By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos By Jeff Janas, Jeffrey A. Rendall & Kevin Gaydosh
JANUARY, 2005 – It’s strange, the feelings you get every New Year’s Eve, a mixture of excitement and remorse – anticipation for the coming year, and perhaps a bit of sadness to see the old one go. It’s a great time to think back on what occurred in the previous 365 days, and then begin planning for the mornings, afternoons and evenings to come.
It’s also a great time to remember the places and people who made the previous year such a memorable one. Some years might be better than others, but even the orneriest pessimist can certainly find something positive that happened last year.
Luckily for us at GolfTheMidAtlantic.com, we’re neither pessimistic (nor ornery), nor lacking in people to recognize and thank for all the help we received in 2004. It was our publication’s third full season, and the fifth for our group’s coverage of the best golf in the Mid-Atlantic region.
|Robert Trent Jones called the Golden Horseshoe Gold Course his 'finest design.' It's got all the elements of a classic, including breathtaking beauty.|
Like the previous years, 2004 was a time to revisit some of our old favorites, but also to investigate the outstanding golf clubs and resort destinations that we hadn’t explored before. It was a time to meet and talk with some new folks, but also catch-up with many others that figured into our work from day one.
In other words, a great year, and we enjoyed it very much.
At the beginning of every new season, we offer our GolfTheMidAtlantic.com ‘Awards Show.’ It seems every publication/organization has some sort of special acknowledgement for excellence, and we’re no different. But what sets us apart is a unique set of categories and recognitions. And while we don’t send out certificates, plaques, medals or statues to the winners, we’ve found that the titles themselves do carry some prestige, as we’ve been told on numerous occasions!
We’re grateful for the attention, and by all means, we appreciate the effort that so many gave to helping us report the best in golf to the readers.
As always, we offer this disclaimer: there are far too many people to recognize in a format like this, and rather than take the easy way out and spotlight no one, we’ll take the risk of leaving someone out! All we can do is send along our apologies and try to do better next year. One note – the nominations are open only to those places we visited in 2004. Many of 2003’s winners would certainly qualify for a serious look at repeating in 2004, but we can’t consider them because we didn’t actually play there last year.
|Pete Dye originally told Joe Hardy that a golf course couldn't be built at Nemacolin Resort -- too much rock. It's a good thing that Hardy insisted on it, then financed it.|
With no further delay, let’s raise the curtain!
The Winner For ‘Best Technical Contribution’ to GolfTheMidAtlantic.com in 2004: Kevin Gaydosh. This category takes a bit of a detour for this year, since in the past, it’s been exclusively reserved for our programming folks. No disrespect to them (and last year’s winner, Jason Willetts, continues to provide invaluable help on a regular basis), but for 2004, we need to recognize a different type of ‘technical’ contribution – that of excellence in digital imagery or photography.
One thing that separates us from other online golf publications is the fact we provide ‘real’ photography. Sure, others give you a glimpse of the places they’re writing up, but the photos are usually supplied by the courses or resorts themselves, and they’re so polished that they’re somewhat misleading.
There’s nothing wrong with a portrait-like depiction of a golf hole draped in its Sunday best, but there’s also merit in capturing the moment as it is – what you’ll find when you go there for your next tee time, on any given day. That’s what we do, and the vast majority of golf clubs like it that way, too.
|Arthur Hills brought Belle Haven Country Club back to life. It's close to DC, yet feels far, far away.|
That being said, we do try to take the best shots we can, and in our not-so-humble opinions, we get some pretty good photos every year, too. Kevin’s been contributing for several years to the publication, and this year he added his keen photographic eye to our trips to The Greenbrier, The Boar’s Head Inn and Kiawah Island. He’s also added his pen (word-processor) to the equation, writing up a well put together piece on the culinary delights at the University of Virginia’s Boar’s Head Inn.
Jeff ‘Squish’ Janas also did a great job on some of our early season forays, and we hope he’ll be along for many more in 2005.
The Winner For ‘Good Guy of the Mid-Atlantic Golf Scene’: Glen Byrnes. Here’s a repeat winner from last year, and Glen’s got the distinction of being named an award winner for every year we’ve been giving them. We don’t start out every season trying to find a spot for him, but his generous nature mandates that he be recognized in some profound way. We first met Glen in 2000, and he’s been supportive from the start – keeping us up to date on the ‘happenings’ at the Golden Horseshoe, as well as providing suggestions on content and format. He’s the consummate ‘nice guy,’ and if you’re in Williamsburg, it’s worth it to stop in for a ‘hello’ just to spend a few moments with him.
Honorable mention to Bob Baldassari at Cannon Ridge. We know for a fact that Bob and Glen will enjoy being mentioned in the same breath, as they are friends and share the common traits going into what makes a ‘good guy.’ Baldassari is busy molding the new Cannon Ridge facility into one of the region’s finest, as was recently recognized by Golf Digest, naming it to its list of ‘Best New Affordable’ courses for 2004. Well done, Bob.
Additional recognition to the entire staff at the Homestead’s Golf Advantage School, headed up by Mark Fry and under the direction of the Homestead’s Director of Golf, Don Ryder. The Homestead’s golf school offers a few different philosophies and practices than the other schools we’ve covered, starting with the use of multiple instructors. Staff pros (‘good guys’) Barry Ryder, Brian Painter and Eric Hooke took different golf disciplines and explained them in helpful (and fun) ways. Our hats are off to them – Photographer Jeff Janas left the class playing the best golf of his life. And it’s hard to imagine a better setting for a school than The Homestead.
|Mark Fry of the Homestead's Golf Advantage School begins each morning session with a fundamentals talk. With the beauty of the surroundings, admittedly, it's hard to concentrate on golf.|
The funniest ‘good guy’ we ran across last season had to be Kevin Kelley at the Boar’s Head Inn/Birdwood Golf Course. If you get a chance, take the journey around Birdwood with Kelley in your cart, and you’ll be cracking up the whole way with Kelley’s distinctive way of describing golf shots.
Further kudos to Joe Hills and Tom Healy at Blue Mash & Waverly Woods in Maryland – both have been very helpful in setting up visits, and Healy took an afternoon to personally show us the Blue Mash course. Our annual, ‘good gal,’ Judy Watkins at Virginia Tourism continues to be helpful and supportive, featuring one of our course reviews every month on the state website.
Finally, here’s a shout for Dr. Ralph Shrader, Chairman and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, sponsor of the Washington area’s annual PGA Tour event. There’s little doubt that Shrader’s a busy man, yet he tirelessly found time to promote the brand new event, sharing his aspirations for the future of the tournament as well as offering a few thoughts on the beauty of the game of golf. A true ‘good guy,’ and we’re lucky to have him involved with our regional PGA Tour event.
The Winner For ‘Most Articulate Head Golf Professional’: David Conforti of Poplar Grove Golf Club. Conforti’s taken a long and traveled road to Poplar Grove, the new Sam Snead signature course in Amherst, Virginia, about an hour south of Charlottesville. Conforti graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, and he’s as respectful and polite as you’d expect from a student of his disciplined background. He took the time to play a round with us on his course, all the while articulating its story – then patiently consolidated it for a phone interview. Needless to say, he tells a good story.
|The Golf Club at River Marsh along Maryland's Choptank River offers one of the best finishing holes in the Mid-Atlantic.|
Honorable mention goes to Steve Danielson at Belle Haven Country Club in Alexandria. A gifted storyteller in his own right, Danielson relayed several anecdotal tales to add light to his already colorful Golf Club, one with a long list of those hoping to join – and we can see why. After its recent renovation by Arthur Hills, this club near the Potomac is simply breathtaking… and its head professional has a way with words, too.
Additional mention to Eric Claxton at The Golf Club at River Marsh (Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay). Any head professional who mentions a major literary work during his interview certainly must be well read, as well as articulate. Eric fits the bill.
The Winner For ‘Best Director of Golf’: Robert Harris at The Greenbrier. It took us a few years to get there, but Robert’s been inviting us and keeping up with the publication for several years. Once we got there, we were considerably impressed with not only the golf product, but the outstanding qualities of the staff at The Greenbrier’s Golf Club. Every destination makes efforts to streamline the process, but The Greenbrier’s just about as user-friendly as it gets, which basically involves unloading your bag when you arrive at the hotel, then only needing to ask one of the staff members to re-load it gently when you’re ready to depart.
All of this could only be achieved under the direction of someone who knows his stuff, and that’s Robert Harris. He enthusiastically told us about each of The Greenbrier’s resort courses and discussed the changes currently being made to the Old White course, under the direction of course architect Lester George. All around, an incredible golf experience. Robert’s a very deserving winner.
Honorable mention to Dennis Clark at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, home of the PGA Tour’s 84 Lumber Classic. Dennis took serious consideration for the ‘articulate’ award as well, though we thought he fits better here, in the ‘Director of Golf’ category. We were fortunate enough to meet Dennis a couple years ago while on one of our visits, and by the luck of the draw, were paired with him. When we heard he’d moved up to Nemacolin, we knew it could only mean good things for the relative newcomer, the super-luxurious vision of Joe Hardy, founder of 84 Lumber. Well, Hardy and Clark have certainly done great things, and the resort’s headlining Pete Dye inspired Mystic Rock Course will only get better, year after year. With Dennis at the helm, you can’t miss.
|An early spring morning at Wintergreen Resort's Stoney Creek Golf Club... hard to beat.|
Further mention to Greg Nesbitt at Pleasant Valley/South Riding. Greg’s one of those we’ve had the pleasure of knowing for several years, and what always stands out about him is his bright yet candid assessment of the golf courses under his watchful eye. Both courses are well thought out tracks designed by excellent golf architects, and each is consistently being upgraded by Nesbitt and the staff. Here’s to maintaining the present but looking to the future – that’s what a director’s supposed to do. Greg embodies that.
Lastly, we’d like to acknowledge Mike Mayer at Wintergreen Resort. Mike gave us a call early last year, talking about the Canadian PGA Tour event that they would be hosting at Wintergreen’s Stoney Creek facility in June. Although we couldn’t make the event itself, we went to Wintergreen once again, this time to get some early season photography, just when the leaves were showing themselves for the first time of the year. It was a great trip, and congratulations to Mike and the staff for a job well done. While we were there, we also received a playing lesson from Wintergreen’s Golf School instructor, David Bartholomew (definitely a ‘good guy.’).
The Winner For ‘Greatest Ownership Vision’: Jim Oliff at Mattaponi Springs. This is an easy one, though Oliff is as humble as they come, and likes to leave the talking to his golf course. Mattaponi Springs is truly unique in many different ways – it’s designed by a gentleman who’s basically new to this region (Bob Lohmann), resides in a growing area where there’s a big need for an upscale public golf course (between Fredericksburg and Richmond), and isn’t part of a major real estate development. It took some real ‘vision’ to put this project together, and when people see the results, great things will certainly follow. General Manager Chris Ferris is a real pro when it comes to running the ship, and Mattaponi Springs will fire on all cylinders in 2005, now that it’s finally open.
Honorable mention, once again, to Joe Hardy of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Hardy’s motto is ‘Nothing’s Impossible,’ and once you look at Mystic Rock, you’ll understand that he means what he says. If it’s possible to build a golf course on top of a pile of rocks, then Hardy’s done it. Add the brand new $60 million Falling Rock hotel/clubhouse, and there’s a heck of a vision in its own right. Hardy wants to be the best, and he’ll do what it takes to get there.
|Stonehaven Golf Course at Glade Springs Resort looks like it took a fortune to chisel it out of the rocks, but designer Tom Clark said it was actually very economically constructed.|
The Winner For ‘Best Course Architect for the Mid-Atlantic Region’:
Tom Fazio. This is an award that certainly must be shared amongst several fine artists, and since we’ve honored folks like Tom Clark, Lester George and Arthur Hills in years past, this time it’s Fazio’s turn. We saw four more of Fazio’s works this year at The Greenbrier Sporting Club, Lowes Island Club, Kiawah Island and Sea Island, and each one is extremely memorable in its own way – and very much fits the setting in which it resides. Fazio says they work very hard to take the unique environment they’re given at each location, and design a course that’s enjoyable for people to play, and pleasing to look at, at the same time. Fazio’s the man, definitely. The only unfortunate part is that most of his designs in this region are private. Join the clubs to see his work, if you get a chance.
Honorable mention to everyone else – the gentlemen mentioned in the previous paragraph (previous winners), as well as Pete Dye, the Palmer Design Team, Jack Nicklaus, Lindsay Ervin, Rees Jones, Tim Freeland and Keith Foster (who designed the Golf Club at River Marsh on Maryland’s eastern shore), amongst others.
The Winner For ‘Best Newcomer in the Mid Atlantic’: Poplar Grove in Amherst, Virginia. This was an extremely close call in 2004, with several close competitors, but Poplar Grove comes out just a smidgen ahead – because of its setting, but also its architectural history. Designed by Ed Carton (formerly with Tom Fazio), Sam Snead and Sam Snead Jr. (‘Jack’), this course set in the middle of nowhere, really, is destined to be a classic in the Mid-Atlantic region. Condition-wise, it’s still a new course, but when the greens soften up and the well spaced community grows in around it, Poplar Grove will be very special. Poplar’s back nine surrounds a lake, which sheds allusions to another Virginia classic layout, Kinloch Golf Club.
A close second was Mattaponi Springs Golf Club, the winner above in the ‘Best Ownership Vision’ category. Mattaponi is not only secluded, it’ll offer tremendous playing conditions year-round with its sodded Zoysia fairways. No bad lies there, for sure.
|Sam Snead did some of his final design work at Poplar Grove in Amherst, VA. Glad to see it wasn't wasted.|
The Winner For ‘Best Kept Secret’: Glade Springs Resort in West Virginia. For the last several years, we’ve attended the annual Washington area golf show at the end of January, and Glade Springs has sponsored a booth every year. They’ve boasted a brand new, Ault, Clark & Associates designed golf course called Stonehaven, as well as a 70’s era, vintage George Cobb course.
It’s always sounded like a nice place, and Tom Clark himself said Stonehaven’s one of his finest designs.
We went there in 2004, and were amazed at the scale of these two golf courses. What a ‘secret,’ indeed! The accommodations and amenities won’t remind you of The Greenbrier, but the price tag is reduced accordingly. And the golf there won’t be surpassed – it’s truly special.
Honorable mention to Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. We’re always a bit wary when we hear there’s a golf course at a ski resort, figuring it’s just something to attract non-ski season visitors. Seven Springs, under the direction of Head Professional Matt Trimbur, offers a nice golf course at a very reasonable price. Well worth the drive, now that you’ve heard about it.
Additional recognition to The Woodlands Golf Course, under the Baltimore County Revenue Authority. The Woodlands is probably well known to Baltimore area golfers, but it’s something that national capital duffers should ‘discover’ and make the trip to play as well.
|The Greenbrier Sporting Club decided to call its new golf course 'The Snead.' The Tom Fazio designed layout is a fitting tribute to the golf legend of these mountains.|
Finally, Hershey Country Club and Resort. Up until last October, we’d always associated the Hershey name with chocolate, as is understandable. What wasn’t previously apparent was the amount and quality of the golf there, as well as the accommodations, amusement park and easy access to the other attractions of central Pennsylvania. Remember that the next time you munch on a chocolate bar.
The Winner For ‘Best of the Best’: The Greenbrier. Of all the trips of 2004, it’s unanimous that our June journey to The Greenbrier was the finest all-around experience we had last year. As previously noted, the golf is first-rate. But the ‘overall’ experience at The Greenbrier is on another level, when you’re talking fine dining, outstanding accommodations, luxury facilities, attentive service, atmosphere, history, and availability. What more can you say?
Honorable mention to Colonial Williamsburg and The Golden Horseshoe. The Horseshoe’s Gold Course is probably our favorite that a member of the public can play – it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed – and the Green Course isn’t too bad in and of itself, as Michelle Wie discovered during her defense of the USGA’s Women’s Public Links Championship, held there last June. The accomodations are also top-notch, with the world famous Williamsburg Inn, as well as a variety of family-friendly selections to choose from. And don’t forget the historic area – it’s our second home.
Finally, we’d like to recognize The Country Club of Virginia, as the ‘best of the best’ private club we saw in 2004. The Club’s James River Course is consistently ranked as one of Virginia’s finest, and after seeing it, we fell in love with it. With a grand old-style tradition and beautiful clubhouse to match, it’s hard to imagine how membership could get any better.
|The James River Course at the Country Club of Virginia is one of the region's true classic courses, and was recently upgraded by Lester George.|
One note – Kiawah Island Resort and Sea Island Resort, which we saw in October, deserve high marks in all of the above categories, yet are not eligible for our regional awards (they’re in South Carolina and Georgia). In the near future, GolfTheSouth.com will debut, and they’ll figure prominently in that publication.
Thus concludes our GolfTheMidAtlantic.com 2004 awards ‘show.’ Once again, we’re at a loss to mention everyone who’s meant so much to what we did last year, and we apologize to those who failed to be recognized. The fact is, there are so many great people and places to visit in this region that it’s not possible to mention them all in one setting. But that’s one of the best things about having GolfTheMidAtlantic.com and its archives — there’s ‘honorable mention’ found throughout.
Here’s a hearty thanks for all who did so much in 2004 to make GolfTheMidAtlantic.com what it is — the Mid Atlantic’s on-line golf authority!
Check the links below for the full stories on some of this year's winners.
|Related Links||Comments on this article?|
Maryland National Golf Club
Hollow Creek Golf Club
Rocky Gap Resort
PB Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville
Whiskey Creek Golf Club
E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor: