The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, home to the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, is no secret to golf enthusiasts the world over.
In addition to the Greenbrier Faldo Golf Center, the resort offers five challenging tracks including The Old White TPC (home to the Greenbrier Classic), The Greenbrier (site of the 1979 Ryder Cup and 1994 Solheim Cup), The Meadows, The Snead (exclusive to members of the Greenbrier Sporting Club) and Oakhurst Links.
Oakhurst Links offers visitors a unique golf experience, in essence transporting players back in time.
First, a little history.
The original owner of the property, Russell Montague, arrived in the West Virginia area back in 1879 and relocated his family from Boston a few years later.
When one of Russell’s neighbor’s golf obsessed cousins came to visit from Scotland a group including Montague built a nine-hole course on his property for their own enjoyment.
Completed in 1884, the nine-hole course was used for more than a decade before the group of Scotsmen moved back to Scotland. Once they left, the course went unused and became overgrown with clover and wildflowers.
Years later in 1938, Sam Snead visited the site and for fun blasted a golf ball out over the Oakhurst’s overgrown fairways. Impressed with the property, Snead convinced friend Lewis Keller to purchase the property when it went up for sale in 1959. The Keller family restored the course in 1990 with the help of golf course architect Bob Cupp. In 2012, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice bought Oakhurst Links and it became part of the resort.
Today, Oakhurst Links plays host to 300-to-500 rounds a year. A $75 greens fee includes use of clubs and two golf balls. That’s right, no need to lug your Callaways over to the course because you won’t need them. In fact, you can’t use them.
In keeping with the Scottish golf tradition the course was created for, players today choose from two types of clubs – smooth-faced irons (pre-1900) and irons with scoring lines (post 1900) all with hickory shafts. Woods are post-1900 with hickory shafts. No tees are permitted with players making their tees from sand. Golf bags are also not permitted. Players carry their clubs under their arm and period golf attire is encouraged, but not required.
“Players receive a wooden putter that would have been used back in the 1890’s, a Niblick which is like a modern day 9-iron, a mashie which is like a modern day 5-iron and a spoon which would be your driver,” said Burt Baine, Greenbrier golf club general manager. “Players also receive replica gutta-percha golf balls that are made the same way as they would in the 1900’s just with modern materials.”
By using the equipment, Baine says, players are given a real sense of where the game has come from and makes them better appreciate the modern equipment, golf balls, and course conditions they experience today.
Oakhurst – which has been played by the likes of Snead, Tom Watson and Bubba Watson just to name a few – hosts several events each year including the National Hickory Championship held annually in June, the Fall Match Play Tournament, and numerous corporate and group events.
Baine says a wide range of players come to experience Oakhurst, but overall the demographic falls in the 40’s to 50’s.
“These people are the ones that might have started using some wooden shafted clubs and just want to try it out again,” Baine said. “We have also had a lot younger player who are curious as to how the game was played back then.”