Primland Resort -- The Sound of Silence was never so sweet

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Photos by Kevin Gaydosh and Primland Resort

MEADOWS OF DAN, VA – “Primland’s overwhelming attraction is its sound of silence, and escape from the real world,” remarked Primland Resort’s Head Golf Professional, Jeff Fraim, in touching on what sets his resort apart from the rest.

It might take a leap of logic to want to drive several hours to a destination in order to hear nothing, but silence is a rare commodity in these days of high-tech electronic gizmos and their piercing sounds that seem to emanate from just about everywhere.

The green of the par three 2nd hole is adjacent to the Dan River Gorge, with views to match.

Standing on the tee box on any number of holes at the Primland Highland Course, however, you’ll understand precisely what Fraim means, as you’re just about as far as you’re going to get from the hustle and bustle of everyday life – a chance to completely escape into a place that’s not far from you in the mileage sense, but worlds away in terms of peace of mind.

We first visited Primland in 2007, about a year after the Highland Course opened, and it was ‘rustic’ to say the least – with unpaved roads and a shortage of the ‘amenities’ that are found at nearly all high-end resorts – but it also had its own charm and a world-class golf course that won Golf Digest’s ‘Best New Public Course $75 and over’ designation for 2007.

It also had its own seclusion, which was fantastic.

The 72,000 sq. foot Lodge at Primland is impressive both inside and out.

It was an ‘escape’ back then, and it still is – but the most striking change between 2007 and now (in addition to the paved roads) was the completion of the Lodge at Primland, which sets a new standard for luxury and technological innovation in this part of the country, and definitely is a place where golfers will find a home.

Brooks Bradbury, General Manager of the Hospitality Division for Primland Resort, expands on some of the improvements that have been made since Primland first came into being: “It was the vision of Primland’s founder, Didier Primat, to create a place of immense beauty that would offer his guests a return to simple pleasures, all in an environment of refined authenticity and sensuality. He developed Primland in an eco-conscious and thoughtful manner, as the ultimate retreat for world-class golf, refined dining and outdoor activities.”

French-Swiss billionaire Primat’s story is one onto itself, and for our purposes, we’ll stick to golf (and the resort) – but needless to say, Primat was willing to spend money to create something unique at Primland, and to his credit that’s already happened (Primat passed away in 2008 at the age of 64, but his heirs are carrying on his vision).

One of the many unique featres at Primland is the telescope at the top of its silo-shaped observatory tower.

“Primat’s love of the land is expressed in our extensive efforts to minimize our impact on the environment, the recycling of water, the freshness of our food, the many organic and sustainable ingredients we source locally or grow in our organic garden and the care with which we look after our guests,” Bradbury elaborated.

The future growth of the resort is a closely guarded discussion (according to Bradbury), but already in the works are an expansion to the tennis facilities, a future health club and outdoor pool (there currently is a 600 sq. foot indoor pool in the Lodge), expanded guest amenities and activities.

A children’s daytime facility is also being considered.

Each of the mountain homes at Primland has a deck with incredible views. Here, a look at the Bell House.

With all the resort’s luxury, you might think it’s not a place for kids – but not true. The Lodge offers a game room, the pool and its own in-house movie theater which should offer plenty to occupy younger guests (and a fitness room for keeping their parents in shape).

There’s also the wealth of outdoor activities to choose from if you think the kids are spending too much time indoors.

There aren’t any ‘medium price range’ lodging options at Primland, though Bradburgy points out there are still ways that you can make a visit economical: “We have eleven mountain homes (each with two to seven bedrooms) that represent a real value to families, small groups and sports enthusiasts who can opt for very comfortable accommodations, awesome views, kitchens and laundry facilities.”

Even the range balls are in order at Primland.

For those who are used to timeshare trading, the mountain homes represent the same kind of convenience that you’d expect when you arrive at a resort destination. We like to travel as a family, and the lodgings at Primland are not only exceptionally well appointed, they’re comfortable, too. 

Our mountain home’s deck was enormous and the views were simply indescribable. We brought a lot of our own food and prepared it on-site. In other words, our visit overall was very budget respectful.

And if you choose to stay in a mountain home (or fairway cottage) yet still want to have your meals prepared (or delivered) for you, that is an option as well. You can have the refrigerator stocked before or during your visit, if you wish, and/or have a chef come to your home to do all the gourmet work while you enjoy the delightful scenery on the deck.

Wine enthusiasts will love the two-story wine room at Primland.

Primland definitely offers a different type of luxury experience apart from the region’s other high-end resorts (such as The Greenbrier or The Homestead), and Bradbury says the distinction lies in the resort’s overall concept: “Primland represents a new paradigm – a shift from the large group resorts to a more intimate and peaceful resort on 12,000 acres. For comparison, this property is the size of the Island of Bermuda. We are unique in our blue ridge mountain top setting, the breadth of our activities including world-class golf and spa facilities, our focus on nature and even with our telescope observatory.”

A telescope?

It’s true. Situated at the top of the Lodge’s ‘silo’ (made to look like a silo as part of the rural Virginia theme), the telescope captures images of worlds far out in the universe, then makes them available via closed-circuit TV to each guestroom. 

As would be expected, the cuisine is fine and the presentation is special in its own right. Photo by Joann Dost.

Try to find that anywhere else on vacation.

The telescope is far from the only thing that stands out about the Lodge at Primland. Again, Bradbury explains: “The Lodge is a unique design chosen by Mr. Primat to reflect his interpretation of a solid, stately Virginia lodge appropriate for this commanding landscape – which includes the 73’ tall observatory tower (the silo) with a revolving hinged, domed top.”

He continues, “Some of our guests also recognize a chalet influence in the Lodge, perhaps reflective of Mr. Primat’s Swiss residence. The high percentage of recycled and sustainable materials – some milled on the property – are quite obvious, such as the rebuilt porte cochere under which all guests arrive, or the use of reclaimed oak in the lodge, or the recycled plastic/rubber roof tiles resembling slate.”

Fireplaces add to the ambiance in the public rooms at the Lodge.

Because of the special blend of architecture and recycled materials, the Lodge took three years to construct, and opened for guests on August 29, 2009. 

Situated at the apex of the Primland property, the cedar and stone building contains twenty-six guestrooms, and each one is different.

And despite the obvious opulent luxurious components, the Lodge does not feel pretentious, either. “There’s nothing slick or overly polished here, just a sense of genuine comfort and restraint,” Bradbury added. “The beauty of wood has been shaped into spaces both intimate and grand. Warm and rich, sometimes refined or pleasingly rough, it calls out to have a hand run over it to be appreciated.”

The 561-yard par five 17th hole offers plenty of room off the tee and doglegs right for the uphill second shot.

I couldn’t describe it any better than that. The 72,000 square foot Lodge certainly has a pleasing atmosphere. As you walk in, you’ll immediately notice the Great Hall with its twin fireplaces, 32-foot ceilings and also can’t help but fixate on the two-story wine room, which wine enthusiasts would love to visit armed with a corkscrew.

In-room dining is available 24-hours a day for those guests who desire seclusion, and the resort also offers books from the library or DVD’s if you prefer quiet time in the room.

Though Primland wouldn’t be suitable for large business conferences, there is a seventeen-seat boardroom with video teleconferencing capabilities as well as a private terrace and kitchen, making the Lodge an inviting destination for executive retreats.

Like all the downhill holes at Primland, the par three 8th plays considerably shorter than its 220-yards would indicate.

Last but not least, there’s the Spa which opened up earlier this spring (2010). Even here you’ll grasp that it’s more than a ‘typical’ spa visit with trained personal, fine scents and soothing music. 

Primland’s Spa is the inspiration of Garance Primat (one of the owners), who met with native descendants and local historians over the course of a year to gather information on the type of atmosphere she wanted to create – which is distinctly Native American but also includes some European accents.

Needless to say, you likely won’t find that anywhere else either.

The par five 3rd hole (499-yards) is definitely reachable in two if you play the fairway slope off the tee and can thread the needle on the second.

All the welcome additions at the Lodge serve as quite a compliment to the spectacular Highland golf course at Primland, which already rates amongst the region’s best. The course is mountainous in nature and a difficult test – but playability is also one of its attributes.

“This was the first course that (British golf architect) Donald Steel has designed or renovated where he had to make course easier rather than more difficult. The terrain the course was built on is not flat, so golfers will encounter uphill, downhill and side hill lies which adds to its difficulty because most golfers aren’t used to that,” Fraim explained.

The front nine is generally more up-and-down, with the par five first hole’s green situated at the bottom of a fairly steep slope – providing a preview of the rugged type of ground that Steel had to work with in order to perfect the Highland Course.

The beautiful par four 9th hole requires more precision than muscle.

Fraim says which tees you play from is a critical decision. “If you choose the correct set of tees and play a conservative round (most players don’t need driver on every hole) then you should have a respectful score. There are only 37 bunkers on the entire course and there are nine holes with one or fewer bunkers. There also aren’t any lakes or any long carries on most holes (the longest carry for a woman from tee to fairway is 100 yards, on the par three second hole, and that is downhill).”

Fraim says if you stay out of the tall fescue you’ll be okay – and I can vouch for that. Most holes have one side that’s playable if the other has a ravine or tall rough, so you can usually favor the ‘safe’ side and keep it in play. The course stretches to over 7000 yards from the back tees, but plays considerably shorter than the yardage if you play the slopes right.

And at 3,000 feet, the ball seems to fly farther, too.

The par five 13th hole features a double dogleg that will demand precision on your second and third shots.

The dramatically uphill holes (namely the par four fifth and ninth holes) are short and with good drive placement are reachable with a wedge or short-iron on the second shot. The downhill holes will give up a considerable amount of roll – and the hard and fast conditions on the course will add additional yards as well.

Resort players who only play occasionally will certainly be challenged by the Highland Course, but Fraim says the Primland folks are doing all they can to increase playability even further: “A member of the golf staff takes every group to the first tee and gives them our cart rules, tee advisement, hole location and local rules. We tell novice golfers to enjoy the day, and if they don’t feel comfortable on a tee, then they should tee a ball up and start from the beginning of the fairway.”

Fraim, Steel and course superintendent Brian Kearns tour the course at least once a year to discuss playability and make adjustments accordingly – and as a result, several areas have been cleared of the dreaded tall fescue. And Fraim was also quick to point out that resort players will certainly appreciate the beautiful views of the Dan River Gorge that the course features in several spots, even if their scorecard numbers happen to mount.

Club down off the tee of the par four 5th hole, which offers a steep drop down to the fairway below.

The Highland Course also acquired a reputation in its early days as the most beautiful course that nobody plays, but Fraim says that too, is changing. “The first few seasons we had tee times 30 minutes apart and very little advertising. But now that we’ve just opened all facets of our Lodge, tee times are now 15 minutes apart. Our rounds have risen 300% since opening in 2006, due in large part to the Golf Digest awards.”

Golf Digest also ranked the Highland Course #2 in the state of Virginia for ‘courses you can play’ – not bad considering the host of outstanding public access courses in the Old Dominion.

Primland has deservedly drawn a great deal of attention in the few years since the Highland Course opened, and with the ownership’s dedication to making the finest vacation ‘escape’ experience possible, it will only ‘age’ (like fine wine) in the years to come.

“Primland is inspired above all by a healthy and positive state of mind,” Bradbury said thoughtfully. “We are all motivated by the desire to make the right decisions now for both our guests’ enjoyment today and for the benefit of generations to come.  We measure our growth by how sensitive we are to our neighbors, our community, to our environment and to the health of our planet. We strive to always act as a beneficent steward of this land.”

Throw in the sound of silence, and it all adds up to something pretty sweet.

Primland Resort
4621 Busted Rock Road
Meadows of Dan, VA 24120

Phone: 866-960-7746; 276-222-3800; 276-222-3827 (golf shop)


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.

$200 for daily fee, $175 for Primland guests -- includes cart fee, range privileges and bottled water on course, and a small gift from the resort. There are some golf specials throughout the year, check the Website.

Foursome packages and couples packages are available.

The golf course is open from April 1st to November 7th, depending on weather.

Walking is not allowed.
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). 

Consult the website for accommodations and pricing information.


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