I took a gamble playing on Saturday with the forecast. There was a 50% chance of showers but nothing severe was predicted so I decided to go play. I was hoping for two things. First, I wanted the forecast to scare everyone away so I could play both the courses at the resort quickly but I also didn’t want to battle the rain.
Massanutten Resort is located about an hour away off of Virginia SR 33 near Harrisonburg. The first half of my recent drive to play Caverns Country Club was on the same roads before I split off to head north. I had heard quite a few good things about Massanutten because there is so much to do there. I can only speak to the two golf courses, but I was impressed with the resort as a whole from what I could see from the road. It is easily accessible from I-81 and there are endless activities for almost any age. The resort offers plenty of winter sports, an indoor waterpark, a spa, and many more outdoor activities. I think they run the chair lifts at certain times during the fall for views of the trees changing color. If I had a family then this would be a place I’d want to check out the other activities.
I had a time at 8:30am and left Charlottesville around 7am. When I left town the skies were gray and I could tell that it had been raining. However, no rain was falling at the time and there wasn’t anything nearby on the radar. On the drive I thought that I had lucked out, but what I failed to realize is that the resort has its own microclimate since it located just above the valley floor. I’m no meteorologist but the clouds seemed to back up against the mountains and created precipitation which was heavy at times. I got part of my wish as I had the course to myself and played at a torrid pace of about two and a half hours. What is even more impressive is that it was cart path only.
The cart attendant wiped down the seat of the cart which was a nice gesture and I got started on my round. The course isn’t long, even from blue tees where I played, as it is 6443 yards. The rating is 71.9 which isn’t anything insane but it still packed quite the punch as evidenced by the 139 slope. As the name and the terrain indicate, the course is a mountain course and the type of layout that I was expecting at Caverns Country Club earlier this month. All of the holes are tree lined, many of the fairways are narrow, and the slopes on the holes require some local knowledge. As mentioned, the course is built into the side of the a mountain and the thing that stood out to me is that most of the holes play horizontally across the mountain instead of vertically up and down it. I’m not sure if I’m describing it well, but maybe the pictures will help clarify what I mean. So, that meant there aren’t too many blind shots, but unfortunately most holes have a severe slope from left to right or right to left. Also, because of the routing, there wasn’t much elevation change or any tee boxes with stunning views.
Mountain Greens is one of those courses where the ball can take a big bounce sideways once it lands so a shot landing in the incorrect half of the fairway mostly likely is going to kick into the rough. That forced me to either try to shape a shot to hold the fairway or challenge the tree line. This wasn’t unexpected for a mountain course, but it isn’t something that I enjoy because I cannot work the ball consistently. Once in the fairway, the ball was above or below my feet which added some guessing for the line on the approaches. Because of all this, I could see this being a really tough course for the average golfer. Since most of the holes played across the mountain, one hole going in the same direction felt like a rehash of another to me.
The course has smaller greens with some nasty ridges that can separate one side from the other. There are a few bowls in the greens so a shot could get close to flags placed in those areas but I found that only precision iron shots were rewarded. The rain and damp conditions slowed the greens, but they still rolled well. The fairways were on the longer side and had some patchy sections but the tees were very nice. The tees were probably the best that I have played this summer as they were lush and a couple looked like carpet. For the price, I had no complaints about the maintenance.
My VSGA card allowed me to play for $29 on a weekend morning so it is as good of a value that can be found within an hour of Charlottesville. Plus, the card allows for a same day replay rate of $15. I didn’t take advantage of the replay this time as I wanted to check out the other course. At these rates I can afford to play it again, although I might not get back until next year. The website shows that the regular rate is $67 and it isn’t worth that, at least in my opinion. I’m not sure how much it costs for someone staying at the resort to play but it could be a convenient option. I’d say that Caverns Country Club is a better mountain course while nearby Packsaddle Ridge has the better views (although I’d try to check the conditions before playing there).
#1 (396 yard par 4):
One of the trickiest tee shots on the course is found here on the first hole. The proshop suggested that I ride to the top of the hill to see where to hit it and I’m glad I did. The hole moves left but everything slopes the other way. I think a tee shot with a 225 yard club out towards that lone tree just right of the cart path is a good play. The ball should take a big hop forward and to the right. Anything down the right side has a chance of resulting in a lost ball. The green falls off on the right side into some deep bunkers.
#2 (501 yard par 5):
This is a pretty straight par 5 and a decent birdie chance after a tee shot in the fairway. Everything slopes to the right so I think the best play is down the left edge of the fairway. Unfortunately a miss left leaves a tough shot to layup because the ball should move left to right from the lie, but there are trees all down the left. The green is interesting as it has different levels and bowls which allow for some creativity.
#3 (366 yard par 4):
Even though this hole is straight away, the slope makes it almost a copy of the first two holes. The ideal tee shot is a little draw to help hold the fairway or a straight shot towards that left bunker. I had a short iron approach but I couldn’t see any of the green’s surface from the fairway.
#4 (401 yard par 4):
I think that this is one of the weakest holes on the course. It is the third longest par 4 but the fairway narrows to just 15 yards wide at 150 yards from the green. Anything ending up on the left side of the fairway has to move from right to left into a green guarded by a water hazard to the left. I think planning on 175 yards into the green is the best play. Like holes on many mountain courses, it feels like the designer ran out of room. That’s true though as there is a hill to the left and the previous hole to the right.
#5 (188 yard par 3):
With a few tweaks I think this par 3 could be really good. The green is long and narrow which I don’t mind, but there isn’t much room to miss with a long iron because there is trouble left of the green. If more trees were cleared out to the right then it could create a good place to miss. A chipping area over there or a bank that feeds balls onto the green would make for a fun, long par 3.
#6 (475 yard par 5):
When I was standing on the tee I didn’t like this par 5 because a driver would run through the fairway and into the creek (maybe 250 yards from the tee). After playing it, my opinion improved because it is a risk/reward par 5. The closer that someone can get it to the creek, the better the chance of being able to go for it in two. The hole is short enough that even without a driver I had just a hybrid into another narrow green. There is some slope from right to left up near the green so keep that in mind. It one of the best birdie chances on the course.
#7 (427 yard par 4):
This is the longest par 4 on the course and it is really the only hole on the front nine that I liked. It is a dogleg left so an aggressive tee shot is down the left side of the fairway. The longer hitters can probably take it out over the trees on the left though. Since it plays downhill, the other option is maybe a 3 wood down the center of the fairway. There is some slope which should feed the ball to the left so hitting it out to the right isn’t the worst play if it ends up in the fairway. The approach is played over a creek which shouldn’t come into play after a decent tee shot and the green has a couple tiers.
#8 (170 yard par 3):
This par 3 is semi-blind because it plays uphill. The green is pretty big and a shot landing on the right center should kick to the left. Make sure to take half a club more than normal to get it pin high.
#9 (355 yard par 4):
This tee shot is very similar to the first as the hole moves left and the fairway slopes to the right. I think it is a tougher shot though because of the trees to the left of the tee which force someone to hit a right to left layup. If someone cannot hit a draw then I’d suggest hitting a 170 to 180 yard club off the tee to keep it from running into the rough and possibly out of bounds.
#10 (363 yard par 4):
Like most holes out here, a driver isn’t required on this short par 4. The best play from the tee is probably going to be a 225 to 240 yard club with a fade that starts out over the last bit of cart path in the picture. I hit a wedge close and got fooled with the read on the green. I thought that the putt would break down the mountain to the left but it stayed straight.
#11 (142 yard par 3):
This par 3 is similar to the 8th, at least visually. Most of the green is blind so I couldn’t tell that the pin was located on a back tier which rose maybe four feet from the lower section.
#12 (347 yard par 4):
This starts a stretch of holes that are similar to the first three. They play in the same direction too so all of the slope is from left to right because the mountain is to the left. I hit a hybrid off the tee and tried to play it at the cart path left of the 150 marker. I pulled it a bit into the brownish colored hill but it kicked into the fairway and ended up fine. The green slopes from back to front and I had a speedy downhill putt even in the rain.
#13 (500 yard par 5):
The fairway is narrow than it looks on this par 5. It plays uphill so I would favor getting it in play off the tee rather than trying to hit a driver and get it up near the green, especially since the second shot is blind. I think hitting it out over the cart path is a good line.
#14 (376 yard par 4):
This is a mid length par 4 that is cut into the side of the mountain. Make sure to favor the left side all the way to the green. A shot missing way left of the green could result in a birdie putt so keep that in mind.
#15 (352 yard par 4):
This hole is similar to the 9th but the slope is more severe from left to right. I think a tee shot launched high is the best way to try to keep it in the fairway. The green has a bowl in the front right which could make it a great birdie chance if the flag is down there.
#16 (190 yard par 3):
This was my favorite hole on the back nine. It is a long par 3 with a green that slopes from left to right which is the opposite slope of the terrain. Anything left of the green could be a big number, but a miss to the right could kick left and actually would leave an uphill chip.
#17 (479 yard par 5):
This is the best birdie chance on the back nine. It is a short par 5 with a pretty open tee shot. The tee shot should favor the right side and a long iron or fairway wood can chase onto the green through an opening. Make sure to take advantage of this one.
#18 (415 yard par 4):
I like to play a fade so this tee shot was perfect for me. I started it down the center of the fairway with a 3 wood and let it fade. The fairway could run out for the bigger hitters so they may have to lay back or take a more aggressive line to the right. The green slopes from back to front so a high spin player is going to need to be careful not to spin it back too much.