300 West Main Street,
White Sulphur Springs,
West Virginia (WV) 24986,
- +1 800 453 4858
Exit #181 from Interstate 64 west, exit # 175 from Interstate 64 east
The Old White was the first of three 18-hole courses to be constructed at the famous Greenbrier resort, opening in 1913. Named after the Old White Hotel that was in use from 1858 to 1922, the course was designed by the legendary architect Charles Blair Macdonald. His associate Seth Raynor carried out some modifications to soften the layout a decade after it opened as resort guests deemed the course too difficult in its original format.
The course today retains much of the character of a parkland course constructed a century ago with tight, tree-lined fairways leading to small, well-guarded greens. Much of the credit for this is due to architect Lester George who carried out an extensive renovation program that was completed in 2006.
George installed new drainage and paths and, with the assistance of Greenbrier historian Bob Conte, he studied old aerial photographs of the course before embarking on a plan to plant a significant acreage of tall fescue grasses around the course and cut back a substantial number of the trees that bordered the fairways.
Par is set at 70, largely because there are only two par fives on the card, both of which appear on the back nine at holes 12 and 17. As a consequence, the strength of the layout lies in its par four holes and one of the best of these – some say the hardest – is played on the opening hole, a 449-yard, slight dogleg to the right that begins from a gun platform tee box overlooking a stream that meanders through from holes 15 to 18.
The green for the marvellous little par three 18th lies adjacent to this position and it’s a fine setting for a home hole, played uphill across water to a highly contoured putting surface in front of the clubhouse.
The Greenbrier Classic, a FedExCup competition on the PGA Tour, was held here in 2010 and it’s the first of six such annual events contracted to the Old White course. Stuart Appleby shot an incredible 59 on the final day to win the 2010 title by one shot with a total score of 22 under par for the competition.
The course won a number of golf magazine best remodel awards after Lester George’s work was carried out in 2006. A decade later, terrible flooding destroyed parts of the layout, causing the cancellation of the 2016 PGA Tour event at The Greenbrier. Within weeks, architect Keith Foster and contractor McDonald & Sons stepped in to quickly repair the damage (rebuilding green complexes and removing cross bunkering to improve playability) which allowed the Old White to host the Greenbrier Classic as normal the following year.
The restored Old White occupies a relatively flat piece of land, but the talents of CB Macdonald in 1914 (and subsequently by Seth Raynor in 1924) ensure a fine golfing experience in beautiful surroundings. The opening hole (called ‘First’) enjoys an elevated teeing ground level with the golf house and it provides your initial view of the course that sits beneath you. Your views across the course highlight how walkable it is, and it’s easy to conclude that the challenge will inevitably be with those famous green complexes. Grass faced bunkers are generally visible on every hole meaning that golfers won’t be caught out, and the strategy off the tee is right there in front of you. Upon reaching the Hog’s Back par 4 2nd hole, you begin to head north-east and see most of the front nine in this parcel of land. The 3rd hole is the iconic Biarritz green presented with a ‘green-dip-green’ configuration. As expected with this template, the sunken bunkers surrounding the putting platforms ensure a difficult sand shot if you miss the sharp-edged green. Holes 4 -7 are all medium length par 4s heading straight West, North, South and then East before bringing you to the 8th tee which is close to the 3rd green. Each hole offers nice usage of natural mounds and hazards that dictate club selection off the tee, with the 6th hole on higher ground being the index 1. The 3rd (Biarritz) and 8th (Redan) run next to each other in opposite direction, and the routing is tucked into a close-fitting parcel of land running through the mountainous valley. The closing hole on the outward nine is another medium length par 4 with a benign Punchbowl green. The front nine is a par 34 with no par 5s, but there are plenty of opportunities to pick up shots throughout. Holes 9 and 10 play parallel to each other running Southwest and Northeast, with the 10th being shorter but much more challenging due to the presentation of the Principles Nose bunkering guarding the approach shot. The stretch of holes 11 to 13 offers up, which I personally thought, was the most challenging stretch of golf on the course. ‘Meadows’, ‘Long’ and ‘Alps’ all back to back winding their way through dog-legs and more rolling topography. The creek running in front of the par 5 12th green is perfectly placed to make every golfer think about their approach shot into the raised green. It’s a beautiful piece of landscape incorporated into the routing. Howard Creek navigates throughout this stretch of the course and significantly comes into play on the par 4 13th (Alps) hole as it flows all the way up the left side of the hole, begging the golfer to hit a precise tee-shot into the dog-leg landing area. The 14th is known as Narrows due to the treacherous bunker complex that make the landing zone feel like you’re landing on a dime with superb angles of play as the fairway moves from right to left. Once again, as is often the case, the bunkers on the Old White are relevant and force the golfer to take less than driver on holes with wonderful angles. Holes 11 to 14 all generally run in the same direction (Southwest) and bring you to the end of the property before you make the turn for home on the par 3 15th known as Eden. This par 3 stretches out to almost 200 yards and in blustery conditions, the exposed green can be challenging to hit. The next hole, known as the Cape hole, plays over a large body of water with the fairway moving from left to right to yet another green with a spine running across it separating the tiers. Unlike many other versions of this template, the land on the 16th is so flat that there isn’t much of a view from the tee box other than the water! The penultimate hole on the Old White is a long par 5 known as Oaks, and certainly gets more difficult as you get closer to the green as the bunkers become more numerous and offer up a lot of distraction in front of the deep green. Into the wind, I couldn’t get within 100 yards of the green after two well hit shots. An aerial view of the back nine highlights the ‘out & back’ nature of the routing with holes 11-14 heading southwest and holes 15-18 running northeast on a tight piece of property dissected by Howard Creek. The closing hole is the shortest hole on the course, and is called “Home”, which typically offers up plenty of excitement when the PGA Tour is in town. Typically, this par 3 template is called Short, but a rose by any other name would still be as fun to play, especially with the ‘thumb-print’ design feature nicely restored. Each hole has plenty of personality and is enjoyable to play on a very walkable course with delightful mountainous scenery.
My favorite course of the Greenbrier rotation and one of the top in the state. The old style layout paired with the beautiful mountain valley scenery makes this a must play for any golfer that enjoys "old" courses. When the course is in season, its beautiful and very challenging!