GREENBRIER (OLD WHITE TPC)
Course Architects: Charles Blair Macdonald, with Seth Raynor (1914),
Lester George (2001-06, restoration), PGA Tour Design
along with McDonald and Sons (2010-11)
Year Opened: April 1914
Location: White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
Slope: 141. Rating: 75.7
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 449 Yds 10 - Par 4 385 Yds
2 - Par 4 488 Yds 11 - Par 4 493 Yds
3 - Par 3 205 Yds 12 - Par 5 568 Yds
4 - Par 4 427 Yds 13 - Par 4 492 Yds
5 - Par 4 388 Yds 14 - Par 4 401 Yds
6 - Par 4 471 Yds 15 - Par 3 217 Yds
7 - Par 4 430 Yds 16 - Par 4 444 Yds
8 - Par 3 234 Yds 17 - Par 5 616 Yds
9 - Par 4 404 Yds 18 - Par 3 162 Yds
Par 34 3,496 Yds Par 36 3,778 Yds
Key Events Held: The Greenbrier Classic (2010-present).
Awards Won: Ranked #1 by Golfweek - Best Courses You Can Play in WV (2011),
#5 by Golf Digest - Best in State Rankings in West Virginia
Ranked #3 by Golfweek - Best Public Access Course in WV (2010),
Ranked #7 by Golf Digest - World's 50 Best Golf Hotels (2010),
AAA Five Diamond Award (1976-2012).
Golf Professional Emeritus: Sam Snead (1994-2002 - Head Professional in 1936),
Tom Watson (2005-present).
Course Record: 59 (Stuart Appleby, 2010).
HISTORY: Although the course was built in the early 1900s, The Greenbrier
really dates back to the late 1700s, as many a traveler made the trek from far
and wide after hearing about the amazing healing and medicinal waters of the
Communities were springing up in and around the region and by the mid 1800s,
the Grand Central Hotel was built. Commonly known as the Old White Hotel, it
stood on the grounds from 1858 to 1922.
For the not-so-paltry sum at the time of $150,000, the C&O (Chesapeake and
Ohio) Railway purchased the property in 1910 and began to transform the land
into a world-class resort.
Soon after, famed architect Charles Blair Macdonald, along with Seth Raynor
were brought in to design the first golf course at The Greenbrier.
Macdonald, the first winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship by a record
12 & 11 over Charles Sands, began designing courses, including Chicago Golf
Club, Yale Golf Course and, what some believe his finest, the National Golf
Links of America.
How important was Macdonald to the game of golf, legendary journalist Bernard
Darwin referred to Macdonald as the "first great American golf course
With plenty of fanfare, the Old White, named after the hotel, opened in 1914,
as none other than President Woodrow Wilson was not only the first president,
but one of the first golfers to play the course.
Macdonald crafted the layout in homage to some of the great holes and venues
in European golf, such as North Berwick, Prestwick and St. Andrew's. The
original course was laid out to a par of 70 and stretched to 6,395 yards,
pretty long for its time.
By the mid-30s, dignitaries galore were coming in droves to The Greenbrier. In
all, 26 presidents and thousands of celebrities have descended upon the
shamrock fairways and rejuvenated their spirits over the years.
During this time, Sam Snead was signed on as the head golf professional.
Snead, who passed away in 2002, was said to have made his final hole-in-one on
the Old White's 18th hole in 1995. In addition, Snead also carded a 59 at the
course, albeit in a non-tournament setting. He served as head professional for
40 years and was Golf Professional Emeritus from 1994 until the day he died.
During World War II, the U.S. Army purchased The Greenbrier from C&O for $3
million, using the hotel as a hospital, as soldiers were able to recuperate.
Following the war in 1946, the government sold the property back to C&O for
the same price.
The years of weather took its toll on the Old White and in 2001 Lester George
was brought in for a revitalization and restoration of the course, a project
that took five years. George reinstated many of the original design features
of Macdonald and lengthened the course to over 6,800 yards.
In some eyes, The Greenbrier had slipped in stature over the years and in 2009
West Virginia native Jim Justice purchased the resort from CSX (formerly C&O
Railway), a resort which it had owned for 99 years.
Justice was dedicated to bringing The Greenbrier back to world-class
prominence. Not only did Justice create a whole new atmosphere around the
resort, he began construction of a casino, shops and restaurants to
re-establish The Greenbrier back to its elite status.
Another part of his plan was to coerce the PGA Tour to bring an event to the
hollowed grounds of the Old White, and so it came to pass that The Greenbrier
Classic would be part of the PGA's schedule.
Although history for the Greenbrier Classic dates back to just 2010, the
inaugural tournament was an epic event.
Stuart Appleby stormed back from seven shots behind thanks to a remarkable 59
on the final day to defeat Jeff Overton by one shot. In doing so, Appleby
became just the fifth player in PGA Tour history to reach golf's magic number
and he was the first player to accomplish the feat on a par-70 layout.
The victory enabled the Australian to snap a four-year winless drought for his
ninth tour title.
After parring the opening hole, Appleby recorded eight consecutive 3s for a
front-nine 28. He made his only eagle of the tournament at the par-five 12th,
hitting his 237-yard second shot to within 12 feet and holing the putt. That
moved him to 19-under for the tournament -- and eight-under for the round --
for a share of the lead with Overton.
Following three straight pars, Appleby birdied No. 16 from 14 feet, moving a
step closer. Then he laid up from a bunker to 100 yards at the par-five 17th,
the perfect distance for a sand wedge shot. He knocked it to 10 feet and
converted the birdie to move one shot ahead. At the par-three 18th, Appleby
knocked his tee shot 11 feet from the cup and then holed the putt for his
"We spend so much time trying to have rounds like this," commented Appleby
after the round. "Forget whether it's a 50 something, you're just trying to
have rounds where you're scaring the hole. And when you do and they drop, it's
a pleasant feeling. You just never seem to get enough of them."
The numbers at the inaugural event were quite low and players were critical of
the layout, so the PGA Tour Design team, along with McDonald and Sons, came in
after the event to make several changes. Nine new tee boxes, bunker work and
the reseeding of the bent grass greens to name a few.
For the 2011 tournament, the course was lengthened 243 yards to combat some of
the easy scoring conditions from the previous season. Current Golf
Professional Emertis Tom Watson was full of comments prior to the event.
"First, there's not going to be any 59s shot," he said.
"I went out and saw the greens, and the greens are a lot firmer," he added.
"They are like this (knocking on wood table). The ball is not going to stop.
It's going to take a lot of skill to get the ball close to the flag positions
on these greens. It's like playing the links greens where they really are hard
and they release. The ball really releases, with every club in your bag. It's
going to be a tough go this year with getting your eyes close to the hole."
It worked, as the winning score was 12 shots higher, as not one player carded
four rounds in the 60s, compared to 46 the preceding year.
Watson continued, "The difficulty in this golf course for a guy like me is
that the fairways are really soft. They are not running. And the greens are
really hard and you have a big difference in transition to land the ball on
the front edge and really release."
Trailing by as many as five shots during the final round, Scott Stallings
birdied the final hole from four feet, one of six birdies on the final nine to
force a playoff with Bob Estes and Bill Haas. The trio completed regulation at
10-under-par 270, as they headed back to the 18th.
After all three players found the green on the first extra hole, Haas was
first to putt. Haas, who closed with a three-under 67, had 23 feet for birdie,
but he two-putted for par. Estes, who was the first to 10-under thanks to his
six-under 64 and a birdie on the 18th in regulation, ran his 12-foot birdie
putt past the hole and then tapped in for par, leaving the heroics to
Stallings' tee shot was in nearly the same spot he was in regulation. And like
that putt, he drained the seven-foot birdie effort in the playoff for his
first career win.
The fact that Stallings was in the hunt for the title was truly remarkable, as
he posted four bogeys on the front nine without a birdie. In contrast, his
back nine started with three straight birdies and five of the first seven. His
lone blemish was a bogey on the easy 17th after knocking his tee shot in the
"The Greenbrier has been absolutely incredible," Stallings said. "The fans,
volunteers, everybody that came and put the tournament together has been
absolutely phenomenal. One of the best, if not 'the' best tournament on Tour."
The Old White course became part of the TPC network of courses in 2011.
"We are thrilled to add this legendary layout to the TPC Network and look
forward to continuing The Greenbrier's tradition for superb golf, remarkable
amenities and personalized service," said David Pillsbury, PGA Tour Golf
Course Properties President and EVP.
"I am confident The Old White TPC will regain its position as one of the most
iconic golf layouts in the world and help restore The Greenbrier to its
original glory as one of the most exclusive resorts on the globe," Justice
HOLE-BY-HOLE REVIEW: The opening hole is a picturesque view of the surrounding
mountains, as you stand upon the elevated tee. A slight dogleg to the right,
the fairway is devoid of sand, but trees stand guard on either side. Despite
its length of 449 yards from the gold markers, three metal should suffice due
to the elevation change to the fairway. A medium to short iron should remain
to a fairly simple green that slopes from back to front. Bunkers on either
side of the putting surface could make for a difficult up and down.
A new tee has been added to the second hole, turning this relatively simple
par four into a 488-yard monster. From the back marker, the hole actually
plays to a slight bend to the right. Over 300 yards to reach the bunker on the
right, the real difficulty here is the length, as you'll be left with a long
iron or fairway metal into a well-guarded green. Although just 32 paces in
depth, the putting surface is very undulated and slick.
The problem on the third is not hitting the green, as it's the longest on the
course at 64 paces. It will be two-putting for par. Aptly nicknamed Biarritz
for its design, this par three features several deep bunkers on either side
of the surface, so if you happen to miss the green, you virtually have no shot
at saving par. With the size of the green, you might need a three metal off
the tee if the pin is back left. Although I'm not a big fan of this style of
design, it's slope is not as severe as others around the country, so you'll
have a fighting chance. Do not take the third lightly, even though it rates as
the 17th-easiest hole on the course. During the 2011 Greenbrier Classic, this
hole played to a stroke average of 3.107, ranking eighth for the week.
The fourth hole is all about position off the tee. Avoid the U-shaped bunker
down the right and the deep fairway bunker on the left 50 yards further out
and you're almost home free. A step down from driver should be the play;
however, if you can blast your drive over 250 yards in the air, then bombs
away and all you'll have to contend with is the thick rough lining the
fairway. The landing area at the 150-yard mark is less than 20 paces, so
choose wisely off the tee. Your approach to the green with a medium iron needs
to be precise, as the green is just 30 paces in depth and slopes hard from
back to front and to the right. Any shot above the pin will have little or no
chance of staying on the green and forget about two-putting.
A new tee on the fifth now lengthens this par four to 388 yards. Not a big
deal by any stretch, but it plays uphill with a pair of angled crossing
bunkers in the fairway at the 240-yard mark. Your approach to the green will
need to carry a burn, just a few paces from the putting surface. Mounding to
the left will repel any shot off-line, while a deep bunker right will capture
additional errant shots. The green is fairly benign, but missing long could
end up out of bounds if you're not careful.
It comes as little surprise that the sixth hole is one of the most difficult
on the course. In fact, on the scorecard, it's rated the No. 1 handicapped
hole on Old White. During the 2011 PGA event, it scored to a 4.174 average
rating fourth for the week. The second-longest par four on the front nine at
471 yards, it features an undulating fairway that runs down and toward the
left with a deep bunker that protrudes into the landing area. Your approach
will be slightly uphill to a mid-sized green that's protected on the left by
two deep bunkers that sit well below the surface. A back-left pin can be
scary, so play toward the center, stay below the hole, two-putt and move on.
At 430 yards, the seventh is fairly simple, but it still requires accuracy off
the tee, as sand, which is strategically placed on both sides of the fairway,
needs to be avoided. The real challenge comes with your approach, as the
putting surface is 42 paces in depth, so get out your SkyCaddie and get a
precise yardage. Your depth perception will be challenged by the fairway
bunkers near the green, so be careful. The putting surface is long and narrow
with traps on either side. So what started out as a simple par four ended up
being quite difficult.
The longest par three on the course, the eighth, is a wonderfully crafted hole
with a beautiful mountain backdrop. The key to making par or better is making
sure you don't cut off more that you can chew. The putting surface is quite
large and swings sharply from right to left, so a sweeping draw should get the
job done, as long as you play toward the center of the green. Any shot
attacking the flag will finish long and left of the green. In addition, any
tee ball short and left will end up in a Sahara-type bunker, filled with sand
moguls and mounding, 10 feet below the surface. The eighth is a perfect
example of a redan style hole, one of which Macdonald frequently used in his
With an undulating fairway that tilts to the left, you'll be wise to play down
the right side on the ninth. Just 404 yards from the back tees, a three metal
is the best play, as your tee ball will bound down the fairway for a few extra
yards. Not only is the left side of the landing area the flattest spot, it
also gives the player the best angle to attack the green. A short iron should
be enough to pin hunt, but be wary of the deep trap left of the green. The
putting surface, elevated from the left side, is long and fairly flat and does
not run with the exacting speed of the previous surfaces, but still requires
careful thought. A real birdie chance, as evident from the 2011 Greenbrier
Classic, as it proved to be one of the easiest holes on the course.
The back nine starts out with the shortest par four on the course and just one
of two under 400 yards. At 385 yards, the 10th is aptly nicknamed, Principal's
Nose. To fully appreciate its moniker, one would need an aerial view of the
hole to realize its meaning. The best play here would be down the right side,
avoiding the large fairway bunker on the left and playing short of the "Nose."
Just a short pitch will remain to a green that slopes away and to the right.
With a tee shot in the left or center fairway, your view to the green will be
partially blocked and can be most difficult to stop on this canted green. It's
one of the few birdie chances on the back side.
Originally, the 11th played as a medium-length par four, easily reached in
regulation. Over the years, new tees have been added, included the most recent
that stretches this behemoth to 493 yards. Two bunkers frame the fairway on
this dogleg left on either side. Play down the right with a draw to give
yourself the best chance of getting home. Don't be deceived by the bunker
short of the green, as it stands 30 yards short of the putting surface. Listen
to your caddie or trust your range finder, otherwise, you'll end up short of
the green. A ridge in the center will provide little resistance to your
stroke, allowing for an easier chance to save par. During tournament week,
only 32 birdies were made out of 460 rounds.
The first par five on the course rings in at the 12th. It's a sweeping dogleg
right, 568-yarder with thick trees and rough down the entire right side. A
large, 15-yard wide bunker guards the corner of the dogleg, and although a
blast of 260 yards will clear the obstacle, don't try this from the back tee,
as you'll lose the fight. It certainly is possible to get home in two if
successful off the tee, but you must now clear a stream that runs diagonally
across the fairway and take enough club to reach the elevated putting surface.
It would be easier and safer to play down the left side of the fairway with a
medium to long iron and leaving 125 yards for your approach. Remember to take
an extra stick, as the green is raised and an enormous bunker lays in waiting
on the left side. No question, it's a birdie-fest.
If you thought the 11th was difficult, the 13th is no slouch, either. New tees
have been added to grow this monster to 492 yards, as it swings to the right.
Trees and deep rough, which sit above the fairway to the right are a no-no if
you want to make par. The left portion of the landing area is the play.
Although it will leave a longer approach, you'll have a clear shot to the
green, while the right side will be hindered by a mound on the right. The
green is one of the quickest on the course as it runs hard from back to front.
Miss long and you'll be hard-pressed to keep your chip on the putting surface.
The final round of the 2011 event produced only four birdies in 75 attempts.
Another realistic birdie chance presents itself on the short, dogleg left
14th. There are two options of thought here: lay up short of the extremely
wide fairway bunker with a long iron, or crack a three metal or more over the
trouble. Either way, you'll be left with a downhill approach to a fairly long
green, guarded on both sides with deep bunkers. A couple words of caution. Tug
your tee ball to the far left and a snake-shaped, 80-yard trap will swallow
you whole, so be alert and do not miss the green to the right, as any shot
wide of the target will bound down a hill, well below the putting surface.
Other than that, piece of cake.
Par threes are generally rated as the easiest on the course, rarely producing
any difficulty. This is certainly not the case at the 15th. It's not overly
long at 215 yards, but is completely exposed to the elements. The stream that
dissects the green and the tee area should not come into play, but the bunkers
front and rear will. The putting surface is of average size, but is quite
quick from back to front. This hole proved to be the hardest on the Old White
during the final round of the 2011 Greenbrier Classic.
And you thought Swan Lake was a ballet. Not at the Greenbrier. It's the body
of water that must be cleared in order to gain entrance to the 16th green.
With additional teeing grounds added in recent years, this former pushover is
now 444 yards long. Take an aggressive line and you'll be left with a short
iron, not so easy when the wind is blowing. Your other option is to play over
the left side of the water and now you have a 200-yard approach over the
corner of the left, greenside bunker. Regardless, you'll be hard-pressed to
make par at the "Cape."
The 17th and 18th holes on the Old White are one of the easiest finishing duos
in tournament golf. The numbers don't lie, as the par-five 17th played to a
scoring average of 4.735 and the short 18th at 2.972, finishing with 166 and
100 birdies, respectively.
The par-five 17th, although the longest hole on the course at 616 yards thanks
to another new tee, is all about placement. Several fairway bunkers are
strategically placed down both sides of the short grass, just enough to give
you angst. Avoiding the trough-like trap off the tee down the left is key.
From the back tee, it will be difficult to reach, but for the mortals who
don't play from the tournament buttons, it is in range. Laying up to a
likeable yardage will require a medium iron, so don't be greedy. You can make
birdie the old-fashioned way. With your wedge approach, you'll have to
negotiate one of the smaller greens on the course, just 30 paces in length
with some undulation. If I can, you can.
Certainly not the norm, the Old White finishes with a short par three. You'll
be hard-pressed to name some of the higher profile courses that have this
feature. Westchester Country Club (West Course), Pasatiempo Golf Club, The
Homestead (Cascades Course) and East Lake Country Club (site of the Tour
Championship) are the most notable.
Playing slightly uphill, a short iron should be plenty of club to reach the
green, but be careful, as a deep ridge dissects the putting surface and when
the pin is up top, you'll need to be spot on to reach the right level. Deep
bunkers around the green see plenty of action. What a wonderful finishing
hole, especially with the crowd of resort guests looking on. Who can forget
Stallings' back-to-back birdies on the closing hole, first in regulation and
then in the playoff to win for the first time.
FINAL WORD: It's always fun to play a historic golf course that some of the
greatest players of all time have graced its fairways. This is certainly the
case with The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier.
Let's start with the conditioning and difficulty of the layout. When Mr.
Justice and the PGA Tour agreed to host an annual event, they knew that the
persnickety and spoiled players would only play a venue that was up to their
Lester George had just spent over four years restoring the Old White to its
original glory, so now it was up to the PGA Tour to tweak the venue even
Boy, did it.
The scores at the Greenbrier Classic in year one averaged 68.536, with a
whopping 362 rounds of par or better. In 2011, with new tees added and firmer
greens, 70.593 was the norm and just 231 rounds of par or better.
Lush conditions, slick greens and thick rough can do that to anyone's
Although the course is tournament tough, The Old White TPC is a venue for all
Just look at the five sets of tees, ranging from 5,019 yards to the 7,200-plus
tournament markers. That's what makes a course great. So everyone can enjoy
In addition to the wonderful golf, The Greenbrier is a world-class resort with
every amenity possible. For goodness sake, presidents have stayed here.
Speaking of presidents. Most of today's youth know little about American
history, and The Greenbrier was certainly an enormous component of the Cold
Suffice to say, the U.S. government, planned by the Eisenhower Administration,
commissioned The Greenbrier to build a top secret relocation facility for
Congress in the event of nuclear fallout. Affectionately known as
"The Bunker," it was built in conjunction with the addition of the West
Virginia Wing of the hotel.
It took over three years to complete the project and, once developed, it
included a power plant that would provide enough power for 1,100 people for
up to 40 days, a communications briefing room, an in-depth security system, 18
dormitories, which slept 60 each, a full clinic, which included a full staff
of doctors and nurses, and a cafeteria that could feed 400 people at once.
Three entrances into the facility were protected by massive doors of steel and
concrete, able to withstand a modest nuclear blast and prevent radioactive
fallout from entering.
Incredibly, the secret of the facility was kept quiet from the public for more
than 30 years until 1992, when the Washington Post broke the story.
Today, The Bunker is open to the public for tours and is worth every minute of
time spent away from the golf course.
Additionally, the resort features a full-fledged casino, complete with
blackjack, poker, baccarat, craps and, of course, plenty of slot action.
How classy is this adult entertainment? The men need to wear a sport coat
after 7 p.m. just to get in.
There is the usual outdoor activities for the family - horseback riding,
mountain biking, hiking, hunting, boating, tennis, paintball and rafting to
name a few, not to mention a 40,000-square-foot spa. But it's the golf on the
four courses that brings everyone to this regal resort.
The Meadows, The Greenbrier, which hosted the 1979 Ryder Cup and The Solheim
Cup in 1994, and The Snead Course, which is open to private residents only,
take a slight backseat to the main component at The Greenbrier, The Old White
Now part of the PGA Tour's TPC package of great golf courses, Old White
represents all of the wonderful things that make a layout such as this, a
great one. It's first class all the way from top to bottom, so it's no wonder
why the resort has been named a five Diamond Resort by AAA for 35 straight
years, and counting!
This is what legends are made from.