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Greenbrier (Greenbrier)

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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Golf – in the form of a basic 9-hole layout – first made an appearance at the famous Greenbrier spa and hotel in 1910. The Old White was the first 18-hole course to open three years later, followed by the Seth Raynor-designed Greenbrier in 1924. Dick Wilson added another course, now called the Meadows, to the property in 1963. During the construction of this third course, some of the old Greenbrier holes were incorporated into its 18, meaning five new holes were built for the Greenbrier.

The Greenbrier played host to the 1979 Ryder Cup matches between the USA and Europe. Team Captains were Billy Casper (US) and John Jacobs (Europe). Continental European golfers were for the first time allowed to compete in the 23rd Ryder Cup Matches and a final format change was also implemented bringing the total points to 28. Nick Faldo was the European cornerstone finishing 4-1, but the US once again prevailed thanks to a flawless 5-0 performance from Larry Nelson. Unfortunately Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido (the first continental European selections) could only muster a single point from a possible six. USA 17 - Europe 11. The Ryder Cup was played at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1977 and at Walton Heath in 1981.

The Greenbrier was given a major face-lift by the Jack Nicklaus design company in 1978 as preparation for the series of Ryder Cup matches between USA and Europe the following year. The home side won that match 17-11 and the female equivalent of Team USA also triumphed 13-7 in the Solheim Cup against the European Ladies on the same course fifteen years later.

Jay Morrish and Bob Cupp were project architects for Nicklaus at the time and, although they didn’t alter the course routing, the green complexes were reshaped to essentially remove the pitch and run approach options, installing target golf putting surfaces instead. According to Tom Doak, "Jack Nicklaus obliterated all trace of its origins. The holes where ponds were added seem particularly out of place."

The Greenbrier's fairways are laid out over a gently undulating landscape. The front nine holes of the out-and-back routing are configured in a slightly unconventional manner, featuring three par threes, three par fours and three par fives.

The most difficult of these holes is the 456-yard 6th (“Plateau”) where a very tight fairway doglegs uphill to a long, narrow offset green that sits behind a rather large, intimidating bunker.

The Greenbrier’s back nine showcased a couple of delightful short par fours. Hole 10 (“Cross Road”) measured only 339 yards from the back tees with a wide creek cut across the fairway about fifty yards short of the pear-shaped putting surface. Four holes later, the even shorter 305-yard 14th (“Sahara”) sported a long bunker down the left of the fairway which then wrapped itself around the left side of the green.

However, the Greenbrier course was one of several at the resort to suffer major damage following the flooding in June 2016. Six former Greenbrier holes (#9 through #14) now form part of the Meadows course (#10 to #15). The Sahara hole on the Meadows layout is now a long uphill par three measuring 220 yards.

Currently, the Greenbrier can be played as a 9-hole or 18-hole course. However, the story is quite complicated, so we’ll let Robert Harris, Vice President of Golf, explain:

“When you elect to play 18 holes, you actually get to play 10 of the 12 that we maintain. Play holes 1 through 7 and arrive at the Snack Stand. Make a U turn and play holes 16-17 (that is your 9-hole course), or skip #17 and play #18 back to the Clubhouse or play #18 as an extra hole.

Otherwise, when completing #17, go to nearby #2 tee, play back to #7 – U turn and play home 16-17-18. We maintain but don’t use former holes #8 and #15. If you play both the Greenbrier and Meadows, you essentially play 16 of the 18 former Greenbrier course holes!”

The current Greenbrier configuration is temporary as Phil Mickelson Design has been commissioned to renovate the layout with works including modifications to eight original holes and the construction of ten new holes, which will be routed through an old forest dissected by streams. The new holes will feature elevation changes of more than 100 feet.

Phil Mickelson, who recently was named The Greenbrier Resort’s PGA Tour Ambassador, said, “I’ve always been a big fan of Seth Raynor’s work. We have a tremendous piece of property that comes with a great history, and we are going to make it great for the future of The Greenbrier Resort and the region.”

As at October 2020, work on the new Greenbrier course is on hold.

Golf – in the form of a basic 9-hole layout – first made an appearance at the famous Greenbrier spa and hotel in 1910. The Old White was the first 18-hole course to open three years later, followed by the Seth Raynor-designed Greenbrier in 1924. Dick Wilson added another course, now called the Meadows, to the property in 1963. During the construction of this third course, some of the old Greenbrier holes were incorporated into its 18, meaning five new holes were built for the Greenbrier.

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Seth Raynor

Long Island-born Seth Raynor ran a successful surveying business before being hired by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1908 to inspect the property that would become The National Golf Links of America.

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