Primland Resort - Leading the Search for Adjectives

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Jeffrey A. Rendall


MEADOWS OF DAN, VA – ‘Searching for adjectives,’ I thought, as someone asked me recently to describe my trip to the brand new Primland Resort in Southwestern Virginia, and that’s exactly what I told them – it’s hard to find the words.


The Mid-Atlantic region hardly lacks for beauty or variety, and there’s something good and unique about virtually every course or resort in the region.   But Primland is that much different -- and better in some ways -- that it’s hard to explain in a couple spoken sentences.  So I’ll toss out a few adjectives instead.


Near the green on the par five 1st hole, the incredible view behind the hole just might take your focus away from the shot in front of you.

It’s remote, yes.  Unspoiled, that too.  Pristine, certainly.  Private (as in, un-crowded), remarkably so.  Work in progress?  To be fair, yes, Primland Resort has a ways to go until it’s a polished product. 


Primland’s Highland Golf Course is at present probably the most complete entity at the resort, at least from a golfer’s standpoint.  The property itself has served as a hunting, fishing and outdoor playground for over two decades, but only recently shifted its focus towards golf.


Primland’s course is brand new (it opened briefly in 2006), yet already rates as one of the region’s best golf courses – in scenic quality, shot values and in some ways, playability, though if you’re a bit wild, you’d better take a ton of golf balls along with you just to keep the game going.


You’ll come away from a visit to Primland feeling you’ve experienced something truly unique in golf resorts – and when the facility is finished, you’ll see it ranked up there in quality with the region’s best, including all the Golf Magazine Gold Medal resorts.

From behind the green of the par four 16th hole.


In the meantime, get ready to ‘rough it’ a bit, but only your car will really suffer.  Most of the property’s roads weren’t paved when we visited, but the accommodations were well accented and roomy, and the service was attentive and tasteful when we required it.  All you need to do is ask, and it’s literally at your front door.


One wonders how all this could turn up practically in the middle of golfing nowhere, as there aren’t any major population centers or airports within easy drive, and this part of Virginia is still known for its sparse habitation and modest economy.  According to the region’s history, moonshine became a local industry during prohibition, and it’s very easy to imagine some stills continue to operate within hailing distance of the location.


Jeff Fraim, Primland’s Head Golf Professional, helps with the background behind this unique slice of Mid-Atlantic golf.  “Going back to the mid 60’s, Georgia Southern owned the property and started work on the Busted Rock Wilderness Area, which included selling six to twelve acre lots – they also installed the first power and telephone lines on the property.”


The front side concludes with the short, uphill par four ninth hole.

Then, in 1977 the current owner purchased the property and Primtimber was started, which developed and marketed whole tree chips.  The name changed in 1981 to Primlumber, which specialized in bundled wood products.  In 1986 the name Primland was established and outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing were introduced.  The existing homes on the property were purchased as well, and converted into rental cabins for resort visitors.


Moving forward to 2002, planning began on a golf course for the top of the mountain, with the Highland Course being completed and opened for play on June 1, 2006.  Looking to the future, this year (2007) saw the ground breaking and beginning of construction on a 50,000 square foot lodge set to open in the spring of 2009.


The Highland Course was designed by British course architect Donald Steel, his fourth project in the United States.  Fraim says the owners wanted something different and distinct for Primland, that’s why they looked to Steel to provide it.  “We invited several prominent designers to come and look at the property – but our owners, through their ties with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and their desire to have something different, asked Donald Steel to come and see what was here.”


Fraim continues, “Steel came to inspect the 14,000 acres to see where he would put a course.  Knowing that we didn’t want to disturb the prime hunting areas (down in the valleys), Donald searched on top of the mountain and came across the view which is now left of the 18th fairway.  The view is of the Dan River Gorge and the Pinnacles of Dan – and he determined that the course would culminate right there.”

The 612-yard, par five 13th hole is difficult from tee to green.


One of the ‘name’ architects who’d previously seen the rugged property said a golf course couldn’t be put on top (about 3,000 foot elevation), it was just too rocky and uneven.  Steel, true to his name, found a way – even if it did require use of dynamite to blast enough room. 


“I saw the land, and was just awed by it,” Steel said.  “I felt we had to make a golf course work up on top of the mountain.  Unique is an overplayed word, but nothing else fits Primland.”


The land’s ‘distinctiveness’ also brought design and construction challenges that required experience and skill to overcome.  Again, Steel elaborates:  “The land’s contours made it difficult to come up with a coherent sequence to the holes.  There were a lot of ravines/valleys that had to be negotiated, as well as rock to be blasted and a good deal of leveling to be tackled.  The land had previously been farmed and then used for growing timber – and this suggested, somewhat unusually, that it was pretty fertile and well drained.  That turned out to be true, though we did add quite a bit of new drainage.”


Because of the framing of the hole, the 195-yard, par three 2nd hole appears much longer.

Judging by the violent thunderstorm that blew through the night we arrived, that drainage Steel mentioned is tested frequently.  Fraim confirmed that they get a lot of weather (of all sorts) up on the mountain, which just adds to the natural feeling of the golf course and resort.


Steel said the only environmental difficulties they encountered involved trying to restrain the running water from the construction site from carrying soil down to the streams and rivers below.  Silt traps were built, and the problem was completely solved once the grass established.


Because of the land’s natural gifts, the golf course had to blend with the environment.  Here’s where Steel’s experience with building European Links courses shows up the most at Primland.  The holes blend nicely into the setting, and seem to exist rather than intrude.


“There are no water features (except for the odd mountain stream) on the course, and only eleven fairway bunkers (39 in all),” Steel said.  “Bunkers are the one artificially introduced element in any golf course and, in a natural setting, shouldn’t be too conspicuous – they aren’t at Primland.  On top of that, the greens are large and distinctive.”

Plenty of room to run the ball up on the par four 10th hole.


That’s the truth.  The greens are distinct, and large (average 8,000 square feet), and have a lot of contour.  Merely reaching the putting surface rarely guarantees a two-putt.  That being said, the contours are rolling without any gimmicky plateaus.  The only green I thought was mildly odd was on the par five 13th hole, complete with three tiers and some large bumps.  Because of Steel’s European influence, there are chipping areas around the greens rather than deep rough.


Good players will enjoy the short-game tests at Primland.  Duffers will like the fact that they’re not chopping it out of tall grass every other hole.


Fraim says the course is also somewhat unique for a mountain course.  “All of the views are looking down, while most mountain courses are played looking up.  Also, considering its location, the property is relatively flat.  There are some holes that have downhill or uphill tendencies, but the course is not strictly up and down.  The back nine is played pretty much level with the exception of a couple ups and downs, but not unlike anything you would see at a non-mountain course.”


There are only 11 fairway bunkers at Primland, but you better stay out of all of them if you want to score well.

The playing conditions were superb.  Granted, we visited early in the season and the course had just opened, but these were tournament conditions in just about every respect.  Fraim says that’s their constant emphasis, and they take pride in what you’ll find every day out there.


“Every player that has left the course has said the same three things:  awesome conditions, great views and un-hurried pace.  We’ve got our tee times spaced at half-hour intervals, so it’s likely that you won’t ever be pushed to play faster, or have to wait on the tee,” Fraim added.


As alluded to above, the course is lined with trouble on nearly every hole, and appears tighter than it plays.  Donald Steel remarks “Drive well at Primland or perish,” and that pretty much sums it up.  Wild drivers won’t appreciate the course’s accuracy requirements, but if you’re in play, the contours will often steer your ball towards safety.


At just over 7,000 yards from the back tees (7,034, par 72), the course won’t kill you with length – and because of the firm fairways and the fact that many tee shots go downhill, it will play a bit shorter than the yardage.  The greens will roll faster than most public access courses, and the tall fescue to the sides of the playing areas add additional challenges at Primland.

Peeking through the trees at the par three 14th hole.


Hole highlights include the first hole, a 536-yard par five, that according to Fraim, is reachable in two on normal days.  Here’s one area where Steel had to use dynamite to blast through rock to give players a view of the first green.  The second (and/or third) shot is played downhill to a green that runs away from you, with the Dan River Gorge as a scenic backdrop.


The par three eighth hole stretches to 220 yards, carrying downhill to a generous target over an environmentally sensitive area, with the green flanked on the right by a creek.  It plays shorter than the yardage and the landing area is fairly large, but this is still a very intimidating hole.


Another terrific par three is the fourteenth, which at 160 yards, is the second shortest hole on the course.  You must fly a huge chasm to a green that’s wider than it is long.  The green has some devilish contours, but also helps the golfer because there’s a slope on the left that will direct a tee shot onto the green.


The 541-yard, par five 6th hole plays uphill, yet still represents a good birdie opportunity if you hit it straight.

Primland finishes with a beautiful but challenging hole.  Fraim says the back tee has just been lengthened to 485 yards (par four), where the tee shot plays around a cliff that falls into the Dan River Gorge.  The left rough will kick a ball into the fairway, which will leave a downhill approach to a huge green.


Fraim sums up the experience:  “We want golfers to look back and say that they have played one of the most unique, best conditioned, and toughest (but fair) courses ever.  Even though we charge $175 for a green fee, we want golfers to look back and say they would pay $500 for the private golf experience they just had.  We’ve had golfers come off the course raving at how they felt the fee was a bargain.”


“After playing this magnificent course that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a National Park, having lunch, complimentary drinks on the course (non alcoholic), cart fee and range fee included – they want to come back for more, and many have done just that,” Fraim concluded.


If for nothing else, people should make a return trip to Primland in order to gather those adjectives to describe it.  As Donald Steel said, Primland is truly unique, something to add to the list of ‘must visits’ in the Mid-Atlantic region – adjectives included.

The tee of the long and difficult, 485-yard par four 18th hole.


Accommodations and Dining


We didn’t know quite what to expect in terms of accommodations and dining at Primland, gathering (from the website) that we would be staying in a mountain-style cabin, but not knowing what we’d find once we got there.


We booked one of the cabins on property, the Quail Lodge (about a two-minute drive from the Stables Saloon restaurant and ten minutes from the golf course), which is a three-bedroom, two-bath cabin complete with full kitchen, deck (with an unbelievable view) and a recreation room with pool table downstairs.


A directional sign behind the 17th green tells you how far you are from many points of the world.

This was not a ‘cabin’ in the traditional sense of the word, as the Quail Lodge featured hardwood floors and modern décor on three levels.  Noticeably absent were the bugs and odors you’d usually associate with the word ‘cabin.’  There’s satellite TV upstairs and enough space to live a little, entertain, or simply enjoy the surroundings (there’s high-speed internet access as well).


Privacy’s the word up on the mountain – if you ever want to experience the true sound of silence while enjoying a glass of wine overlooking a beautiful valley below, this is the place. 


Because of the quality of the accommodations (and the fact we were traveling with children), we preferred to stay in the cabin for some of the meals.  Primland’s outstanding chef (Seth) personally delivered everything we’d need for breakfast and dinner – gourmet quality, too.


It’s a personal service element that is available at all fine resorts, yet adds Primland’s own unique touch.  You shouldn’t be scared away by the lack of facilities, or fear that you’ll go hungry away from civilization.  The fact that the resort is in the process of adding the necessities as well as five-star quality accommodations will only make Primland more of a complete destination in the very near future.

Stone markers on every hole are a nice personal touch at Primland.


Now’s not a bad time to visit, however, as it’s as close to complete golfing solitude that you’re likely to encounter in your lifetime – and definitely worth the drive.


Primland Resort

4621 Busted Rock Road

Meadows of Dan, VA  24120


Phone:  866-960-7746; 276-222-3800




Highland Course Designer:  Donald Steel

Head Golf Professional:  Jeffrey Fraim, PGA


Tees (Par 72)/Yardage/Slope/Rating


Black               7034    147      75.0

Black/Red       6771    143      74.1

Red                  6450    139      72.3

Blue                6054    135      70.5

Blue (L)                      152      71.3    

Green              5422    147      67.3


Note:  No walking allowed; a caddy program is in the works for the future.




$175, includes cart fee, range (under construction, may be open in 2007), country club style sandwich, drinks on course (non-alcoholic), and a small gift from the resort.


Currently, no packages available.


The golf course is open from May 12th to October 31st, depending on weather.


Notes from Jeff Fraim:  Allow time to get to the course.  Once you arrive at a gate, it could be 20-30 minutes to get to the course.  Bring a camera for fantastic shots (especially in fall foliage).  Our chef is sensational, and he enjoys cooking meals that fit our wilderness setting.


Consult the website for accommodations and pricing information. 


A 26-room Lodge and Spa will be the quintessence of Primland when it opens in the spring of 2009.  In addition to richly appointed suites, the Lodge and Spa will offer a true 5-Star experience, complete with exceptional food and impeccable service.

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