I had Monday off and was meeting a friend a couple hours north to play some golf. Of course, I was looking to take advantage of my weekend and play on my way up to where we were meeting. I kicked around a couple ideas for golf on Sunday and decided that it would be a great time to check out Highlands Golf Club at Fisher Mountain. This place has been on my radar for quite some time but I hadn’t got out there yet because it is so far off the beaten path! I guess that’s the case with most golf in West Virginia though!
Highlands at Fisher Mountain is located in the eastern part of the Allegheny Mountains, which are a pretty part of the country. The course is about 20 minutes outside Franklin, WV which is about an hour from any interstate. I went through Harrisonburg, VA and got on State Route 33 and headed west, up into the hills. The twisting road climbs up over 3000 feet I think as you go over Mt Shenandoah and then drop down to a small valley where the course is located. You make a right turn and drive a few minutes up into the valley before arriving at the course. The course actually sits up in the valley with great views of the rugged area! My car has a shiftable automatic transmission and I had a blast driving to the course, even if I was only going 30 mph around a corner!
Once you finally get there and get out of the car you’ll see the large clubhouse perched in between the 1st and 10th tees. From the porch you have great views down the valley! The clubhouse is modest inside, but I’d guess it is just locals playing with the occasional crazy out of towner like me! That means they probably cannot turn over a lot of merchandise and that demand isn’t great. There is enough open space to enjoy the views which is hard to find in the Mid-Atlantic with all the dense vegetation! There are two homes on the course, one on either end of the course’s property line so for most of the round it will just be you and nature. There are plenty of pines, hardwoods, and various kinds of wildlife to enjoy.
A member joined up with me for the last six holes and shared some knowledge about the course. The designer of the course is his friend Bill Ward and apparently he had a shoe string budget to work with when designing the course. The flat bunkers tipped me off early in my round that money was limited, but I didn’t notice any other design features that would have indicated a low budget production! When I told my playing partner that I live in Charlottesville, he shared that Bill Ward had also designed Meadows Farms, which isn’t too far away! On my own I found that Ward has six courses to his credit and Highlands is his latest work, opening in 2006. Oddly, my second round of the day was at another one of the six!
Most of the front nine is on the north side of the parking lot and it includes a good collection of holes. The 7th, a 452 yard uphill par 4, is the best hole on the front! It is tough as nails and as the tee shot plays through a chute of trees to a fairway with fescue to the left and a ravine to the right. I missed it in the left rough and just pitched it back in play because of overhanging trees. There is an old barn there which adds some charm to the round.
The front plays as a par 35 with three par 3’s and two par 5’s. The distance on the par 3s vary and the bigger hitters probably can reach both par 5’s in two shots, even though they aren’t short. There are some position holes so you will certainly need to think off the tee. The 3rd and the 9th are good examples of this as they are doglegs guarded by trees at the corner of the dogleg. The 3rd moves left so make sure to favor the right side for a clear shot at the green. I missed it to the left and chipped a 7 iron from ~100 yards onto the green, so you might be able to get creative. The 9th is a severe dogleg right that plays from an elevated tee. I scratched my head trying to pick a line and club off the tee and eventually tried to cut a driver. I ended up through the fairway and made a double bogey on an easier hole. To do over again I probably would have hit 3 wood!
The front nine is good, but the back nine is even better! It plays as a par 36 and as you’d probably expect it is longer than the front, by almost 300 yards. The 10th hole is the best hole on the course and it is the #1 handicap. It is a 441 yard, downhill par 4 that features an island green! Before playing the hole I’d suggest standing on the tee and taking in the view down the valley, it is one of those awesome golf course moments! The fairway runs out around 300 yards so the bigger hitters want to layup. The ball was flying while I was there and I only had a pitching wedge into the tiny, island green. I air mailed my yardage and clanked it off the rocks that surround the green. Thankfully, I hit the green after my drop, or I could still be out there dropping balls! Good luck on the 10th!
There is only one par 5 on the back nine, the 12th which plays downhill, so you’ll want to take advantage of it! That means there is also only one par 3 on the back and it is the downhill 17th. It is listed as 270 yards on the scorecard, but I hiked back as far as I could and the furthest box back was playing ~210 yards. That’s where my tee markers were and where I played from! The elevated tees offer another great view and it is a sharp looking hole. I think it plays between two and three clubs less, which is something you don’t see often!
I enjoyed the design of Highlands Golf Club just as much as I enjoyed the setting. The course has many things that I like seeing, including the ability to find the ball, a mix of uphill and downhill holes, a mix of green sizes, not a lot of hidden trouble, and great views. I played the Championship tees which are 73.7/144/6796 so I was slightly surprised that I enjoyed playing the course as much as I did. Normally when the slope gets that high compared to the yardage, I’m dropping balls all day long!
I think the biggest challenges here are going to be battling all the slope and trying not letting all the semi-blind shots bother you. Highlands is more of a modern course than a mountain course, but I had to pay attention to which way the hillside was sloping and tried to favor the high side of the hole on my drives! The slope gets a bit much on the greens at times and because of the elevation change I couldn’t see roughly half of the green’s surfaces on my approaches. Most of the time I just guessed where to land the ball!
Overall, the course was in great shape! I was expecting life support conditions because of how little play I estimate the course gets, but everything besides the bunkers were in solid shape. The course was green and there weren’t any bare patches. I could clip it from the fairways and the greens rolled smoothly. The greens were slower so I had to be firm with my putts. That’s a good thing here though because of all the slopes and tiers that the greens have! The member I played with was telling me that the greens were fast and management got a lot of complaints so they were slowed down. I got some firm bounces on them which added a bit of fire!
I know I’ve rambled in this review, but I had a lot of good things to say about the course! I had it pegged as one of those “hidden gems” and it didn’t disappoint. I played in three hours and got a steal on the green fee as I paid $15 through Golfnow. If you live within an hour I’d recommend putting this course on your list!
#1 (577 yard par 5):
#2 (184 yard par 3):
#3 (366 yard par 4):
#4 (353 yard par 4):
#5 (162 yard par 3):
#6 (548 yard par 5):
#7 (452 yard par 4):
#8 (228 yard par 3):
#9 (399 yard par 4):
#10 (441 yard par 4):
#11 (333 yard par 4):
#12 (515 yard par 5):
#13 (426 yard par 4):
#14 (348 yard par 4):
#15 (406 yard par 4):
#16 (350 yard par 4):
#17 (270 yard par 3):
#18 (438 yard par 4):