Golf Aficionado magazine named The Snead “Best Course 2018,” receiving a rating of 4.75 out of 5, one of the best ratings on record. The golf course was scored on several elements, including impeccable service, course conditions, challenge, and a fair test of golf.
“What makes ‘The Snead’ course unique to other breathtaking golf courses is that you don’t just view the scenery, you play the scenery.”
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The Snead at The Greenbrier Sporting Club
By Jason Naft / November 15, 2018
Following 2 rounds on the Highland Course at Primland Resort we drove across the Virginia/West Virginia border yelling the customary “Ya-hoo!” as we crossed into West Virginia. The second and final leg of this year’s Golf Aficionado Ultimate Golf Trip had us headed to The Greenbrier!
The Greenbrier, known as America’s Resort,™ is world famous for being one of the finest vacation destinations for family and luxury travel for more than two centuries, but to really experience the best of what The Greenbrier has to offer, one must have the privilege of exploring its crown jewel, their private club, appropriately named “The Sporting Club.”
The Sporting Club has every possible activity imaginable, but it is headlined by “The Snead,” a fabulous golf course designed by legendary golf architect Tom Fazio. When you think of golf at The Greenbrier your first thought would most likely be TPC Old White. After all, who could blame you, we see TPC Old White showcased every year as the PGA Tour descends upon the resort for A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, formerly known as The Greenbrier Classic. However, those lucky enough to have access to The Sporting Club will get “The Snead” experience, and boy is it an experience!
“The Snead” which is named after Hall of Famer and the resorts favorite son, Sam Snead. Sam grew up in the mountains of nearby Hot Springs, Virginia. Sam Snead is one of the all-time great golfers, having won 7 major titles (Masters 3x, PGA Champ 3x, and 1x Open Championship). He holds the record for most tournaments won all-time on the PGA Tour at 82! He was the money leader on tour three times with his 1950 tour-best $35,759….times have certainly changed. And one last Sam Snead cool fact, he has hit a hole in one with every single club in his bag with the exception of his putter…and I am still searching for my first. The bottom line, if The Greenbrier’s private club is going to name a course after Sam Snead, it better deliver on the highest level. Foreshadowing….it sure does!
Like all golf rounds, the first impression is the clubhouse. The Sporting Club clubhouse sets the tone, with its massive stonework façade and wooden doors to the grand spiral staircase you see on the right as you enter. In the distance, you can see the 18th green through the two-story floor to ceiling windows that surround the dining room in front of you. We entered the pro shop and were greeted with a sense of warmth and attentiveness. The Snead pro shop is not large, but has all the items you need with the best brands in the business. As you walk outside, encased in glass are Sam Snead’s Masters Green Jacket, the Open Championship trophy, and Ryder Cup captain jacket. How cool is that? Also, on display are his fishing and hunting trophies, something most people probably didn’t know about Sam Snead. Around the corner is the current course record scorecard set by member Bubba Watson. At this point, everyone in the group knows they are in for a special round.
We hop on our golf carts for a short drive over a wooden bridge, past meandering streams, and in front of us is a large practice area, consisting of a chipping section with multiple bunkers, driving range, and putting green. We are greeted in a gently cordial manner by the starter as he gets to know us better. At the range are the aiming sticks, golf club cleaning stations, and Pro V1 practice balls…no red or green stripes on range balls here. After a short time warming up, I sat down on the oversized Adirondack chairs on the range itself, waiting for the last ones to finish warming up on the driving range. Time to head out!
We’re captivated by the beautiful nature of the Appalachian Mountains surrounding us in every direction, as this is a valley. As you stare down the first hole, we recognize the courses overall magnificent condition. Imagine perfect flat rectangular tee boxes, lush rolling fairways, combined with large, well-positioned Tom Fazio bunkers. Later, we will realize that the greens are quick, but not too fast, yet very true. It’s time to tee off, so let’s explore just a little further the experience at The Sporting Club’s Snead golf course.
Each hole is appropriately named, just as it is at Augusta National. My favorite holes and their corresponding names were as follows: Ante Up (Hole #1), Stonewall (Hole #7), and the amazing stretch home featuring Howard’s Creek (Hole #14), Postage Stamp (Hole #15), Allegheny Vista (Hole #16), and Swan Song (Hole #18).
Hole #1: appropriately named Ante Up (we decided to play a game of Wolf for this round). I love how a golf course opens up with a straightforward 1st hole, “what you see is what you get.” This hole does have a stream down the entire left side of the fairway and a bunch of punishing bunkers in front of an elevated green. Hit a straight tee shot and reasonable approach, you are putting for birdie. Essentially a fair first hole.
Hole #7: Stonewall, (the first of three great holes on the other side of Sam Snead Blvd). On this par 5, Bubba Watson got an eagle, but there is no way I am thinking of carrying the creek 235 yards and over the stone wall in 2 shots. The green moves strongly from back to front and right to left.
Hole #14: Howard’s Creek has a world-class tee shot as it uses the terrain of Howard’s Creek that you must cross, as well as avoid down the left-hand side. It comes into play again for your approach. Don’t miss left.
Hole #15: Postage Stamp starts with a fun drive up the mountain in your cart. You stand what seems to be on top of the world as you take on a short 100-yard par 3. Left and you’re in the woods, and the green is just that…a postage stamp.
Hole #16: Allegheny Vista is without a doubt the signature hole on the course and if Golf Aficionado had a best 18 in the world, it would be a contender. Your tee shot must carry a creek and reach the fairway at the bottom of the mountain. Hit a good drive and watch it for about 10 seconds as it sails seemingly forever to the fairway below. A reachable green in 2 awaits, but the green has tons of tricks to it, so don’t take your approach lightly, even if you lay up.
Hole #18: Another appropriately named hole, Swan Song….does this round really have to end? A tough tee shot with long grass and bunkers on the left and a creek on the right. Your approach to the green is guarded by the gorgeous clubhouse in the background and guarded by a green that runs off towards the creek.
What makes “The Snead” course unique to other breathtaking golf courses is that you don’t just view the scenery, you play the scenery. This, combined with impeccable service, course conditions, and a good challenge, yet fair test of golf is why all of us fell in love with “The Snead.”
A side note worth mentioning is the nice conversation we had after the round with the person that sets the tone for The Sporting Club, VP and General Manager Larry Klein. Mr. Klein took his time to really learn about Golf Aficionado and shared with us a little more about the course and its facilities, like the opening of their brand new 9-hole short course and John Smoltz setting the current course record. He was attentive, yet warm and relaxed, which is why the entire club exudes this level of professional and connectivity to its guests/members.
The Snead at The Greenbrier Sporting Club Rating 4.75 out of 5
At 4.75, “The Snead” earned one of the best ratings on record at Golf Aficionado. From the moment you walk thru the clubhouse doors you know that you’ve arrived at a special place. A clubhouse where you might bump into Phil, Bubba, or former MLB stars like John Smoltz, accompanied by first class service from The Sporting Club staff, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.