish passed away in February 2012 at the age of 97, Jones in 2000, and Cobb in 1986. However, their work remains in good hands as state park managers are committed to maintaining these courses as enjoyable, scenic and affordable experiences. Good and recent examples of this intention are found at Canaan, Cacapon, and Pipestem.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park
At Canaan Valley, Cornish designed a fairly long, lush, and relatively open course at a high elevation in a well-watered geographic anomaly that can somewhat be compared to a bowl. Slow-moving streams, beaver ponds and wetlands dominate much of the Valley floor, which is surrounded by mountains going up to well over 4,000 feet in elevation. The abundant rainfall and cool climate are great for growing golf course turf, but the boggy soils and flat terrain of the Valley floor posed an original design challenge as well an ongoing test for greens keepers in that natural drainage is quite poor. However, through a more-than-customary investment in artificial, underground collection fields and drainage lines, the beautiful terrain became the site of a fine golf course that is among the most scenic in America. It has been said that there is no better place to play golf and see beautiful things at the same time than at Canaan Valley. The surrounding mountains, the lush grass and flowers of adjacent meadows, lonely but lovely balsam fir and spruce trees waving in the wind while ravens glide on wing overhead, abundant deer, and even the occasional bear or that most unusual of the weasel family, the fisher, can be seen while players are chasing pars and birdies.

However, in recent years, and more than four decades after opening, a good deal of the original Canaan drainage had failed. This had made some fairway sections virtually unplayable at certain times of year or after heavy rains. Indeed, it had become increasingly common to lose plugged balls in fairways and to have large sections of fairway roped off at times as unplayable. Carts had to be restricted to paths a great deal more frequently than was desirable. However, this has all changed due to major work of the past two years. Players now see the result of an investment of more than $600,000 in new drainage under the course which has restored its playability even in wet weather. As an added bonus for vacationing golfers by late 2013, 168 new guest rooms will open in two brand new lodge wings with magnificent views of the mountains and golf course. This $24.5 million dollar project, along with a $10 million ski area modernization, restores Canaan Valley State Park as a premier overnight golf and ski destination.

Cacapon Resort State Park
At Cacapon, in Morgan County near Berkeley Springs, very similar work has been planned and recently funded. The park’s classic Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout has suffered in recent years from degradation of the original drainage as well as some other age-related issues. In late 2013 or early 2014, some $1.5 million of a total $24.5 million bond issue dedicated to Cacapon will be going into full replacement of the drainage system and repair of eroded pond banks around the course. All of the sand traps on the course will also be included in this drainage work and the original design contours of these bunkers will be restored. The 48-guest room Cacapon Lodge, which sits adjacent to and overlooking the first hole, will be partially renovated as well as expanded by the addition of a new wing with 78 rooms, an indoor/outdoor pool and a spa. Overall, it will be a very appealing package for WVGA members and other golfers to enjoy.

Twin Falls Resort State Park
While on the subject of lodging additions at state parks with golf courses, a new 27-guest room Cardinal wing was opened recently at Twin Falls Lodge near Pineville in Wyoming County. This expanded the lodge to a total of 47 rooms and added an indoor pool and fitness room to enjoy after a day on Twin Falls’ unique course which is fit into a narrow valley along a small stream. Twin Falls golf course offers a variety of day play options as well as tournament opportunities.

Pipestem Resort State Park
At Pipestem, the changes are more subtle and designed to enhance the aesthetics of the park’s 18-hole course. The view of the 1000 foot deep Bluestone Gorge at the signature 17th hole has been restored by removal of trees that had grown up, blocking the magnificent view from the tee on this gorgeous par 3 hole. On other parts of the course, trees that had grown intrusively large over the past 45 years since the course was laid out, have been carefully and selectively removed or pruned. New plantings of seasonally colorful trees and shrubs have been installed to add to the appearance of the course and, in some areas, to better define and accentuate elements of the course design. Greens had become somewhat smaller over the years due to reduced mowing patterns, but are now being mowed back to original size. Of course, just like other West Virginia State Park courses, one always sees abundant wildlife and great scenery at Pipestem while playing a very fine golf course. As a bonus, there is also an excellent Par 3 course at Pipestem also known as the Short Course.
Get out and use these state park resort-style courses along with the Palmer Signature course at Stonewall Resort in Lewis County near I-79.  You will find a range of prices and packages to fit any budget along with excellent quality and unmatched scenery and surroundings. Golf professionals at each course frequently offer golf specials as well as assist in tournament planning and scheduling. There is typically an unhurried and relaxing pace of play, particularly for afternoon and evening rounds, that gives the golfer the relaxing and enjoyable experience that golf should be in its best form.

Find more information about golf at West Virginia’s State Parks as well as lodging, cabins and campground, restaurants, fishing, packages, events and activities at “Golf With Us” online at wvstateparks.com.

Ken Caplinger, Chief , West Virginia State Parks, dnr.parks@wv.gov, 304-558-2764