Even though they are less than an hour away the courses at Wintergreen Resort (Devils Knob & Stoney Creek) have been on my long term list of courses to play due to their prices. I planned to play the Stoney Creek course sometime in the off season to save some money and never really gave Devils Knob much thought because the course is only open from April to October and most of that time it is $89+ to play. I noticed that Devils Knob has limited twilight rates available after 3pm for $49 from May 24th to June 27th so it was worth it to make a phone call. The proshop said that the course was open and to come on out. When I left Charlottesville it was partly cloudy and just under 90 degrees. I drove through some severe weather to get to the course so between that and the climb to 3500 feet the temperature dropped a good 15 degrees. Just as I pulled into the parking lot the course was blowing the horn to resume play for the weather that moved through. So, it worked out perfectly as I was able to play the course in some nice weather. The course’s claim to fame is that it is the highest elevation course in the state and come to find out the cooler temperature on the mountain is one of the big draws.
When driving in I wondered where a golf course could be fit into the terrain and then while hitting hitting golf balls at the range confirmed that this was going to be a mountain course. I played from the Blue Tees at 72.2/138/6712 and the distance was not a concern (even with the course playing as a par 70) due to the many downhill holes and thinner air. However, the fairways were as narrow as can be and left no room for a shot even the slightest bit offline. The fairways were lined by trees on each side and many holes had out of bounds with homes behind the trees. A few of the tight tree lined holes reminded of the back nine at Northstar at Tahoe or Apple Mountain in California. Because of this the prudent play on many holes off the tee was whatever club could be hit in the fairway. Like many mountain courses that I have played, Devils Knob has some poorly designed holes, but many were interesting to play and thought provoking.
The first two holes are mid length par 4’s that allow for a short iron approach if someone can find the fairway. The 3rd hole is a monster par 4 that plays 520 yards down the side of the mountain before alternating par 3’s and par 5’s until the 9th hole. The 5th is a reachable par 5 so someone who hits it straight could get off to a decent start. The 7th is a 585 yard par 5 that was my least favorite hole on the course. The hole moves left and then back right, but a driver off the tee will run through the fairway out of play. This forces a layup that has to challenge the trees on the left just to find the fairway. The layup is blind up the hill before crossing a stream to the green. Right after my least favorite hole was my favorite hole which is the 200 yard 8th. The 8th is a par 3 over a hazard, but had a bunker left to catch shots before they got to the water left of the green. The hole was flat, almost in a valley, and had a nice view of some homes on the hill behind the green. The 9th was another goofy hole that played straight up a hill with a fairway that repelled tee shots. The 10th was the last par 5 on the course and even though the course is a par 70 it still has three par 5’s which I like. The 11th had a 4 or 5 foot rise from the front level to the rear level of the green, but this was blind on the approach from the fairway. Things like this just bother me as I thought I hit the perfect shot only to have it 45 feet away. I think the back is the better nine but it still had some weak holes, one of which was the 13th. The 13th is a 370 yard par 4 where the fairway became blind at about 225 yards off the tee. Left of the fairway was trouble and the fairway sloped right into the rough and more trouble. So any tee shot over the hill needed to fly trouble on the left and get a lucky kick to end up in play on the hole which moved left. The 15th was a good par 3 but like many spots on the course it could have benefited from some designs to make the course more playable. It looks like there is room right of the green on the 15th but there isn’t. A collection area short and right of the green would make the course more fun to play and probably speed up play. The 16th, a 417 yard par 4 that drops maybe 75 to 100 feet down to the fairway, is the signature hole. The fairway slopes right to left so I had to try to get a layup down the right side and couldn’t pull it off. I think a miss right here should get a kick back into play rather than ending up in the woods. The 18th is a strong closing hole that played out of a chute of trees before the approach uphill towards the clubhouse.
The conditions at Devils Knob were great. The fairways and tees were in very good shape and the greens will probably be the fastest that I putt on all year. The trouble I had was adjusting to the quick greens just because I normally putt on slower greens. An added bonus is the view of the Shenandoah Valley and George Washington National Forest from the rocks on the back of the 14th tee box which is stunning. The course isn’t my cup of tea as it is too penal, but if someone is accustomed to playing flatter courses all the time this would be a nice change.
View from behind #14 tee: