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Taking the game to new heights

August 17th, 2011 10:27 pm by Joe Avento

MEADOWS OF DAN, Va. — They took the Battle of the Smokies to a neutral site this year, and what a site it was.
Primland Resort, a luxurious retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains just above Mt. Airy, N.C., was the perfect host for the fourth annual golf competition between journalists from Tennessee and North Carolina. While North Carolina evened the series at 2-2 with a convincing victory, nobody on the Tennessee team left feeling too badly.
The setting made sure of that.
The pristine Highland Course at Primland Resort has majestic views that make you feel like you’re on top of the world even if you’re not on top of your game.
“Everybody who plays it loves it,” said Primland head professional Brian Alley. “It’s a great layout. And it’s immaculate.”
Large, undulating greens are lightning fast, and they keep your attention throughout the round. Getting on the putting surface is one thing. Getting the ball into the hole is another.
“The greens are huge,” Alley said. “The 13th is 60 yards from front to back. That’s one of the larger greens you’ll see in the United States.”
The course, designed by renowned course architect Englishman Donald Steel, has won many awards, most notably Golf Digest’s designation as the best new public course ($75 and over) in America for 2007. It was listed 13th in this year’s Golf Digest top public course rankings.
Surprisingly, one list it has not yet made is America’s toughest courses. Undoubtedly, it will someday as the word spreads. In addition to the greens, cavernous ravines, deep bunkers and thick rough make the course quite a challenge.
We were told to bring plenty of golf balls, and for good reason. Tall fescue was awaiting just about any tee shot not finding the fairway. It felt like you could hit some tee shots off the mountain.
“The terrain was so tough, he had to make it a little bit easier,” Alley said of Steel. “You can not be in the tall stuff and score well here. But we have five different sets of tees that has almost 1,200 yards difference.”
When the course opened six years ago, it was in operation from May to October. Now the golf season runs for eight months, a little longer if you get lucky.
“We’re trying to stretch our season a little further,” Alley said. “And if you’re staying on the property in the wintertime and you catch a nice day, you can play the course.”
The Highland Course is expected to get 5,000 rounds this year.
“We’re hoping to change that,” Alley said. “That was just our goal for this year. We started out with probably 1,000 the first year, so we’re working our way up.”
Wildlife is abundant at Primland. During the media tournament, it wasn’t unusual to see a buck crossing a road inside the gates. A bear was spotted outside of one of the cabins. Turkeys, deer and even a few snakes were seen on the course.
The course is spectacular, but Primland isn’t just about golf. A world-class spa awaits golfers when they finish their round. Also offered on the grounds are swimming, tennis, fishing, deer hunting, turkey hunting, wingshooting, sporting clays, mountain biking, horseback riding, trail hiking and star gazing.
They have plenty of room for all this. When you check in at the gate and the receptionist tells you to drive six miles before your first turn, you know you’re in a big resort. In fact, at 12,000 acres, Primland Resort is roughly the same size as Bermuda.
A silo on the grounds is the home of the pro shop and a working observatory.
There are several types of accommodations at the resort. The lodge features 26 rooms and suites. There are also fairway cottages, mountain homes and a treehouse cottage. All of them have spectacular views of the valleys and the Dan River Gorge.
If you go to play golf at Primland, bring lots of golf balls — and lots of money. A single round costs $200. If you stay in their accommodations, the golf is $175. Stay-and-play packages are available on their Web site (www.Primland.com).
“It’s one of those places ... I say this a lot, but I’ve never had anybody who played the course say it wasn’t worth it,” Alley said. “And that’s huge in this economy when you’re paying $200 for a round.”

Joe Avento is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at javento@johnsoncitypress.com.

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