The modern golf resort — your Bandons, Cabot Linkses, Streamsongs, Sand Valleys and Bid Cedar Lodges of North America — is constructed very much in a similar way.
Each resort has multiple courses, and each successive course has been layered on in relatively short order after the original. The architects are part of the modern cadre of greats, including Coore-Crenshaw, David McLay Kidd, Tom Doak and Gil Hanse, as well the occasional celebrity designer like Tiger Woods.
These designs are all, more or less, born of the modern architectural school of thought. Width, choices, minimalism. More sandy areas than unnecessary grass. Big greens with mind-bending breaks. Short walks from green to tee.
Not that it’s formulaic — each of these destinations has truly unique character — but the formula works. The centrality of having world-class courses on a single property is a fantastic concept, though, for most people, it’s a rare visit.
Oglebay Resort, located in Wheeling, W. Va., wasn’t cut from that cloth. Oglebay has three courses, ample and solid accommodations, all fit into a remote-feeling setting. However, their 54 holes were not born in the same decade, or even generation. The courses were build in a 70-year span, ranging from some of America’s darkest times to its most prosperous.
It’s an odd thing, perhaps, given what resort-hopping golfers have grown accustomed to in the modern era. The exercise of playing golf as it was presented in three separate eras, however, is fun, illuminating and a complete change of pace from those resorts that get a lot more press than this humble-but-sprawling West Virginia outpost.
The original Oglebay course, the Crispin, was built in the Depression Era around 1930. It’s a window into the only way mountain-terrain golf courses could be built at that time, with lay-of-the-land fairways and smaller greens practically carved out of the hillside. Sadly, it’s also the course I didn’t get to play. You drive past it coming into the main lodge on property, and it sits within view from your room like a playground calling to a kid (my kids, even). If nothing else, it made for nice scenery, and it’s a great focal point for a morning coffee from the balcony/patio of the hotel-style rooms in the Wilson Lodge, where the bulk of guests stay.
Just across the street, at the former Speidel Golf Club, are two courses separated by 30 years and two different eras of architecture.