Playing Old White At The Greenbrier

Playing Old White At The Greenbrier
The first hole at The Old White at The Greenbrier

Recently, I had the chance to play the classic Old White Course at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulfur Springs West Virginia.

Old White is a Charles Blair MacDonald design dating to 1913. I love classic courses, and this one was special. In designing it, MacDonald drew on iconic hole designs he had studied (and often incorporated into his designs). Among others, it has a Redan, a Biarritz, a Punchbowl and a hole with bunkers inspired by the Principal’s Nose.

Playing Old White At The Greenbrier
The Old White’s third has a biarritz green.

The Old White is a smorgasbord of classic golf holes. I recognized a great many of them, but had to google the rest after the round. Helpfully on the scorecard, every hole is named, letting player know what they’re in for next.

Upon arriving at The Biarritz (the third) for example, I saw that the flag was at the back. I knew that I would need to play the ball long to get it past the Valley of Sin — or at least to give it enough velocity so that the ball would roll down and up again.

The Old White at The Greenbrier will host a PGA TOUR to open the 2019 – 2020. The tournament, formerly known as The Greenbrier Classic has been rebranded “A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier.” It is an appropriate theme, for West Virginia has the largest number of veterans per capita of any state. West Virginia has some 220,000 veterans in a state of 1.8 million.

Although the course will play plenty long for the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier — the tournament tees stretch to 7,200 yard — I thought the course’s principal defenses will be its optical illusions. Even though my caddie pointed out the correct lines, on many holes, there was still a nagging voice which said “you want to hit the ball the other way.” I thought the same was true on the greens, where the ball often did the opposite of what appeared obvious.

The Old White At The Greenbrier reminded me quite of a bit of another classic course I played in recent months: The Detroit Golf Club — host of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Both courses are relatively flat (in spite of being in West Virginia, the Old White at The Greenbrier is on a flat creek plain). Both have densely packed holes — players are always in the line of sight of several other fairways and greens. And both feature tricky greens.

In addition to the Old White, The Greenbrier has another course — The Greenbrier — which is a Seth Raynor design and only a few years older. I am regretful that I didn’t have the time to get in a round there as well.

I’ll have a full review of The Old White — and more on the Military Tribute At The Greenbrier — shortly.

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