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Donald Ross Touched the Homestead in 1913

homesteadHigh in the mountains of Virginia, hot springs bubble up from far below the earth’s surface. For thousands of years, people seeking rest, relaxation and healing have made their way to this natural spa- first the Native American tribes, who considered this a sacred site, followed by the early settlers who came from England to farm the river valleys below.

In 1766, the first hotel built near the mineral springs opened. This mountain resort, today the Homestead, has maintained its tradition of hospitality for nearly 250 years. Set amid the tranquil forested hills of the Allegheny Mountains, the hotel seems a world set apart, a valley oasis untouched by the worries and hurried pace of 21st century life.

Twenty-three United States presidents from George Washington to Bill Clinton visited the Homestead over the years and prominent citizens such as the DuPonts, Rockefellers, and J. P. Morgan, once the owner of the resort, found this to be the ideal retreat.

Along with the cream of America’s society, golf came to the Homestead. J. P. Morgan introduced the sport soon after he bought the property in 1888. The first tee of the Old Course, where play began in 1892, is the oldest in continuous use on the same spot in the country.

In 1913, Donald Ross arrived to redesign and extend the course to 18 holes, adding his distinctive saucer-shape greens and contoured fairways to challenge golfers of every ability. This is one of the most mountainous of the courses Ross designed, yielding breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and the venerable resort hotel set amid a nature preserve of 11,500 protected acres.

Rees Jones renovated the Old Course in 1994, enhancing the Ross design, but taking special care to leave the master’s signature style intact. Today the 6,227 yard, par-72 Donald Ross classic includes six par threes, six par fours and six par fives. New junior tees, scorecards, and equipment rentals were recently added to encourage young golfers to experience this unique golf treasure.

The Old Course is only one of three challenging courses at The Homestead. The Cascades Course, designed by William S. Flynn in 1923 and considered by many to be the finest mountain course in the country, is the winner of multiple awards, consistently ranking among the Top 100 “must-play” courses in the U.S. Eight USGA championships, two Senior Tour Shootouts and numerous PGA Tour events have been decided on its greens. The Lower Cascades Course, a 1963 design by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., features wide rolling fairways set along a scenic trout stream.

But Ross’ Old Course remains the favorite of many golfers. “I’ve heard people say if they could only play one more round ever, this (the Old Course) would be the one,” says Don Ryder, the Homestead’s Director of Golf.

For first time players on the Old Course, a caddy can come in very handy, Ryder suggests. “The course has several of the false-front greens Ross is known for,” he says. “There aren’t many bunkers, but it’s very hilly and calls for careful positioning off the tee. You have to hit your ball just so then let it roll into position to have a shot at par.”

Regulars call No. 17 “the Green Hole” for its tendency to swallow golf balls, seemly transporting them to a universe far, far away.

Records indicate that the Old Course was a favorite of Presidents Coolidge, Truman, and Nixon. In 1899, President McKinley was the first sitting president to begin his game at the course’s legendary first tee.

Legendary golfer Sam Snead was also a fan of the Old Course. Born just down the road, Snead learned to play at the Homestead, and worked at the resort as both a caddy and a pro. Snead returned to his roots in his final years, playing at the Homestead, most often the Old Course, nearly every day until his death. Don Ryder counted him a close friend.

After a day on the links, golfers can enjoy a meal at Sam Snead’s Tavern, a friendly pub established by the golfer’s family, just across Main Street from the resort. A menu featuring a variety of small plates, local mountain trout, and grilled Angus steaks is served amid a huge and engaging collection of authentic “Slammin’ Sammy” memorabilia and photos tracing the PGA great’s career.

In the evening, the Homestead offers formal dining and dancing amid the white columns in the stately Main Dining Room or table-side service in the 1776 Grille. Popular lunch spots include Rubino’s at the Cascades overlooking the Cascades Golf Course, and the Casino Club Restaurant, offering views of the historic Old Course.
The Casino building, located close behind the main hotel next to the historic First Tee of the Old Course, is the resort’s original golf clubhouse and continues in that role today. Originally built in 1895, it survived the 1901 fire that burnt the old hotel to the ground. A stately red-brick building replaced the earlier structure. Wide verandas lined with rocking chairs provide a spot where guests can mingle, take afternoon tea, and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

ClubCorp, former owner of Pinehurst Resort, purchased the Homestead in 1993 and began $80 million worth of renovations to restore the resort to its Gilded Age splendor. A new Grand Ballroom and outdoor pool, as well as spacious new conference rooms, add to the Homestead’s attractions. Today, it is part of the KSL portfolio of resorts.

Golf is just one of the many activities available to guests. The nearby Jefferson Pools, named for one of the presidents who came here to “take the waters,” offer warm, crystal-clear waters with many healthful properties along with separate facilities for men and women. Established in 1761, this is the oldest hot spring bath house surviving in the country.

Guests can hike the stunning Cascades Gorge past 13 waterfalls, or try fly fishing in the resort’s world-class trout stream. The Equestrian Center offers carriage rides in antique buckboards or trips on horseback into the surrounding mountains. Lessons in falconry introduce the ancient “sport of kings,” teaching guests to handle trained falcons, hawks, and owls. The resort’s mountain-top shooting center features sporting clays, trap and skeet fields, and a .22 caliber rifle range.

Other sports include tennis, canoeing, kayaking, archery, mountain biking, off-road vehicle adventures, croquet, and badminton, as well as paintball, billiards, darts, bowling, and a climbing tower. A special Unlimited Activities Package lets visitors try many of the Homestead’s activities – from golf and horseback riding to mountain biking and kayaking – for a low, all-inclusive fee. A free shuttle takes guests to the resort’s sports facilities, as well as its restaurants and the Jefferson Pools.
Winter brings a new set of sports to the Homestead. The resort opened the first ski area in the South in 1959. Today it offers both downhill and cross-country skiing, tubing, outdoor ice skating, snowmobile tours, and snowboarding. Despite the many modern amenities now available, tradition remains an important part of the Homestead experience. Many employees have worked at the resort for generations, and take pride in the Southern hospitality and gracious service which have become Homestead hallmarks. Guests are greeted at the door with a time-honored, “Welcome home,” and golfers receive a pat on the back, whether for congratulation or commiseration, after their rounds. After pitting themselves against the tricky lies and elevated greens designed by Donald Ross, golfers well deserve the encouragement.

For more information on The Homestead, visit www.thehomestead.com or call 540-839-1766.

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Traditions Magazine, P.O. Box 1112 • Pinehurst, NC 28370 • Phone:843.251.6094 •This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.