WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — People watch golf for many reasons. Some just love the game and admire the artistry required to play it at the highest level on some of the most beautiful terrain on earth. If you fall into this category, I would suggest spending some time on the opening hole at this week’s stop on the PGA Tour.
Called the best opening hole in the world by none other than The Greenbrier’s Tom Watson, “First” was chosen by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones as the “best opening hole in America” in an article he once wrote for Atlantic Journal magazine.
Admire the tee ball from the elevated tee and bleachers adjacent the clubhouse toward a green nestled beneath green mountains with Sir Nick Faldo’s spacious home looking down from high atop the ridge. Then walk along the tree-lined fairway to the green, pausing often to look back at the hillside tee which is adorned with flowers and greenery to make even the most talented landscape painter jealous.
There are no ugly holes on the historic Old White golf course, but as you search for those with the most eye appeal, you must stop by No. 5, “Mounds” as C.B. Macdonald dubbed it, because of the dragons teeth located left of the green.
This short par 4 is also tree-lined and offers shade to the fan seeking to get out of the sun. A brook babbles just a few yards in front of the green which has enough slope to make golfers feel they are suffering from vertigo.
While the first six holes move away from the clubhouse skirting the boundary of the course with out of bounds on the right side of each, No. 7 makes the turn back toward the rest of the course from the only other elevated tee on the course. The fairway slopes down into the valley and then rises again to a green called “Plateau.” From a site adjacent the tee box one can see the bunkering and swales that await errant shots. It is a vista that birdie-seeking pros relish.