At Virginia's Primland resort in the Appalachian Mountains, golfers go above and beyond
The main lodge is seen from a fairway at Primland resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. (Blake Guthrie, Atlanta Journal Constitution, MCT / April 20, 2012)
A 12,000-acre resort — nearly the size of Bermuda — Primland is in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia, set far away from cities and towns.
The name comes from the resort's founder, Didier Primat, a French-born businessman and environmentalist who purchased the land in 1976 and turned it into a preserve and hunting retreat. Golf entered the picture with the opening of the aptly named Highland Course in 2006, located on top of a mountain plateau a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Designed by acclaimed British golf course architect Donald Steel, the course teeters on the edge of the ridge line at certain points, offering stunning views of the river gorge and surrounding mountain peaks. While many high-altitude courses are cradled in mountain valleys, at Primland the valleys are below, making it feel like you're golfing on top of the world. Imagine playing links around the rim of the Grand Canyon, only the canyon is filled with trees.
Shortly after its opening, Golf Digest named the Highland Course as the best new public golf course in America in the $75 and over category, referring to it as an "isolated corner of the golf universe."
Award-winning golf writer James Dodson, author of "American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf," calls Primland "one of the best golfing experiences going right now," and says of the Highland Course, "it's the most rewarding modern course I've seen." Dodson, who has played many of the world's most renowned courses, touts the golfing at Primland for its "deep immersion in nature," saying, "it's a course not designed to sell fairway homes, but for the pure experience of golf. Aesthetically and athletically, it doesn't disappoint."
It's a remote place, in the wilderness up winding two-lane roads where bear crossing signs are common. But don't let the wilderness part fool you. Primland is a high-end resort, with a state-of-the-art lodge adjacent to the golf course. It's the kind of place where you're not allowed to park your own car or get your own ice from the ice machine. They have someone to do that for you. And the lodge rooms have one-touch buttons by the bed to open and close the blinds and provide mood lighting at any time of day. Plenty of other activities besides golf are offered for guests — hunting, horseback riding, shooting clays, Geo-caching, hiking, ATV tours and a full-service spa — but one notable attraction is the observatory attached to the main lodge building. Disguised as a grain silo, the observatory contains a high-tech, 14-inch camera telescope that collects light from the nighttime sky in seconds-long intervals to provide images that can't be seen with the naked eye or even through the eyepiece of the scope in real time. The lack of light pollution at this altitude, away from population centers, makes Primland a perfect spot for this kind of stargazing. A resort with a resident astronomy staff is a rare thing. The Tour of the Universe program begins with a field lesson about the constellations and ends up in the observatory dome, which rotates in sync with the telescope to gaze upon stars, cloud nebulae and spiral galaxies light years away as they come into view on clear nights above the Appalachians.
IF YOU GO:
The closest commercial airports to Primland are in Roanoke, Va., and Greensboro, N.C., both 90 minutes from the resort. Primland offers an airport transportation service for its overnight guests.
STAY: Lodge rooms and suites, fairway cottages and mountain homes are available. For golfers, the lodge and cottages are the most convenient to the course, as is the one-of-a-kind Golden Eagle Tree House, a luxurious studio perched in the limbs of an old oak tree on the ridge next to one of the holes — a nice option for golfing couples in search of a romantic hideaway. Rates: rooms $279-$409; suites $425-$1,200; tree house $425-$549; mountain homes vary in size, style and location, check rates and other info at http://www.primland.com/accommodations.
DINING: The 19th Pub is a small casual bar/restaurant serving high-end pub grub and cocktails in the lodge, with patio seating overlooking the golf course. Across the lobby is Elements, a fine dining restaurant with a dress code at night (jackets, gentlemen) but not in the morning, when a hearty breakfast is served.
Primland: 1-866-960-7746, primland.com. For more specific golf info call the toll-free number or email email@example.com.