Snowshoe Mountain Golf A "Raven" Experience
The Best the Game Has to Offer
by Larry Larsen
I have never lost a ball on every hole when playing a golf course. Never!
And it's very seldom that I want to play the same golf course twice in a row. But this Gary Player design is a definite challenge to anyone who has not set foot on it before.
Its 2002 rankings alone are impressive. Golfweek ranked it #15 in the Top 40 Resort Courses in America and #1 Public Access Course in West Virginia.
Don't forget, this state is also home to first class golf resorts like the Greenbrier and Glades Spring, so there is strong competition for these
rankings. But if you're like me, you don't consider these rankings very important unless they become reality. And they do at Raven Golf Club at Snowshoe Mountain!
Raven is fairly new, having opened in 1993, and only recently became part of the Raven family of courses managed by Intrawest. But there is not
doubt this is mountain golf at its finest. With dramatic 200-foot drops from the tee to landing areas, nearly
each hole offers spectacular views of its surroundings. The layout winds easily throughout the Allegheny
Mountains, with manicured greens only feet away from the surrounding woods and numerous wildflowers.
We played this course in June and, despite the rain, enjoyed it tremendously.
After just a couple of holes, I realized we might as well treat the first round as practice and return the next day to try to master its layout. We did lose about a
dozen balls, but we managed to find just as many others! It is inevitable that if your ball lands in the rough, it's gone! In fact, this rough reminded me of the tall
grass of Ireland's golf courses, which is one of the reasons for their reputation as tough layouts.
It was difficult to determine which was the signature hole. We later found out it was #13 - the 8th most difficult. But just as easily it could have been any of the
18 holes. Originally, the front nine were designed as the back nine, which explains why the practice range is located by the 18th hole and the 9th fairway is
the one you can see from the clubhouse.
Four tee placements allow golfers to play a fairly short 7,045-yard layout from the black tees, or a much shorter 4,363 from the gold. We figured we could play
a more standard 5,976 length from the white tees (in fact, the starter told us only men age 65 or over and women played from the gold tees). However, we quickly found out that the
hazards and wild areas between the tee boxes and the fairways often provided carries of over 200 yards off
the whites! So our game developed into a two-person best ball to avoid much frustration!
I do admit that my favorite hole is the #3 par 3. The white tees are 140 feet
above the green, while the gold tees are across a gaping ravine which borders the front of the green. Using a 9 iron, and swinging with all my
might, my ball arched beautifully over the green, landing just a few feet from the pin and then rolling to within two inches ... yes, two inches ... of the
hole! So close to having my first hole-in-one!
In addition to the tough layout, the course's maintenance was a pleasant surprise. When I hear "public course" my expectations are often different
regarding a course's maintenance, customer service, equipment, etc. All these expectations were immediately gone just a few minutes after we
arrived. Our rental equipment (Ping golf clubs in Callaway bags) could not have been in better condition. The golf carts are gas powered, which are the only way to climb the steep hills
throughout the course. The carts also include a simple GPS system, very helpful to determine your next shot!
We were also very impressed with the dedication of the maintenance staff we encountered throughout the
golf course both days. When we complimented them on the condition of the course, one of the guys complained that it was still not up to his liking!
In Florida, wildlife on a golf course means an occasional alligator or snapping turtle, or a wide variety of wading
birds. At Raven Golf Club, our game was observed by several deer munching on the wildflowers at the edge of
the woods, or by a flock of Canada geese. We also saw wild mink, and the remnants of a beaver's dam. It certainly added to the "wildness" experience that the course layout offers!
The Raven Golf Club at Showshoe Mountain is most definitely the type of golf course that players of all skill
levels are looking for. For experienced golfers, we challenge you to play off the black tees. It may hurt your
ego, but you will learn to play with your thinking cap as well as your clubs.
For the more inexperienced golfer, you won't care if your game is terrible
because you will be enjoying the fantastic scenery. Either way, you will want to play this course more than once; it will require different strategies
each time you play it. In addition to the excellent playing conditions and the scenery, golf packages are extremely affordable. With this quality of
course, you would expect to pay close to $100 just for a round. Yet, weekend summer packages start at around $269 per person and include
two nights' accommodations in the beautiful Snowshoe Resort, breakfast and unlimited golf. This is a great value!
Snowshoe Mountain itself is a great destination with a variety of
accommodations and activities for the entire family. Although it is often billed as a great snowskiing destination, there are plenty of things to do in warmer weather, including climbing the
mountains chasing golf balls. For more information, visit www.snowshoemountain.com. To view a layout of
the Raven Golf Club, visit http://www.snowshoemtn.com/deals/summer-vacations/golf