The Homestead Resort has been a part of Omni Hotels and Resorts since 2013 and is a one-of-a-kind property in Hot Springs, Virginia especially if you enjoy outdoor activities. Several management and investment companies have owned the resort, and each has left its mark, but Omni has taken it to a whole new level. In 2016 The Homestead Resort earned an accolade that is virtually unheard of for any hotel, inn, or resort located in the United States—a 250th anniversary! The Historic Hotels of America is proud to count the Homestead Resort as one of its charter members.
The Homestead is a year-round resort. In the warm spring, summer, and most of the fall months, guests enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities including hiking, swimming, archery, shooting, falconry, tennis, and, of course, golf. In the winter, The Homestead becomes a ski resort, in fact, the oldest ski resort in Virginia. Other winter activities include snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and snowmobiling.
With plenty to do here, golf still seems to be the main attraction, and rightfully so. The Homestead is home to two high-caliber golf courses: The Old Course and The Cascades. Collectively, both courses have been around for over 200 years, yet have stood the test of time. Names such as Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones, William Flynn, and Rees Jones have built and rebuilt them. They have been updated and restored over the years including lengthening and adapting to keep up with changes in golf equipment technology.
One of the most famous golfers to ever play on the PGA Tour, Sam Snead, lived in or near Hot Springs for his entire life, and for several decades was the Homestead’s golf pro. The Sam Snead Tavern – adjacent to The Homestead – contains memorabilia from his career. Rumor has it that Sneed landed the head pro job after he gave one of the member’s wives a lesson and she told the owners it was the best golf lesson she had ever had. He was offered the job the next day!
The Old Course was the resort’s first course and was established in 1892 when the first 6 holes were opened for play. That first hole is still in use today, making it the oldest first tee in continuous use in the nation. The Old Course also has the distinction of being the place where the first sitting President of the United States, William McKinley, played golf. The Old Course became a 9-hole layout in 1896 and expanded to 18 holes and 6,000 yards in 1901. Donald Ross was brought in to redesign the course in 1916 and added his signature contoured fairways and smaller, saucer-shaped greens. It’s unique in that it has 6 par 3s, 6 par 4s, and 6 par 5s.
The Old Course is a true Donald Ross course that will test your shot-making ability. Thanks to a stellar maintenance crew, the course is always in top condition; fairways are thick and green, and the putting surfaces roll quick and true. Tree-lined fairways test your accuracy off the tee and the contouring of the fairway leads to many uneven lies. There’s a lot of elevation change on several holes so a rangefinder with slope is a handy tool to have. The first three holes play uphill.
One of the most memorable holes is Number 13, a long, sweeping dogleg right par 5 that starts from an elevated tee box. Your tee shot plays downhill into a fairway that slopes from left to right which can help save tee shots headed left. Keep your layup shot in play and you should have a short pitch shot into another small green protected front right by sand.
In 1919 things were going so well at the resort that they decided a second course was needed. A nearby farm that was owned by New York stockbroker Jacob Rubino was the chosen site for this new course. Several architects visited the site including A.W. Tillinghast, and all said the land was not suitable for golf. After studying the area, golf course architect William S. Flynn – known for his ability to take seemingly unplayable terrain and turn it into a memorable golf layout – felt that if the adjoining parcel of land could be purchased, plans to move forward with an 18-hole championship golf course could proceed. The land was purchased and on September 12, 1923, construction began on The Cascades.
Thanks to the routing skills of William Flynn, the Cascades is annually ranked as one of the top courses in the country. Because of the routing, a full variety of shot-making is required, and Flynn’s courses will test a player’s accuracy, carry, and length.
The Cascades is a unique layout for a couple of reasons. First, there are no houses on the course. Second, a mountain stream winds its way throughout the layout, bringing water into play on a few holes. Third, the course finishes 3-5-5-3. Enough said!
Course knowledge goes a long way in scoring well on the Cascades too. For example, golfers with course knowledge of The Cascades know that on the 274-yard par 4 3rd hole, the club to hit off the tee is NOT driver! Those of us with little or no course knowledge will try and force a driver between the trees on either side of the fairway. The green is perched upon a shelf, hence the name “Shelf.” Any approach shot that does not make it up the hill onto the putting surface may well roll back down.
The last four holes can make or break a great round. Number 15, “Vanity Fair” plays over 200 yards from any of the three Men’s Tees and doesn’t have a lot of trouble, other than its length.
Number 16, “The Hemlocks,” is a dogleg right par 5 that plays 488 yards from the White Tees and is one of the most photographed holes on the course. It’s not the longest par 5 but the dammed – or damned, if you hit into it – creek that runs in front of the green will have you thinking about going for it in two.
Number 17, “Cress Lakes,” is a dogleg left par 5 that plays 481 yards with that same creek running all the way down the right. Play your tee shot down the right side and leave yourself a clear shot into the green which is reachable with a good drive.
Number 18 is fittingly named “Taps.” It’s a 165-yard par 5 that plays slightly uphill to a large, well-undulated green. Par is a great way to end your round.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing golf getaway with your spouse, or you’re the person in charge of planning golf trips, there are several reasons to consider The Omni Homestead Resort. First, obviously, is the tremendous golf courses and the opportunity to play on courses that have hosted a number of professional and national tournaments and championships. It’s not often you’ll find two courses of this caliber that both end with a par 3! Best of all, you don’t have to be an elite golfer to enjoy the courses. And, when things aren’t going well on the course, just look around and take in everything you see. I played in the spring and with tall trees everywhere, I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the fall.
Secondly, there is a lot more to a “golf vacation” these days than golf. The Homestead has so much more to offer such as a refreshing bath in the mineral springs and the opportunity to shoot clays at the home of the 199U.S. Open Sporting Clays Championship. Or take an electric mountain bike ride around the property. And we haven’t even mentioned the dining opportunities at the resort which are numerous.
Most importantly are the people at the Omni Homestead Resort. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and will treat you better than the golf courses will! Give them a call at (800) 838-1766 or visit them online at www.thehomestead.com. They have some great specials for couples and golf groups.