Controversy! I understand the Cascades course has been renovated multiple times since I played it to remove some trees and redo some greens, but even back then it was ranked well inside the top 100 courses in the United States by Golf Digest. I did not feel as though the course lived up to that reputation.
There’s a saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” applies, in this case, to golf courses. The first few holes here at Cascades – particularly holes #2 through #6, excepting the magnificent “humpback” par five #5 – are simply too narrow and bland for my tastes. The rough was brutally penal for many fairways being so firm and difficult to hold. Case in point: #2, a long par four where the fairway slopes hard from left-to-right. My driver landed nicely in the left center of the fairway, and I watched as it trickled all the way into the rough on the right side. There were a few other fairways (#3, #7) where it felt like the same thing could have happened as well.
On the outward side, I liked the aforementioned #5 as well as #8, a par three with a tiny green seemingly falling off into oblivion, and #9, a big and brawny par four with all sorts of slopes and a small, bunkered green, but the rest of the front nine just did not do it for me.
The inward nine gets a lot better as the course gets down into the flatter portion of the creek valley – #12 and #13 are back-to-back excellent long par fours, and #16 and #17 are risk-reward par fives that are extremely fun to play (though by that point I was so flustered I made back to back double bogeys). #18 is an interesting finishing hole, a long par three over a pond with a bit of a false front to the heavily bunkered green.
Maybe the late 1990s were just a bad time for golf courses. I actually played Cascades on the same trip I played Pinehurst #2, which I was also unimpressed with in its 1999 state, and my 4-ball review of that course drew some criticism on this site. But with Cascades, I don’t think the subsequent changes have been quite as drastic as Pinehurst #2’s, so I think that this review probably holds more water to the course’s current state. As I postulated on my review of Golden Horseshoe’s Gold Course, I believe that it as well as Primland – the other two of the three consensus best public courses in Virginia – are better golf courses than Cascades. Cascades is a good golf course in a beautiful area – and attached to a spectacular mountain resort – but I don’t believe it’s worthy of its unquestioned place on Top 100 lists.
Date: July 15, 2020