Gary Player’s design company has been involved in around 50 North American golf course projects over the years and the Raven at Snowshoe Mountain is one of their very best efforts. Nestled in a rather remote location within the scenic hills of Pocahontas County in West Virginia, the 18-hole layout was originally called Hawthorne Valley when it opened in 1993.
The original resort owners were a group of coal miners who had already started to construct the golf course by clearing several holes before Jeff Myers of the Gary Player design team stepped in.
As Myers recollects, “when you have uneven terrain, you find as many ‘natural’ holes as you can, and then build a few ‘tough’ holes to complete the layout. The 7th hole (420-yard par four, with a very tight green complex) is an example of a ‘forced’ hole. That patch of land connected holes 2-6 with 8 and 9, so we had to come up with something that would work.”
Now part of the Intrawest resort group, the course at the Raven Golf Club epitomizes mountain golf at its finest. Such is the severity of the terrain on sections of the property; one commentator described the fairways “part roller-coaster ride, part nature trail.”
Holes have certainly been laid out on a hilly landscape with cliffs, woods, ravines, creeks and rocky outcrops featuring from start to finish. The front nine is routed through forest and around water then the back nine climb into higher elevations, bringing several cliff-side tee positions into play.
Two holes give a flavour of what to expect on the front nine. The par three 3rd measures only 127 yards from the back tees but because the tee shot is played downhill to a tiered green fronted by a ravine, the hole actually plays a lot shorter than the yardage on the scorecard. It’s followed by the par four 4th hole which falls over 200 feet tee from the tee to a sliver of a fairway where anything hit left or right is gone forever.
If you think these holes are spectacular, the holes on the back nine are, if anything, even tougher and perhaps more scenic. In particular, the par four 11th and par five 13th are highly rated holes on the inward half.
You'll need to wait for the snow to melt (the course generally opens from May 1st) when golfers can obtain special green fee rates after 2.00pm and very attractive stay and play packages are available.