Stonewall Resort is a spot that has been on my list of places to visit in the Mid-Atlantic! If you scan the facility’s website you will see that it offers just about every outdoor activity that a family could want. The resort is conveniently located (for West Virginia!) about 3 miles from I-79 on Stonewall Jackson Lake. That made it a perfect spot to continue to split up my drive home from Pittsburgh! Accommodations are available and someone can pick from hiking, boating, golfing, or any number of other activities. To the surprise of no one I’m sure, I was there to check out the golf!
The resort has a regulation course (the Palmer course) and a newer, shorter nine hole course (the King’s course). My review is for the Palmer course which gets ranked as one of the top public courses in West Virginia. From what I can find the golf magazines rank it just behind some of the Greenbrier courses which gives an indication of the class that it is in.
I was on the tee sheet for 2:20pm, but I got to the course early. It wasn’t very busy so the proshop said that I could head out sooner and I got started an hour early. I was treated great even though the course was going to lose money on me because I was using my VSGA card. The normal rate before 2pm is $94, but I got to play for only $30 which really felt like I was stealing!
I waited for a group to play before I teed off and enjoyed the incredible location and design. Arnold Palmer (and/or his design company) put together a fantastic course. There aren’t any homes, at least at this point, so it was just me and nature. As you can see from the pictures, the area is mountainous but much the course meanders through some wetlands and around a finger of the lake. In this respect, the course reminded me of Running Y which is another Arnold Palmer design that I’ve played.
Both nines offered plenty of nice views and the course was one of the more picturesque that I’ve played recently! Most of the front nine is pretty flat and there was only a club elevation change on a couple shots. Most of the back nine plays through the hills and has more slope in play. Still, I didn’t think that elevation changes caused any holes to be “unplayable” or required too much local knowledge. The back nine certainly wins when it comes to interesting and dramatic holes. There is one that feels like it is on top of the world and another drops two clubs to a green guarded by water.
I played the gold tees which play 73.2/141/6726 and thought that the course was extremely fair while still challenging all parts of my game. I never had to guess where to hit it and the fairways are generous. I think part of that has to do with it being a resort course and trying to attract the whole family. I wasn’t feeling comfortable with my driver, but still managed to hit plenty of fairways with just a decent swing. That let me gain some momentum with my irons and short game so there are a couple different ways to get it around. Plus, the fairways are flatter than it would seem and distances to hazards are marked well.
On just about every shot there is a place to bail out and still find the ball which is why I thought it was forgiving to play. I think the high slope is caused by plenty of lost ball trouble in certain spots. Most of the lost ball trouble is fescue grass, wetlands marked as hazards, and ponds. There are a few humps and bumps on the greens, but they were flatter than I expected. I got on a roll with the putter, so if someone can find it they can put together a good score.
The conditions were good and definitely worth the twilight rate! The course was lush throughout and I never had a thin lie. The fairways were the tiniest bit long, but the greens were receptive so that offset any lack of spin that I was missing from the fairways. The rough was healthy and thick so I had to keep up the club head speed to advance the ball and be careful around the greens not to stub a chip. On one shot I strugged to move it 175 yards. The greens looked faster than they were but that probably had to do with the fact that I played two courses on the trip that featured insanely fast greens. Personally, I loved the pace that these greens rolled. They weren’t too fast nor too slow and they rolled flawlessly. I think the reasonable pace has to do somewhat with the vacation golfers that frequent the course.
If I am trying to find a couple things that could have been done better then two come to mind. First, a bunch of the tee boxes were sloped which influenced my shot selection. Second, I couldn’t reach any of the par 5’s even after a good drive. All the par 5’s play uphill and the ones on the front are extra long. I wouldn’t have minded a short, risk/reward par 5 incorporated into the design.
Neither of the above things really matter though, Stonewall is worth going out of your way to play. It is one that I think is worth a day trip from Pittsburgh to play and certainly a stop off I-79 if passing through with the clubs.
View of the lake from the clubhouse:
#1 (379 yard par 4):
The 1st hole is the shortest par 4 on the front nine. It plays a little downhill and has a semi-blind landing area off the tee. The fairway is wider than it looks but it does run out into a hazard if someone catches a drive. I hit my 3 wood out over the cart path and that worked out great. The approach should carry the hazard and plays to a green that is narrower in the front and wider in the back. There is some slope on the right side of the green that can feed the ball left.
#2 (175 yard par 3):
The 2nd hole is a mid-length par 3 that is all about angles. There isn’t much difference when it comes to distance between the blue, gold, and palmer tees (14 yards) but the tougher the tees, the tougher the angle over the water. A high draw is the best shot shape to find the green that curls left around the lake. There is plenty of room out to the right to find the ball and the flatter green offers a chance to two putt from long range.
#3 (402 yard par 4):
The 3rd is ranked as the toughest hole on the course but I think there are a couple tougher ones on the back nine. It was a scary looking tee shot because it is another semi-blind one. I tried to keep it just left of the right fairway bunker (with 3 wood) but to do over again I would have just tried to blast a driver over it. The hole moves a bit right and the fairway opens up past the bunker. The approach plays to a narrow green that angles towards trouble long and left. The place to miss it in hopes of a par chance is short and right. Make sure not to go left on this hole.
#4 (574 yard par 5):
The 4th is the longest hole on the course and requires three quality shots for a birdie look. It moves to the left around some trees which can come into play. I hit my drive a few yards off the fairway in the right rough and couldn’t do better than a 5 iron for my third shot. For the layup, the fairway narrows past a bunker with a large tree next to it. If in doubt, I would hit the layup shorter and to the right.
#5 (395 yard par 4):
I thought the 5th was fun to play because it required a lot of thought! There is a hazard down the right which turns into Lake Stonewall up near the green so that needs to be avoided at all costs. There is some slant in the fairway from left to right so I’d favor the left side in hopes for a bounce right. The approach plays into a green with more left to right slope and it actually runs away from the player towards the lake (which curls behind the green). Make sure to favor short and left if you don’t have the perfect club.
#6 (143 yard par 3):
The 6th is the shortest par 3 on the course and plays over the lake. The lake shouldn’t come into play except on the worst of shots though. I think this is a chance to knock one close and make a birdie! The large green slopes from back to front so I’d try to leave it below the hole if possible.
#7 (555 yard par 5):
The 7th is another long par 5 that plays the same direction as the 4th. It plays uphill to the green and the biggest challenge is going to be avoiding the fairway bunkers on the layup. This one reminded me of the Pacific Northwest because of the scenery!
#8 (402 yard par 4):
The 8th is a dogleg left par 4 that plays from an elevated tee. The tee marker said it was 270 yards to the wetlands on the right so some are going to have to lay back off the tee, at least to find the fat part of the fairway. I found the fairway and had a mid iron into the elevated green. I hit an extra club on my approach which turned out to be the correct play. The green slopes from back to front and left to right so going directly at the flag isn’t always needed.
#9 (401 yard par 4):
The 9th plays into hillside and is a tough one! The ball isn’t going to roll forward much because it plays uphill all the way to the green. The fairway bunker off in the distance is about 265 yards and that is right about where the fairway narrows and moves right. The green doesn’t have any bunkers surrounding it, but there is a false edge on the left which feeds balls off the green and could leave a tricky chip. My approach landed in the left fringe and I ended up about 5 feet below green level and couldn’t see the surface on my chip. It could be a crazy tough chip with a flag on the left.
#10 (159 yard par 3):
The back nine starts out with another short par 3. It plays about a club downhill so it offers another good chance at a birdie. The green slopes towards the back so a solid shot is needed to keep it close to the flag. Short and left of the green opens up and wouldn’t be a bad place to play from.
#11 (409 yard par 4):
The 11th is one of the toughest driving holes on the course. There is quite a bit of slope from left to right in the fairway so make sure to favor the left side. The fairway narrows the farther that someone hits it and there is trouble down the entire right side. The good news is that the green slides from front left to back right so it is set up to receive a fade from the fairway.
#12 (519 yard par 5):
The 12th is another uphill par 5. There is still some influence from the hill to the left and so it is a similar tee shot to the last, just a bit more forgiving. The fairway is split for the layup and the third shot plays into an elevated green. It was pretty easy to find the left fairway on my layup so I’m not sure I’d play to the right one very often. Favor the left side on the layup (at least when playing to the left fairway) as the ball will go sideways after it bounces. The third shot is tricky because of an uneven stance and not being able to see the green.
#13 (429 yard par 4):
The 13th is the longest par 4 on the course, but it plays shorter because it has an elevated tee. It is another hole with some left to right slope so I’d try to play down the left side. That would also help to avoid the fairway bunkers which could be carried. The approach is played into a green that slopes from back to front and left to right. That front left flag was tricky because it is downhill from the left bunker.
#14 (302 yard par 4):
The 14th is the shortest par 4 on the course and it plays uphill all the way to the green. Because of how much it rises from tee to green I don’t think that it is going to be driven except by the longest hitters. It played about a club uphill on the tee shot and the second shot so plan accordingly. The fairway narrows closer to the green and there is a creek that runs down the right side all the way past the green. It is a good birdie opportunity!
#15 (346 yard par 4):
The 15th is a short par 4 that feels like it is on top of the world! Once you get out to the fairway and up near the green make sure to enjoy the panoramic views. For a short par 4, it is quite a long carry to get to the fairway and the fairway slopes off on each side. It is tougher to hit than it seems. Don’t miss the green long or left because the ball will kick out of play.
#16 (193 yard par 3):
The 16th is the signature hole at Stonewall. It is a par 3 that drops about two clubs into a green that is guarded by water on the right. There is some room to the left which shouldn’t leave a crazy chip so that isn’t a bad spot. Make sure to factor in the wind.
#17 (427 yard par 4):
The 17th is a long par 4 that is the #2 handicap. It is straightaway but plays to a fairway that runs out into some wetlands. Depending on the wind someone might need to lay up off the tee. Someone should favor the right side of the fairway to avoid having to deal with a dead tree that can affect play from the left side. The green has some slope that can help feed the ball towards the back left portion so playing to the front right is a great target every time!
#18 (516 yard par 5):
The last hole is a chance to make a birdie or a par and head home feeling good. The drive can be played left of the bunkers and feed right with the slope. Or, carrying the left trap should be fine. From there it is uphill to a green with a tiny bowl on the left side.