No state features more mileage of the Appalachian Trail than Virginia, and if you should happen to be carrying golf clubs, it’s a few miles off track from the hike to reach the Wintergreen Resort and its Devil’s Knob golf course. The Ellis Maples design is the highest altitude at which one can play golf in the Old Dominion state.
To give you an idea of just how high this course is, the resort claims that the temperature at Devil’s Knob is regularly 12 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than at the resort’s second course, Stoney Creek. Needless to say, from such an altitude, there are incredible vistas across the Blue Ridge Mountain Range.
Despite its mountainous setting, it’s tricky whether to classify Devil’s Knob as “mountain golf,” because the course sits on a relatively level playing field, lacking in the dramatic drops and tee shots which is expected from typical mountain golf. The yardage behaves accordingly, tipping out at just more than 6,700 yards, which allows players of all stripes to enjoy the views without necessarily losing sleeves of balls in the process. They may want long sleeves for the temperature, however.
Give architect Ellis Maples credit in creating this mountainous course. The wherewithal to slot fairways through the trees is clearly something to behold. But the architecture is fairly redundant. The saving grace comes in playing the course at such an elevation in order to reap the benefits of the much cooler air. Play the companion Stony Creek course down below and you are sure to be sweating bullets in handling the higher temps and humidity.
The two really special holes are the ones concluding each side. The par-4 9th climbs uphill and provides an elevated putting surface in which getting an approach to land nearby will be tested.
The concluding 18th is also very good. Here the hole climbs uphill and turn right in the drive zone. Working the ball is essential to get into a position for the elevated green approach.
Devil's Knob would gain immeasurably from a makeover that adds a number of design elements that truly provide a clear hole differentiation. It's a fine course but the possibilities for being much more is clearly present.
M. James Ward