I made my way over to Canaan Valley, another course on my Mid-Atlantic wishlist, for my afternoon round on what turned out to be another gorgeous day for this time of year (mid 60’s and sunny)! One of the things that you will want to be aware of if trying to play here, is that the course is in the middle of nowhere! The course is actually about 20 minutes south of Davis, WV and probably two hours from the nearest interstate. There isn’t a convenient way to the course or the resort that’s also on the property. A drive has never stopped me from playing somewhere and a lot of the time, that is part of the adventure!
The course, as the name indicates, is located in a valley! Mountains ring the property providing panoramic views in every direction and it is a beautiful setting for golf, especially with the trees popping with color this time of year! Considering the location, the course doesn’t have any dramatic elevation changes, but there is a hill that affects the yardage on maybe half the holes. At most though, it was a club elevation change which was just enough to keep me interested. There aren’t any homes around to bother play either! I think the area is ~3,000 feet above sea level so I noticed my shots traveling farther than where I live (Charlottesville, VA). From my experience, this would have been even more noticeable on a warm day so keep that in mind.
I’d call Canaan Valley a “modern parkland” golf course. I say “modern” because it is a big course, at least when it comes to the land it occupies. It plays almost 7,000 yards from the back tees and there is a lot of grass that separates the holes. I don’t use “parkland” in the traditional sense here, but just to describe all the parallel holes separated by trees and rough.
The course’s design is fairly basic, and if it wasn’t for the spectacular setting, I’m sure plenty of golfers would say that the course isn’t very interesting. I certainly wouldn’t argue that! There isn’t much variety at Canaan Valley as all the fairways are massive, there aren’t many doglegs, and all of the par 3’s are long. The only real difficultly is going to be the distance and a couple forced carries, especially from the blues where I played (6984/72.9/129). The greens have a few ridges and subtle breaks, but nothing too tough. With the wide fairways and all the rough, someone can slash it around every which way all day and play it again! All that makes it a player friendly course and one where someone can shoot a good score. You can see the friendliness in the placement of the hazards as bunkers and water is set back a few extra yards (compared to the average course).
The course was in great shape and the maintenance exceeded my expectations! The fairways were a bit long and soft but that was consistent with the other courses “nearby” that I played this weekend. Everything else gets an A+! The tees were cut short with straight mower lines and really were like carpet. The greens were quick, pure, and cut tight too. All I had to do was get the ball started and it had a chance to drop. The whole course was lush and I drew a couple thick lies in the rough. The leaves were cleared out of play too!
I got done just as the sun set which made it seem like someone turned on a colored flashlight! It took about 4 hours to play which wasn’t bad considering all the people that were out enjoying the beautiful weather. The course was on my list too because I could use my VSGA card which meant that I paid $29! If you ever find yourself in the area, I’d suggest stopping for a round here to enjoy the beauty of West Virginia.
#1 (390 yard par 4):
The 1st hole is a great one for those folks who just got out of the car and rushed to the tee! The fairway is wide and there is as much grass as anyone will need to find a crooked tee shot! The left side of the fairway leaves the best angle into the green. There are some mounds around the green which can yield nice bounces. The green’s surface is blind when hitting the approach and the hole plays uphill which adds some yardage. Those difficulties to begin are minor though.
#2 (412 yard par 4):
The 2nd is the longest par 4 on the front and it is the #3 handicap. It moves left around some trees and continues to climb the same hill that influences much of the course. A draw that challenges the left tree line is the most aggressive play from the tee, but faders should still be able to play their normal shot. That is my game and I ended up on the right edge of the right edge of the fairway with a long shot to the green. I added a club on my second shot. Missing short of the green leaves the best chance to get it up and down.
#3 (473 yard par 5):
The 3rd is a short par 5 and an easy hole. The tee shot plays from an elevated tee before (hopefully!) the second or third shot plays a bit uphill to the green. If missing the fairway, it is wide open and someone should still be able to go for the green in two with a decent lie. A draw is the best shot into the green to avoid two bunkers short and left and a cross bunker to the right. The green isn’t very deep, but it is wide so chipping from short and right of the green will offer a good angle.
#4 (214 yard par 3):
At 214 yards, the 4th is a long par 3. What’s crazy is that two of the three remaining par 3’s are even longer! The nice thing is that the water and the bunkers are set back from the green so there is some room for error with a long club. A draw is probably the best shot shape if you have it!
#5 (368 yard par 4):
The 5th is one of Canaan Valley’s shortest par 4’s. It plays slightly uphill, but it should be just a short iron into the green after a decent drive. I’d suggest trying to land the ball in the right half of the fairway because there is some right to left slope. The approach plays into a green that has lots of slope in the front and flattens out towards the back.
#6 (194 yard par 3):
The 6th, at 194 yards, is the shortest par 3 on the course! That isn’t much of a relief, but it does play downhill about a club. There are a couple bunkers to avoid, but I think this hole will play easier than it looks for most folks. Lots of the pin locations seem pretty accessible, even with a mid or long iron.
#7 (383 yard par 4):
The 7th is a mid-length par 4 that looks difficult because of the blind tee shot. That shouldn’t cause much concern though because the fairway is wide and driver isn’t needed as the hole plays gradually downhill. The best line is probably going to be in-between those maintenance buildings. There are a few bunkers left which guard the dogleg, but that is the only trouble. The bigger hitters will probably have to make a decision about keeping the tee shot short of the dogleg or picking a more aggressive line with driver. The approach plays to a squarer shaped green with no trouble short and bunkers set back on the right and left. The 7th could be a chance to knock one close!
#8 (398 yard par 4):
The 8th is as straight as a string up to the green. It is one of the many tee shots where someone can swing hard and not worry too much about the consequences. My only piece of advice is to add a few yards on the approach as the hole rises gently to the green.
#9 (573 yard par 5):
The 9th is the longest hole on the course and one of the more involved ones to play. That makes it the #1 handicap which I won’t dispute! It doglegs left, but there is plenty of room to the right off the tee. That is probably preferred as it leaves the best angle on the layup. I was able to play my normal fade which added a few yards to the hole, but it is a layup for me no matter what! The layup is blind as it plays over a rise and someone has to be careful not to hit it too far or to the right. There is a pond that starts ~75 yards short of the green and out of bounds (the range) pinches on the right. I was very happy with my par!
#10 (402 yard par 4):
The 10th parallels the 1st and features another wide fairway. Go ahead and swing away here! The green is straight ahead and my only recommendation would be to add a few yards on the approach. My approach ended up quite a bit shorter than I ever would have thought.
#11 (418 yard par 4):
The 11th is a long, uphill par 4 that is similar to the 2nd (which you can actually see on the left side of the picture). It turns left and climbs the same hill as the 2nd. However, it is a bit more open off the tee, with just a lone fairway bunker that is well off the fairway. My second shot played about a club uphill into a large green that has a back tier. It could be tricky to control the distance to that back pin with an uphill stance.
#12 (256 yard par 3):
The 12th is one of the longest par 3’s that I recall playing in recent years. I love a monster par 3, assuming that there isn’t a long forced carry and not a huge emphasis on accuracy! That’s exactly what we have here. It plays downhill at least a club, maybe more. The green is larger than it looks and there is plenty of opportunity to save a par with a chip and a putt. Missing left and/or over the green is best to avoid the bunker. I sliced a driver right of the bunker and still had a chance to make my par.
#13 (350 yard par 4):
The 13th is the shortest par 4 on the course. Because of the distance and the fact that there aren’t any tricks, it is ranked as the easiest hole at Canaan Valley. Driver isn’t needed and the only challenge might be an uneven stance from the rolling fairway. I ended up with a short birdie look after driving it in the rough so make sure to take advantage of this one!
#14 (519 yard par 5):
The 14th is a risk/reward, potentially reachable par 5. It doglegs left and climbs uphill to the green. If you are like me playing here the first time you probably will just swing away off the tee. That might be a good idea because because I would have been more cautious had I known that there is a pond (to the left) that guards the dogleg. I was able to carry it, but didn’t see it until I rode up to the fairway. It worked out as I cut off part of the dogleg and got it just short of the green in two. The second or third shot plays uphill to a green that has a back tier. I’ll add that there is a random creek (to the right of the pond) that cuts across the fairway. That creek could be a long carry for some folks.
#15 (420 yard par 4):
The 15th, a long par 4, is one of my favorite holes on the course. It has some nice views and it is challenging, but fair. Depending on the wind, that fairway bunker could come into play quite a bit, especially from an elevated tee. The bunker, which is ~225 yards to carry, narrows the fairway. Even if someone is out of position, there is a chance to recover by running an approach onto the green.
#16 (233 yard par 3):
The 16th is a demanding, long par 3! It plays host to one of the few “do or die” shots at the course. It is a long carry over water to the green, even from the white tees. The green is wide, but not too deep and guarded by a bunker over the back. Someone really has to control the distance with a long club. If in-between clubs, I’d make sure to take the extra one!
#17 (537 yard par 5):
The 17th is a bit of a breather after the last. It is a straight, kind of boring par 5. The longer hitter could probably get close in two shots, but most golfers shouldn’t have too much trouble with just a short iron third. There is a low area to the left of the fairway that I’d try to avoid, but there is plenty of room out to the right. It is a good par or birdie chance.
#18 (444 yard par 4):
The 18th is a stout closing hole! It is the longest par 4 on the course and the #2 handicap. The fairway seemed narrower than most and it is pinched by two bunkers. Even after a good drive, I faced a long carry over water to the green. There is a tiny bit of rough short of the green which could save a few lucky shots. Like the 16th, I’d suggest an extra club into the green, which has a small back tier. Laying up to ~100 yards wouldn’t be a bad idea if someone doesn’t feel comfortable with a long carry.