36 Holes in Central Virginia: Sam Snead and Scenic Drives

Virginia's Ashley PlantationEmbarking on a nostalgic journey is a celebrated pastime in Virginia. Visitors to the historic settlement of Jamestown can catch a glimpse of what life was like in the first permanent English settlement over 400 years ago.

Just as we’ll never be able to truly experience the exact conditions settlers faced upon discovering Jamestown Island in the early 1600’s, most of us will have missed the chance to watch the PGA Tour’s all-time leader in career wins; one of Virginia’s favorite sons, ‘Slammin’ Sammy Snead.  

But just as Jamestown is a living monument to our colonial beginning, Poplar Grove Golf Course, located in Amherst, is a tribute to Snead. Bordering the Blue Ridge Mountains and the George Washington National Forest, Poplar Grove is Snead’s last golf course design.

Don’t freak out or doubt your sanity if you think you’ve seen Snead roaming the grounds of this central Virginia layout, it’s just his grandson Sam Snead III who serves as the course’s assistant superintendent and is said to look like Snead in his younger days.

Poplar Grove is in Amherst County at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just north of Lynchburg and south of Charlottesville. Snead was helped with the design by Ed Carton, formerly of the Tom Fazio design group. Carved through native Virginia forest, the layout features rolling terrain, natural streams and lakes, and sweeping mountain views.

Poplar Grove Golf Course

The course has been called a “Contemporary Classic” and was named the 8th best upscale public facility just after it opened in 2005 by Golf Digest. The same publication currently ranks the course as No. 13 in the state of Virginia. Everyone involved in the project expects it to be one of Virginia’s premier courses when it grows in and is fully landscaped.

At the heart of this golf course is a collection of difficult par 3’s. Snead paid tribute to one of his favorite holes, designing the 150-yard 13th to resemble the 8th hole at the Upper Cascades Course at The Homestead, the place where he started caddying at the age of seven. It’s a downhill shot into a little valley to a green that is surrounded by large, sinister bunkers on both sides. The hole drops nearly 40 feet from tee to green and those bunkers can be intimidating. Fittingly, the hole is called “Playing Favorites.”

The par-3, 209-yard No. 4 requires a shot over water to a bunker-protected green from the ‘Slammer’ tees; championship tees at Poplar Grove. The 17th is another long par-3, playing 238 yards from the back tees. It’s also a shot over water to a green that is protected across the front by bunkers.

For a course with such a great story and such potential, the price you’ll pay is a bargain. Monday through Thursday the greens fees are $45 and on the weekend the most you’ll pay is $55.

And the organization operating Poplar Grove also has a great reputation. Poplar Grove is managed by Troon Golf – one of the most prestigious golf management firms in the world renowned for its attention to service at high caliber facilities.

The comfortable temperatures and smaller crowds make autumn an ideal time to road trip to central Virginia, but the best part about being in this part of the country during the fall is the foliage featured on one of America’s most scenic roadways – the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The scenic Blue Ridge Parkway

The construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway came at a time when the country was mired in an economic downturn, similar to the one we currently face. In 1933, with America stuck in economic depression, Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd suggested a roadway linking two national parks: Shenandoah in Virginia, and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. Fifty-two years later, workers finally finished the project, a 470-mile road coined as a bit of “slow down therapy.”

The section of the parkway from Amherst to Roanoke passes through the George Washington National Forest. The forest was once a home for Indians, a passageway for pioneers and a battleground during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Today, the forest offers an assortment of recreational experiences in one of the East’s largest expanses of pristine land. Available activities include hiking, fishing, backpacking, biking, camping, wildlife viewing and scenic driving.

From Amherst you’ll have to head west to pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway but once you reach America’s longest scenic bypass, it will take you all the way to your next stop – Daleville.

Ashley PlantationDaleville is located just 15 minutes from downtown Roanoke and is home to Russell Breeden’s Ashley Plantation, the newest residential golf community in the Roanoke Valley. This 18-hole golf course is surrounded by views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and provides a variety of shots off rolling hills and mountain vistas.

Roanoker Magazine named it the “No. 1 Golf Course in the Roanoke Valley”. Its signature hole is one of the longest in the nation. At 721 yards from the back tees, the massive No. 14 is a rare par-6. 

Once your round is over, there is plenty of lodging available in nearby Roanoke including the pristine Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center.

This fall central Virginia is the spot for one of the country’s most scenic drives, and you can sandwich it between 36 scenic tee shots.

For more information on Ashley Plantation visit www.ashleyplantation.com or call 540-992-GOLF. You can also check out Poplar Grove online at www.poplargrovegolf.com or call 434-946-9933. 


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