Wintergreen Golf Academy and Resort -- Delivering The Personal Touches

By Jeffrey A. Rendall

WINTERGREEN, VA -- The personal touch, it's underrated. Most businesses claim to offer it, but few truly deliver. That's why it's refreshing when it's promised and delivered, like at Wintergreen Resort's Golf Academy.

Wintergreen guarantees an instructor-to-student ratio of no more than 3-to-1, which means you won't be fighting several class clowns for the instructor's attention, and everyone's individual needs are taken care of. In an age when golf schools are as common as grade schools, that's important.


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It's a beautiful way to start off a round of golf at Wintergreen's Tuckahoe nine at Stoney Creek. Wow, what a view.

According to Wintergreen Resort's Director of Golf, Mike Mayer, the "less is more" theory is exactly how they want it: "Our primary goal with the Academy is to grow the game of golf -- to give people the best possible learning environment and experience. We believe that will only be accomplished by keeping class sizes to a minimum, so all our students will have that personal touch they'll need to improve."

Mayer continues, "We think it's important, in a group setting like a golf school, to have people enjoy the camaraderie of classroom instruction, yet get their individual needs addressed. Many schools focus more on the social aspect of the game, and attending them is more like a party. Here, we're instruction oriented. We'll still make sure it's fun, but we'll also ensure our students leave with some thoughts on making their golf games better."


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Click on the banner to book a tee time at Wintergreen and other Central Virginia Golf Courses.

One way the Wintergreen Golf Academy ensures the personal touch is through its head instructor, David Bartholomew. He speaks softly, but hardly carries a big stick -- unless you're talking about a driver. Bartholomew has been teaching the game for many years (including 11 years at Wintergreen), and thinks they've found the right formula for instruction and learning at Wintergreen Resort: "With our student-teacher ratio, we're able to personalize the relationship. I like to get to know my students, which helps me assess what their problems are and how I might be able to help them."

"I'm a strong believer in fundamentals. Fundamentals make the rest of the swing easier to teach. So once we develop them, we can start personalizing golf swings. Everyone comes here with some type of swing in mind, whether it's correct or not. I'll start to build on that, and kind of address each person individually. Having to focus on only a few students at a time allows me to do that," Bartholomew adds.


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Wintergreen Golf Academy's Head Instructor, David Bartholomew, is a strong believer in fundamentals -- here's he's explaining them.

Bartholomew's laid-back style fits right in with the tone of the resort. He starts the school with a good dose of classroom lecture on the fundamentals he just spoke of, and then demonstrates the principles. Bartholomew says he's a big fan of classic golf swings, and is quite a student of the game himself.

"I'm a big fan of reading different instructional books, and I also love watching the great teachers on the Golf Channel. There's a lot to know about the golf swing, and studying the masters of the swing and examining its evolution from Jones to Hogan to Nicklaus to Woods -- that's a lot of what I try to impart on my students."


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Rees Jones took the natural environment at Stoney Creek and created a scenic and playable golf course. Here, the Monocan nine's 4th hole.

While you might be expecting to arrive and start hitting balls right away, you'll be surprised when you're talking swing concepts well into the first day session. And just like Mr. Miyagi taught the Karate Kid through a discussion of philosophies, Bartholomew will convey Hogan's thoughts on mechanics and why they're important.

It's refreshing. You won't wear out your hands the first day, and the box of band-aids can be left at home.


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Up on the mountain at Devil's Knob, you'll get your fair share of up and down shots and views.

Mayer says that's also by design: "David takes care of his students like family. All too often you'll see some type-A personalities who just want to go and pound golf balls until they wear themselves out, and David won't let you do that. He's very user-friendly as far as being able to communicate well with the students, go at their pace, but still maintain a primary focus towards helping them learn."

Bartholomew agrees that pace is important. "It's funny how people sometimes forget that we've got at least a few days to work here. Some people expect that improvement will come rapidly, but it's taken most of them many years to develop bad habits, and it'll take some time to undo them. That certainly won't be attained by hitting several hundred balls, all the while being frustrated because the new moves don't feel right."


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Bartholomew's laid back approach makes it easy to learn the necessities of the game.

Expectations have a lot to do with it. What you can expect to do is learn the correct way to swing your club, hit a few under Bartholomew's watchful glare, then develop a practice regimen for the different kinds of shots. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day. "We've got to focus on giving students a foundation for them to work on at their own pace, and hopefully in their daily lives. I'll give them the fundamentals and some drills, but after that, it's up to them," Bartholomew says.

Those drills won't always be what you'd think, either. Bartholomew used a heavy wooden broom to demonstrate the proper tempo for the golf swing, and a child's size basketball tossing drill to demonstrate swing plane and follow-through hand position. "Some of the swing aids you see on TV are actually very helpful, but you'll also accomplish a lot through using some props you can pick up at Wal-Mart. I bought that broom for $4.95," Bartholomew said with a chuckle.


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Devil's Knob's 17th hole is the last in a terrific set of par threes.

Needless to say, all of golf's basic shots are covered, including lengthy clinics on putting, chipping, pitching, bunker play and half swing shots. The four-day school also includes uneven lies and more discussion of course strategy. At the end of each session, Bartholomew concludes with the question, 'Are you comfortable with this?'

What's normally not included in the Wintergreen Golf Academy is a playing lesson (it's optional), which is a purposeful departure from what you'll see at most other schools. Bartholomew explains: "The entire key to playing good golf is to be perfectly relaxed (i.e. not mechanical) in your game out on the golf course. When you come to golf school, you're learning what you've been doing wrong, then trying out some new drills to correct the old problems. In other words, there's quite a lot of tension in your play. It's simply counter-productive to talk about course strategy when you're trying to alter your basic swing."


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You might want to club down off the tee of Devil's Knob's 16th hole, but if you launch one high and straight, you might be toasting a 300 yard drive after the round.

"For returning students, that's a good time to have me go out and play some holes, where we can actually talk about strategy without worrying too much about what your right elbow's doing," Bartholomew adds.

There's an amazing comfort that comes with that personal touch at Wintergreen Golf Academy. You won't feel hurried, and the students set the pace. It's the perfect tension-free environment for learning.


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Devil's Knob's 3rd tee is one of those where you'll need to shape a drive to keep it in play, much less the fairway.

A round of golf is included for each day of the school, as well as the day of arrival. I took advantage of the opportunity to play Devil's Knob, the course at the top of the mountain, and the Tuckahoe and Monocan nines at Stoney Creek on my second day. Devil's Knob, the highest golf course in Virginia at nearly 4,000 feet, provides 50-mile views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish Valleys. It is a very unique mountaintop golf setting, which offers exceptional course conditioning on surprisingly level terrain. In comparison, the Rees Jones designed Stoney Creek (27 holes) offers a straightforward but thoughtful treatment on the game. The Tuckahoe nine starts off with several breathtaking elevation changes -- mountain golf at the bottom of the valley. Stunning natural beauty abounds at both facilities (follow links above for full reviews of these courses).

In other words, just because you won't have a playing lesson (unless you choose to have one) doesn't mean you won't be playing golf. Playing Wintergreen's incredible golf courses is a perfect way to complete your golf academy's daily experience. And though you'll probably shank a few balls into the woods, there's an awful lot of serenity surrounding your mis-hits. With such a beautiful setting, who can stay mad for long?


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Click on the banner to book a tee time at Wintergreen and other Central Virginia Golf Courses.

You'll find the same consideration you get from Bartholomew and Mayer at the Golf Academy at other parts of the resort. Mayer emphasizes that although instruction will always be the primary focus of attending the Academy, you're still on vacation when you come here: "We think it's really important that our Academy students get the opportunity to experience all that Wintergreen has to offer. For that reason, if they don't want to golf in the afternoons, they'll have the opportunity to enjoy some of our other activities."

Frankee Love, Wintergreen's Director of Communications, explains that there's a multitude of activities to partake in after golf, or for those 'golf widows' (or kids) who aren't playing. "Most people, when they hear the words 'Wintergreen Resort,' probably think of skiing in the winter and golf in the warm weather months. But there's really so much more to offer up here, and that's a big part of why we've received numerous awards as an excellent, year-round mountain resort."


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You'll need to carry Lake Monocan to reach the 5th green.

She continues, "There are activities for all age groups and interests. We have a tennis academy where players can come and learn all aspects of that game, including a 'mental focus lesson' by a sports psychologist -- something that's probably unique to Wintergreen. Then there's an out-of-bounds adventure center, which features a skateboarding park and half-pipe. It's been popular with teens."

"Wintergreen Resort is huge, (over 11,000 acres), so we have 30 miles of marked hiking trails, guided rock climbing and caving, horseback riding, mountain biking, fly fishing, and just about every kind of outdoor summer activity you can think of. That's not to mention that we're within a short drive of Monticello and the historic homes of three presidents, as well as the Appalachian Trail," Love adds.

She also touched on something you might not necessarily associate with a rugged outside-the-lines type trip to the mountains--a fully equipped fitness center and Spa. The Spa offers massages, yoga classes and facials, amongst other delights. My wife Shari took advantage of the Spa's various attributes while I worked with David Bartholomew at the Golf Academy, which is a good example of how the non-golfing members of the family will also enjoy a trip to Wintergreen Resort.

Shari had the LaStone Therapy, a unique kind of massage that combines the deep heat of warm basalt with cool marble stones to promote relaxation and relieve muscle tension. She says, "I've had massage treatments at other spas, but nothing quite like the LaStone therapy at Wintergreen. The entire experience was so relaxing, with the use of stones to deepen the massage -- quite a retreat from life's everyday tensions." The LaStone therapy combines the spiritual with massage for a "healing on many levels." Sounds like a literal personal touch that would be highly useful for the muscle fatigued golfer, too.

Love says there're also activities for those too small to hike, golf, ski or climb rocks, too. The Treehouse offers children's activities for little ones all the way through young teens -- programs designed to teach as well as entertain. "One thing we're particularly proud of here at Wintergreen are the children's programs. It's more than just summer camp -- there'll be nature hikes, swimming, field games, arts and crafts, field trips and playground time. It's quite a departure from what you'd normally think of babysitting or daycare -- here, the kids really get to participate."

And when you're not partaking in Wintergreen Resort's entire multitude of activities, it'll be time to eat. Culinary enthusiasts won't be disappointed in this area, either. Several restaurants cater to diverse dining interests, or you can choose to take advantage of the full kitchen facilities included in the condos where you'll stay.

The main resort center offers more casual dining at The Edge at Cooper's Vantage, or fine dining at The Copper Mine Restaurant. Up at Devil's Knob, stop in at the Devils Grill Restaurant (terrific for surf and turf) and enjoy the sunset while watching the hearty afternoon players take on the 18th hole. Down in the valley, the Stoney Creek facility offers the Stoney Creek Bar & Grill, which also overlooks the finishing hole on the Shamokin nine. You can tell a lot of thought went into the locations of the restaurants, but then again, beautiful views are standard just about everywhere at Wintergreen.

Rounding it out, a visit to Wintergreen Resort's Golf Academy is the perfect embodiment of natural beauty, sensible pace, convenience and most importantly, individualized attention. And when you throw in its easy access from the Washington DC area (about a 3 hour drive), it's an incredibly winning combination. So next time you're looking for the personal touch in your golf vacation plans, head towards the high ground at Wintergreen Resort, and prepare to be pampered.

Note:  Check the links below for other stories on Wintergreen Resort's Golf Offerings.

 


Details:

Wintergreen Resort
P.O. Box 706
Wintergreen, VA 22958

Reservations: (800) 266-2444

Rates:

Wintergreen Golf Academy Summer Session, June 8 - October 13, 2002

Accommodations

Occupants

3 Day/2 Nights
Fri-Sun

5 Day/4 Nights
Sun-Thurs

Studio

1

$940

$1420

1 Bedroom

2

$812

$1204

2 Bedroom

4

$760

$1124

Commuter

N/A

$670

$952

Non-Participant Rates: $632-$904

All rates are per person per package. The package price per person is calculated on the number of people in the unit, so the prices will be slightly higher for rooms without double or quad occupancy.

Extended stays available at golf package rates. Additional information available on Wintergreen Resort's Website: http://www.wintergreenresort.com/, or by calling (434) 325-2200.


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:
jrendall@golftheunitedstates.com