Primland Resort near Meadows of Dan, Va., is a pocket of opulence surrounded by 12,000 acres of wilderness. It’s a sportsman’s club, a golf retreat, a honeymoon haven and a luxurious hotel — an intriguing mix that has drawn me back many times since the resort’s Highland Course opened in 2006.
My most recent visit was this spring, when the golf course was so well groomed it could have hosted a PGA event, and the 27-room Lodge at Primland appeared ready to receive royalty. In the spacious, well-appointed rooms, drapes were pulled back to reveal mountain views from every perspective. Up in the Observatory, a high-powered telescope sat ready to spy on the stars and send stunning images to televisions throughout the Lodge.
On the ground floor, towels were folded just so on the edge of the chlorine-free indoor pool and hydrospa. Attendants were poised to administer rejuvenating natural treatments in the 8,134-square-foot spa, a tranquil place with a Native American theme. The chefs in the Lodge’s Elements restaurant and the rustic Stables Saloon had the freshest meats and seafood on hand, ready to prepare the finest French-inspired New American dishes.
Guides waited to take guests fishing (or hunting, in season), horseback riding or ATV-riding on 90 miles of wilderness trails. Or to experience the sporting clays range that Esquire called one of the top 25 in the nation.
What makes this level of activities, service and luxury so amazing is that the central Virginia resort is not exactly next door. Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C., are to the south, 58 and 120 miles, respectively. Washington, D.C., is 300 miles to the north. The only easy way to get here is by helicopter.
The late Didier Primat, founder of the resort, wanted Primland to be an eco-conscious retreat with world-class amenities. His family and staff continue to uphold his legacy. The Lodge, with its natural wood and stone exterior (all recycled), mimics the old stone structures that are indigenous to the Virginia hills and blends beautifully into its surroundings. Similar architecture was employed in the three fairway cottages, each with a kitchen and two bedrooms, vaulted wood ceilings with exposed beams, and stone fireplaces. On one visit, we stayed in a cottage with a private porch overlooking the 10th fairway. Another time, we stayed in one of the 15 older but no less luxurious cabins tucked into the woods along the ridge, with views of the valleys and mountains beyond. The cabins range from one to seven bedrooms, most with screened porches and gas fireplaces.
Most guests who experience Primland once are eager to return. This is especially true of golfers. Golf writers have gushed over The Highland Course since its opening, and this year it soared to No. 13 on Golf Digest’s Best Public Courses in America. It’s No. 1 in Virginia, a state not lacking in fine layouts.
Designed by renowned Scottish architect Donald Steel, the 7,034-yard course follows the crest of a ridge 2,850 feet above sea level. Almost every hole provides views of valleys and mountain ranges to the east and west.
“There is a remoteness about Primland, a sense of escape, that is special,” says Steel. “Golf courses have been built in every landscape imaginable, but only rarely on mountain peaks. Primland sits on top of the world, enjoying scenic views that stretch the vocabulary, and with a course design that is very different.”
Steel often allowed the terrain to provide natural hazards — cliffs and deep woods from which there is no escape — and spiced up an already stiff test with vast, Scottish-style bunkers. None are extraneous. The greens are large, with lots of undulations and a short-clipped fringe that invites balls to roll away. You must plan your strategy on every hole in order to arrive at a good position for your approach to the green — and have your putting well tuned.
“This course design has been a highlight of my career,” says Steel, “since its location, while strikingly obvious in hindsight, did not jump out at me after the first several site visits. But once I strode over the plateau, with views which reminded me of the highlands of Scotland, I knew this would test the mettle of golfers who want to play courses that would challenge the professionals.”
(536 yards, par 5)
The first hole is a portent of challenges — and scenery — to come. Doglegging through an opening in a rock ledge, the fairway slopes steeply to an angled green that falls away on three sides. Behind the green, the land cascades into the Dan River Gorge.
(195 yards, par 3)
Hopefully, the first hole has provided adequate warm-up, because you’ll need to uncork a do-or-die shot over a ravine to a green perched atop a steep hill. Land short, and your ball rolls a very long way back toward you. Get used to it; four of the course’s five par 3s require spot-on carries over trouble.
(149 yards, par 3)
A short hole, this one nevertheless requires accuracy to an undulating green. Just behind the green, with its large deck hanging over a sheer drop-off, is The Treehouse, a new one-bedroom aerie for adventuresome souls with no sleep-walking tendencies.
(494 yards, par 4)
Steel calls this “a hole that has everything — stunning views, an air of freedom, an inviting drive and a green that makes an attractive target but gives nothing away.” Pars have to be earned, due in large part to the fairway bunkers threatening any drives that stray even slightly.
(463 yards, par 4)
After the front nine’s gantlet of ravines and tilted, tree-lined fairways, the 10th bursts into an open field with distant mountain views. The dogleg sweeps right around a down-slope covered in tall grass. While the fairway looks like a big target, deep bunkers set into mounds on the right and on the left fringe are positioned to catch drives. It takes a good, long drive to be in position to carry the cross bunkers in front of the green and stick your ball on the slick putting surface. With good reason, it’s the No. 1 handicap.
Hole 13 (612 yards, par 5)
The longest hole invites you to boom your drive without reservation, but the second shot must set you up clear of the tall pine tree for your approach. The green is 60 yards from front to back and maniacally contoured.
(484 yards, par 4)
It takes a well-hit and well-directed drive to reach the plateau on this fairway, which gives you a final spectacular mountain view to the right. From the plateau, it’s a downhill shot to a generous green.
The Highland Course Primland Resort
2000 Busted Rock Road
Meadows of Dan, VA 24120
tel 866 862 0476
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