Wintergreen Resort's Stoney Creek Golf Club -- Natural Splendor In The Valley

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

WINTERGREEN, VA -- "If you're standing on the tee, and can't see precisely what's called for on the shot, then you're not on a Rees Jones designed golf course" said Wintergreen Resort's Stoney Creek Golf Club's Director of Golf, Geoff Redgrave.  "Visibility is a defining characteristic here, along with the natural setting."

Redgrave aptly sums up the distinctive personality of Stoney Creek, though with all deference to visibility -- the thing you'll probably remember most about this 27 hole golf facility is its natural setting. 


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Near the green on the par five 3rd hole of the Tuckahoe nine, you understand why Rees Jones is so fond of Wintergreen.

Located eleven miles from the main lodge at Wintergreen Resort, Stoney Creek lies in a valley three thousand feet below its sister course, Devil's Knob.  But it's more than distance and elevation that separates this Rees Jones delight from the trickier course straight up the mountain. 

Stoney Creek offers a much more playable and traditional round of golf -- though both layouts certainly have their own unique charms.

Rees Jones puts it in his own words:  "I really liked working at Wintergreen because the two golf facilities there were distinctly different golf courses.  The Ellis Maples course was up top, and mine was in the valley -- so I had all these natural water courses and springs to incorporate into the design, which really made for a very natural golf course."

 


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A slicer's worst nightmare: water to the right side of the green on a long par four (Monocan, 4th hole).

And in the era of modern golf course design, whenever you hear 'natural' you likely think 'environmental.'  Green laws and regulations are designed to protect the natural environment, yet they sometimes slow things up a bit when constructing a golf course. 

 

Jones said that wasn't necessarily the case at Stoney Creek, yet it's also obvious that some extra care was taken along the way to pay deference to Mother Nature -- especially on the final nine holes, named Tuckahoe (opened in 1998):

"On the Tuckahoe nine, we had to kind of weave the holes around the sensitive areas -- but we really did try to blend all three nines with their individual environments.  It was important to make it look like the golf belonged there -- that it wouldn't disrupt the existing beautiful surroundings.  The Wintergreen folks really helped us in that regard, by giving us the best ground for golf on all three nines."


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Tuckahoe's 8th hole is a fairly short par three playing over water -- but it's the mountain views that steal the show, even on a cloudy day.

Jones continues, "The first few holes on the Tuckahoe nine went down, then up, then down again, so we built those to flow with the terrain.  In the open areas, we did a lot of contouring and put in relief features.  And of course we added mounding to the sides of the fairways to try and contain some wayward shots.  All with the ultimate goal of creating a very playable, natural setting for golf."

Keeping the ball in play is a fair amount easier at Stoney Creek than at Devil's Knob.  Jones' mounding helps, but the landing areas are also much wider and there are only a few carries of note, even from the back tees. 

 

It all fits with your conception of a resort-style experience.  That too, was by design:  "I think in golf today, we're much more focused on having multiple tee boxes from different angles, versus courses built a long time ago, where everyone played from the same box," Jones explained.


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Rees Jones says the par three third hole (Shamokin nine) is God-given. No arguments here.

He continues, "It enables every caliber of golfer to play there, including beginners and those people who may be attending a business function, and maybe only play a few rounds a year.  So you try to design a way for them to get around, and I think that was done very well at Wintergreen."

At the same time, you also want something for better players.  Stoney Creek has hosted any number of competitions, and the guys teeing it up from the back box found plenty of challenge. 

 

Jones learned many of those playable-yet-challenging tricks of the trade from his father, legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones.


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The par four 7th hole (Monocan) demands accuracy on tee and approach shots.

 

"If you grow up in the business, you learn to do certain things.  I think a lot of golf courses just evolve, and I don't know if the shot options or alternatives are really put in them.  That's why golf courses are all so different."

 

"Some designers like to make you play target to target.  I like to make it so you really have choices -- so you're truly playing a golf course.  That allows for different set-ups and different challenges every time, because you've got a course of continuing interest," Jones said thoughtfully.


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This view of the green complex on the Shamokin nine's 6th hole hints at why the facility was named 'Stoney Creek.'

Making everyone happy in golf design is as challenging as planning a wedding or a business function for new clients -- it's more than merely appealing to the lowest common denominator.  Everyone's got different expectations and needs. 

At Stoney Creek, Jones provides wide corridors and large greens to play to.  The average golfer will be able to keep the ball in play and have some chances at par, while enjoying the natural treats in this gorgeous setting.

But the subtleties of the greens are where the better players will find what they want.  Again, Jones elaborates:  "We put in some really dramatic green contours on a lot of the putting surfaces at Stoney Creek.  So the greens might be pretty large, but you've got to position your approach shots correctly on the greens or you're looking at a good chance at a three-putt.  The challenging green contours are quite effective in protecting par as a standard of excellence."

Excellence is abundant at Wintergreen Resort.  But as Jones indicated above, the two facilities will play quite a bit differently.  Who better than Redgrave to explain how:  "Devil's Knob is a position golf course where you basically won't need your driver -- the course dictates club selection and the type of shot; Stoney Creek, on the other hand, calls for you to use every club you have to hit lots of different kinds of shots."


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The look back from Tuckahoe's par four 7th hole offers pure Wintergreen serenity.

 

And in what may seem like a bit of an odd twist, Stoney Creek is probably more of a mountain-style course than Devil's Knob up at the top of the hill.  Devil's Knob has a few dramatic drops, yet there's more of a consistent elevation flow on Stoney Creek's Tuckahoe nine (and a few holes on the Shamokin nine). 

 

In keeping with the theme, you'll also get more long-range mountain views at the lower course.  Stoney Creek could very easily fit in out west with the beauty of the highlands surrounding it.


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Looking back from the green on Monocan's 5th hole, you'll see the tee boxes that you just launched from, and the beach across the way.

A final note before touching on the golf hole highlights at Stoney Creek -- service.  A visit to Wintergreen isn't inexpensive, yet you'll receive excellent value for your money.  And when you pay good money, you'll expect to be treated well for it.  Wintergreen Resort's staff fulfills your expectations for classy resort service, and adds what I would call, an extra dose of Virginia hospitality.

A case in point occurred when I locked my keys in my car (with my clubs and golf shoes along with them).  Not wanting to miss my tee time, I called the pro shop and explained the situation -- and the Wintergreen staff offered to set me up with a rental set. 

 

When I arrived there (thanks to the convenient resort shuttle service), one of the assistant golf professionals offered to lend me a pair of his shoes.  My gear arrived just in time (alleviating the need to borrow the necessities), but it's one of the nicest gestures I've seen in a long time.  I'd only add that the 'uncommon' is common at Wintergreen.  Simply put, they've got some nice folks, and the service is also very 'natural' there.


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Tuckahoe's par three fourth hole. From the tee box, the green looks awful small, and that trouble all-around, pretty tall.

 

Jones cited his placement of holes four and five on the Monocan nine (both of which bring Lake Monocan into play) as examples of his desire to include the land's natural features into the design. 

 

Four is a straightaway par four that plays to 420 yards from the back.  Tee shots must avoid bunkers on the left, but mounds on the right should help with stray shots in that direction.  Nearer the green is where you get the views of the lake -- to the right side of the putting surface -- and the steep slope down from the green definitely brings it into play for anything slightly right.  Bail out left if necessary.


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Shamokin's par four 9th hole finishes up right in front of the Stoney Creek clubhouse.

Monocan's fifth is a 175 yard par three that is all carry over the lake.  To guard against going long, there are four bunkers strategically placed -- but the green is large enough to allow for a couple club margin of error.  There're also large bail out areas to the left and right of the green.  Summons enough power to get over the lake, and you'll avoid the drop area.  Another example of a natural, but very playable hole.

Stoney Creek's splendid nature tour continues on the Shamokin nine.  Much less open than the Monocan set, it's a beautiful trip through a mountain parkland setting that incorporates meandering streams and subtle undulations to provide its character.

Shamokin's third hole might be considered the signature hole for the Stoney Creek facility.  Jones said it's a God-given hole, and we're certainly blessed to have it.  179 yards from the back tees, Stoney Creek runs in front and protects the left side, and the green slopes down towards it.  Bunkers protect long and short, and there is a bit of room to miss short and right (another courtesy for the average player, who would tend to miss there).

The Tuckahoe nine was added in the late-nineties, and is known for its elevation changes.  You'll grasp a bit of what's to come by the view from the first tee, which provides a good-sized drop to the fairway below.  A lake resides to the right side of the hole, but is probably out of reach for most players off the tee.

The fourth hole is one of the most visually intimidating par threes you'll ever see.  Nearly 200 yards from the back tee, the green's almost like an island, with a stream to the right and tall wetlands and trees to the left (though the left side has been filled in, to some extent).  Any curve on the ball, and you're probably searching for the drop area.

There are many more highlights throughout Stoney Creek's three nines.  I'd highly recommend, if you've got the time and energy, to play all three routes in one day.  Wintergreen's superintendent does a fantastic job on course conditions, and carts are off the paths most of the time, so taking the full tour is entirely possible and encouraged.

 

It's one sure way to take in all of the natural splendor at Stoney Creek -- where golf and nature truly live in harmony.

NoteWintergreen's Golf Academy is located at the Stoney Creek facility.

Click here for a look at Wintergreen's Golf Academy featuring former Director of Golf, Sean Taylor.

Click here for an overview of Wintergreen Resort.

Click here for a review of Wintergreen's Devil's Knob Golf Course.


Details:

Stoney Creek Golf Club at Wintergreen Resort
PO Box 706
Wintergreen, VA 22958

Phone: (434) 325-8250; (434) 325-2200

Website: http://www.wintergreenresort.com/

Course Architect: Rees Jones
Director of Golf: Geoff Redgrave, PGA
Superintendent:  Fred Biggers, CGCS

Course Combination

Yardage (from back tees)/Slope

Rating

Monocan/Shamokin

7015/132

74.0

Monocan/Tuckahoe

7081/136

73.8

Shamokin/Tuckahoe

7158/137

74.2

All three nine-hole courses have five sets of tees, with the red tees ranging from 53-5500 for 18 hole combinations.

Rates:

Seasonal; Several good packages available in conjunction with a resort stay.  Consult the website for dates and information. 

Note:  Golf is available at Wintergreen year-round at Stoney Creek, weather and conditions permitting.



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E-mail Jeff Rendall, Editor:
jrendall@golftheunitedstates.com